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City of Miami v. City of Miami Firefighters

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

June 6, 2018

City of Miami, Appellant,
v.
City of Miami Firefighters' and Police Officers' Retirement Trust &Plan, et al., Appellees.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          An Appeal from a non-final order from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Lower Tribunal No. 17-29242 Reemberto Diaz, Judge.

          Victoria Méndez, City Attorney, and John A. Greco, Deputy City Attorney, and Kerri L. McNulty and Kevin R. Jones, Assistant City Attorneys, for appellant.

          Klausner, Kaufman, Jensen & Levinson, and Robert D. Klausner, Adam P. Levinson and Paul A. Daragjati (Plantation), for appellees.

          Before ROTHENBERG, C.J., and EMAS and LINDSEY, JJ.

          EMAS, JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         The City of Miami ("the City") filed suit against the City of Miami Firefighters' & Police Officers' Retirement Trust & Plan ("the Trust") and the Board of Trustees of the City of Miami Firefighters' & Police Officers' Retirement Trust ("the Board"), seeking temporary and permanent injunctive relief.

         In the instant appeal, the City seeks review of the trial court's order (1) denying the City's emergency motion for temporary injunctive relief; and (2) granting the Trust and the Board's motion for abatement and abating the proceedings below, pending exhaustion of the conflict resolution procedures in Chapter 164.

         For the reasons that follow, we reverse the trial court's order denying the City's emergency motion for temporary injunctive relief, and affirm the trial court's order abating the proceedings.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On July 28, 2010, the City declared a "financial urgency, " pursuant to section 447.4095, Florida Statutes (2010), and, on August 31, 2010, voted to unilaterally alter the terms of its collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") with Miami Lodge No. 20, Fraternal Order of Police ("the Union"). The City implemented this change to the CBA by amending its pension ordinance, resulting in reduced pension benefits for retired police officers ("the 2010 pension ordinance").

         The Union filed an unfair labor practice charge with the Public Employees Relations Commission ("PERC") on September 21, 2010, contending that the City improperly modified the CBA without completing the impasse resolution process[1]required by the financial urgency statute. See §447.403, Fla. Stat. (2010). The hearing officer found that the City had properly invoked the financial urgency statute and was not required to complete the impasse resolution procedures before implementing changes to the CBA. PERC adopted the hearing officer's recommendation in its final order dismissing the Union's charge.

         The Union appealed to the First District Court of Appeal, which affirmed PERC's final order, finding PERC did not err in interpreting or applying section 447.4095. Headley v. City of Miami, 118 So.3d 885 (Fla. 1st DCA 2013).

         The Union sought review from the Florida Supreme Court, and on March 2, 2017, the Florida Supreme Court issued its opinion, agreeing with the Union that a public employer may not modify a CBA in the event of a financial urgency unless it shows "that the funds are not available from any other possible reasonable source." Headley v. City of Miami, 215 So.3d 1, 8 (Fla. 2017). The Court also held that "section 447.4095 permits the unilateral implementation of changes to the CBA only after the parties have completed the impasse resolution proceedings and have failed to ratify the agreement." Id. at 9. The Court quashed the First District's decision and remanded "for proceedings consistent with this decision." Id. at 10. On remand, the First District issued an order remanding the case to PERC "for further proceedings consistent with the Florida Supreme Court's opinion."

         On remand, PERC concluded that the City failed to comply with the impasse resolution procedures of section 447.403, and that it was not statutorily authorized to unilaterally modify the collective bargaining agreement. PERC further concluded that the City engaged in an unfair labor practice[2] when it adopted the 2010 pension ordinance, because the City unilaterally changed wages, pensions, health insurance and other monetary items for the police union employees prior to completing the impasse resolution procedures. The order remanded the cause to a hearing officer to recommend an appropriate remedy. On July 20, 2017, the hearing officer recommended that the City be directed to rescind its modifications to the wages, health care, and pension benefits of employees represented by the Union and that PERC direct the parties to return to the status quo ante as of September 29, 2010, the day prior to the adoption of the 2010 pension ordinance.

         On September 27, 2017, the Board sent a letter to the City Manager, inviting the City to engage in discussion with the Board on the issues arising out of the Florida Supreme Court's decision and PERC's recent orders ("the Board's September 27 letter").

         On October 18, 2017, PERC adopted the hearing officer's recommendations and determined that "[t]he appropriate remedy in this case requires the City to rescind the changes in wages and benefits that were legislatively imposed on September 30, reinstate the status quo ante as of September 29, 2010, and make the employees whole." PERC directed the clerk to open a back-pay case and schedule a hearing before a hearing officer for that purpose. Importantly, the PERC order specifically provided:

This is not an appealable final order because the amount of back pay remains for determination. When the amount of back pay is resolved, the Commission will issue a final order that will allow either party to appeal the ...

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