Yonkers Police Benevolent Association President Det. Keith Olson during the October 2013 meeting was heard telling the membership their hopes and expectations for securing a fair and equitable contract before year-end was fraught with nothing but “doom and gloom”. He insinuated that the road ahead was likely to lead the membership to arbitration and that nothing else seemed plausible. Olson double-downed by chastising the media for what he claims were false and unsubstantiated news sources despite internal sources having already verified the allegations noted herein. Yes, there is a paper trail.
When the November 2013 meeting rolled around, Olson, from his perspective, logically waived givebacks over which Yonkers City Hall had conjectured but deemed unattainable were pleased to hear Olson’s willingness to pursue specific givebacks. Hearing it from Olson had them salivating in anticipation of a final outcome certain to satisfy even the Yonkers Deputy Mayor Sue Gerry. Olson intended to bring a signed contract to Mayor Mike Spano prior to Olson’s re-election effort to hold on to his position as Yonkers PBA President. Olson’s mind set evolved by him quietly recoiling from his “strength in unity” mantra; he would instead make sure his backroom escapades in dealing with Mayor Spano was kept hush, hush. Olson conducted “his” business without the presence of any other union heads; in fact, Yonkers Fire Department (YFD) and Captains Lieutenants and Sergeants Association (CLSE) were not on his need to know list… even his own board membership were kept in the dark. The cauldron of deceit Olson concocted was the brew by which he, in November pushed harder to sell out the PBA membership for his personal hopes of being re-elected to the cushy gig and the additional $48,000 per annum in perks and those not even listed, much less to ever be corroborated by City Hall. They have video and photographs they now claim were never in their possession – bullfeathers! As long as Olson was doing what he was told to do to meet Mayor Mike Spano’s goals the derogatory evidence would be kept hidden under lock and key within the confines of the ivory tower’s dungeon of past subterfuge.
The membership left that November 2013 meeting wondering if they would have a contract by New Year 2014. Olson whet City Hall’s whistle. Yonkers City Hall had not taken a shine to Olson’s management of his position over the past two years. Delivering no raises for over four years placed Olson precariously on the hot seat with his impatient membership. Caught between a rock and a hard place, Olson conjured up a plan to sell out the membership by denying them benefits that protected them in case of injury, as noted by Yonkers City Hall in prior month’s. Olson initiated his ploy in deference to Yonkers City Hall behind closed city doors where sources report Olson would appear with PBA Counsel Andrew Quinn, Esq., the widely respected criminal defense attorney. Rumors began to reveal themselves to be true in November. Those rumors suggested City Hall had offered a contract to the CLSA membership, as well as the PBA. An offer said to have been similar to what had been offered to I.A.F.F. – Local 628 Firefighters (YFD). Both CLSA and YFD respectively rejected the offers outright. Yonkers Tribune would come to learn the offers were rejected because strings were attached to the “new” contracts that would come to rob the membership of crucial benefits under the Firefighters General Municipal Law Section 207A. Refer to I.A.F.F. – Local 628 Firefighters President Barry McGoey, Esq.’s letter (see next paragraph) explaining the contract offer in detail, distilling its meaning after his scrutinizing the offer and learning it was deficient in protecting the physical and mental health of the membership who face being hurt on the job every day.
Olson was no longer deterred, much less concerned about the details that will in time come to haunt the PBA membership. It was all about Olson and his survival; it was not about the membership any longer. Click to read Barry McGoey’s Letter to the YFD membership.
Soon therafter learning of a proposed Yonkers contract allegedly to benefit CLSA and YFD was the burgeoning chatter among those in blue and red; talks of a ten-year contract similar to ones issued to other police and fire departments agreed to across Westchester County came to light. Then amid months of contract talks without Mayor Spano’s direct involvement, instead, think Deputy Mayor Sue Gerry, Olson announced he had reached a tentative deal with Mayor Mike Spano’s personal involvement on a ten-year contractual agreement, and sent out an email affirming it to be the case. Then came discovery of what would be the worst police union contract in Westchester County. The Yonkers contract was egregiously flawed specifically with respect to the personal well-being of every and all PBA members. The PBA contract would prove the contention long held by Yonkers Fire Department – I.A.F.F. Local 628 and the Captains Lieutenants and Sergeants Association.
Olson knew that his department was starving for a raise; any number would have them champing at the bit. Olson was selected by his membership to represent the PBA membership in a fair and honest manner, and to ensure scrutiny under his watch over contractual agreements previously agreed upon by law. It is an understood and a given mindset that every union president or leader will tend to the general welfare and well being of the membership. Simply put, to negotiate, secure, and maximize benefits that would protect its member, in a fair and honest way, and to preserve agreements predecessors had obtained that have proven relevant to the present. Keeping the integrity of any civil service job and its well-deserved benefits are what attracts competent, decent candidates to the field of law enforcement, or emergency service workers like the Police and Firefighters. These jobs are very dangerous, and are well deserving of every benefit agreed upon. Those benefits are in no way to be taken lightly, or used as a bargaining chip for any political advantage. When standards and protocol are breached, membership morale and worker’s ethics are compromised, deeply affecting job performance and outcome.
Olson was seen lurking about Yonkers City Hall during the last weekend of November. He was not there to pay a visit to his sister who now works for the Department of Constituent Services since being hired by Mayor Spano. No conflict, if that is what anyone is thinking. Olson was overheard by sources who choose to remain anonymous advising the Yonkers Tribune Olson begged and pleaded with Mayor Spano he be allowed to offer the PBA membership a contract prior to the January re-election effort he faced prior to the election for Yonkers PBA President. Olson, ever the “at the ready Boy Scout” was armed with significant concessions in his vest pocket. Concern for the PBA membership was now a distant concern; it was no longer Olson’s focus – It was now all about Olson’s survival. Olson was pivoting in the wrong direction. He knew it!
The negotiations with City Hall and specifically Mayor Spano had now become a bargaining chip to make Olson winner of the January 7, 2014 election for office to Yonkers PBA President. Sadly, Olson did not have the professional courtesy to tell his counterparts, CLSA President Lt. Thomas Phelan and/or I.A.F.F. President – Local 628 President Barry McGoey, Esq., he was about to throw them and their respective membership under the bus too?
Basically, Olson no longer accepted his role to serve the membership and the oath he took when he was first sworn to undertake the responsibilities of PBA President by serving the interests of the membership. No longer conflicted, Olson jettisoned his responsibilities to the PBA membership, no longer resisting, in fact consciously submitting to his self-serving political ploy. He was there not on behalf of his membership. He was in Yonkers City Hall there to pacify Mayor Spano and in so doing believing he had the wherewithal to thereafter hoodwink his membership; but mostly to save himself at his membership’s expense.
During the last weekend of November, Olson sneakily sent out an email of what would be the most damaging contract any PBA leader has ever waved in front of its membership. In fact, some PBA members were kept from receiving that email, among other emails before, of what was about to be agreed upon, and what was going to be presented for ratification within only four days. It was a presentation but not a copy of the contract itself that would continue to stay hidden. On the following Friday, December 6th, just four days after he made the backroom deal, Olson decided he would only need one day to explain the pros, and cons of a long overdue contract that would be in effect for ten years, and would have some long lasting damaging effects to its members.
Leading up to that disgraceful day, one has to wonder what he told his board to prepare them to push the general membership into ratifying a contract that most of them would never see or read in its entirety until the day of the vote, at which the members finally received their first tangible copy to read for themselves. How would he lure them in? He knew that for most of his membership this was their first glance at a raise in over four years; he strongly emphasized the raise portion of the contract, and minimized all the givebacks. Spin, pure and simple. Only Blue Truth would challenge the maligned process and the treacherous and calamitous outcome.
When it came time to vote, the membership showed up to three consecutively scheduled meetings throughout the day. Olson in his best same old sweater vest gave a ten-minute presentation for a ten-year contract which primarily highlighted the raise percentages, and scantily spoke about the cost savings concessions to Yonkers which will be discussed in depth shortly. So after what Olson described as months and months of contract wrangling, Olson completes his elementary power point presentation and turns the floor over to his personal confidante and PBA Attorney Andrew Quinn, the highly acclaimed criminal defense attorney to inform the membership of the “moderate changes to General Municipal Law 207-c”.
According to sources that remain anonymous, who know Quinn, it was like watching a law student give his first real summation. Quinn was everything but smooth, and seemed very uncomfortable attempting to pitch the “moderate” change to 207-c for what he roughly asserted would not affect the membership at all; instead Quinn voiced it would actually benefit the membership by streamlining the process to benefit the membership. So much so, the streamlined General Municipal Law 207-c now denies the membership their hard won benefits. Members could now find themselves left out on their own to wage a costly litigious defense against the City of Yonkers (CoY) for legitimately claiming their rights. The contract forces the PBA membership to be pitted against CoY in any future contention regarding General Municipal Law 207-c. Remember CoY is self-insured. Yonkers could lose big if/when challenged.
In retrospect, no one has to wonder why a criminal attorney would give such a “dog and pony” show? Olson was under extreme political pressure to get a contract signed, sealed, and delivered. Quinn needs to protect his yearly $120,000 contract to handle some occasional discipline issues, as well as handling the occasional criminal complaint(s) against the PBA membership. Furthermore, one has to accept that most of the members of the Yonkers Police Department are new to the job. Most members do not have knowledge of the legal purpose and rationale of General Municipal Law 207-c, nor its benefit value should a PBA member become ill or injured in the performance of their duties. That is a task left to the PBA President and legal counsel to deduce and thereafter advise the membership. It boils down to trust. Selling the contract to the membership, if not yet understood, is a complete betrayal of all those in blue. The consequence will in time reveal themselves.
Members who sustain injury while on the job predominantly sustain minor injuries returning to duty rather quickly. At the end of the day, Olson and Quinn managed to ram rod the anything but fair contract down the membership’s throat. In fact, before and after the crucial vote, Olson personally attempted to chastise any members who were personally lobbying against the Olson agreement. It truly appeared to be a sales pitch from two “snake oil” salesmen – Olson and Quinn.
In a personalized email to the membership Olson attempted to incite his membership against the 24 well-versed members that voted against it, and the ninety plus members that did not cast a vote.
First it is important to note that a large part of the police force has less than six years of service, and Olson assumed they could and would give back to the city. In Olson’s backroom dealings, he stripped a large part of his membership of the following:
- 1) Increases years to top salary for new hires from four to five years, and eliminates the post academy step raise upon graduation;
- 2) Reduces annual vacation days for new hires, and increases the time to five years to earn 25 vacation days per year;
- 3) Changes the sick incentive from four three month periods per year to two six month periods per year for “just four hours of straight pay if no sick leave is used”
- 4) The last concession is the most damaging to all. Olson agrees to make significant changes to the General Municipal Law 207-c procedure for all members who become sick or ill in the performance of their duties on or after December 1, 2013, or who re-injure or aggravate a prior injury or illness after December 1, 2013.
The first three are straight forward concessions. The significant changes to the 207-c are the most important to all emergency services members. The Firefighters have 207-a, which is basically the same. Actually the 207-c benefits to the YPD officers is a template derived after the Yonkers Firefighters General Municipal Law 207-a. Yonkers Firefighters (Local 628) paved the way for the old 207-c policy. For those readers not aware what 207-c is, and why it was so crucial not to be significantly changed, is that it insures the continuation of salary, medical, and hospital expenses for police personnel who sustain injuries or illnesses during their performance of duties. What neither Olson nor Quinn explain was the impact of the anticipated changes to its members, and how the City of Yonkers (CoY) was prepping to enact the “moderate “change to the 207-a, or 207-c”. The change to General Municipal Law 207-c that the Yonkers PBA accepted was first introduced to I.A.F.F.-Local 628, the Yonkers Firefighters, months ago during the preliminary stages of informal talks regarding a viable and fair contract. According to excerpts from a letter that Local 628 Union President Barry McGoey delivered to his membership, the city’s proposed change to 207-a “were unacceptable, because they would have stripped our members, who were seriously injured or became ill in the performance of their duties as firefighters of many protections that our GML 207-a currently provide”. Although, in McGoey’s letter he does say informally that he was willing to only talk about “modest” changes, not “moderate” which Olson talked about, introduced, and accepted.
At issue is why neither Yonkers PBA President Keith Olson nor PBA Attorney Andrew Quinn, Esq., did not fully explain how the “moderate” concessions affected the membership and did not advise the ramifications that will be exacted, as opposed to McGoey’s eloquently formulated open letter to his membership expressed. The sickening truth is that it was a political ploy, and Olson omitted and stripped the PBA membership of the vital information that they needed to know before they voted for a ten-year contractual agreement that is a below the cost of living raises, a year away from a small percentage bite of retro to be completed in five years, the PBA membership’s acceptance of a measly and less than desirable contract from the city, and the ugly “moderate changes to the PBA GML 207-c for its personnel.
How is it that neither Olson nor Quinn did not mention Coughlin & Gerhart, the law firm expert in challenging Firefighters and Police Officers in retaining their GML much needed benefits. The firm was specifically hired by CoY to change the rules of the GML 207-c. Rules that now would make it easier for the City of Yonkers to deny or terminate crucial 207-c benefits to Yonkers Police Officers, and other emergency workers like the Firefighters. These are just “some” of what was found to be “significant “changes from the old 207-c to the newly agreed upon changes of 207-c.
- 1) The time period to apply for GML benefits would be reduced from the current 30 calendar days of the date of injury to just 10 business days. Dramatically cutting the time period in order for a member to fill out the application that is now lengthier and more detailed in its denial.
- 2) The new procedure would result in the automatic denial of a claim of re-injury if not reported within 48 hours. (It should be noted that some members may not even realize they have been re-injured until days, or weeks later. For example, people who have been in car accidents often do not realize they have sustained an injury, or aggravated an old injury.
- 3) The new procedure requires FULL medical release, including medical records not related to the illness, or injury. (CoY could also release that information to its contractors. Members would have to closely censor the submission and transference of their medical records).
- 4) It creates a “return to duty form” to be filled out by a members’ treating physician within ten days of being notified that ones 207-c benefit are being terminated by the department, or ordering a member back to work in the capacity of light duty. Currently the Yonkers Police Department has no written policy of what would be considered “light duty” for a police officer. This is now an impending legal quagmire, which the PBA hierarchy should have considered. This agreement changes the legal footing underpinning challenge(s) to the termination of the GML, or the back to work order of light duty. In the existing GML 207-c all a member had to do would be to have his/her physician(s) challenge CoY’s hired medical experts. Now the newly designed “return to duty form” would increase the legal standard to an undefined standard of “genuine dispute”. None the less, there are a lot of other important changes that Olson sold to his members, while did not bothering to fully inform them of the distinctly dramatic differences. Other “significant changes “were discovered when fully examined, compared, and discussed as per those concerns and issues highlighted in Local 628’s opened letter to the Firefighters by Union President Barry McGoey. One of most important, and detrimental changes to the newly voted on 207-c changes is the shifting of the “burden of proof” from CoY to the members’ shoulders, wallet, and families.
- 5) The old existing procedure puts the “ burden of proof” on the claimant to obtain coverage , and puts the “ burden of proof’ on the City to terminate such coverage of 207-c. The new 207-c would now put the “ burden of proof on the Police Officer seeking arbitration”, NOT the City, because the City does not seek arbitration and will never have to “SHOULDER THE BURDEN OF PROOF”
So there you have it Yonkers Police Officers. You have been led to the slaughter house like sheep with the lure of a below the cost of living raise, and yet CoY gained a three point upgrade to Yonkers General Obligation bond rating to A+ from Standards and Poors. Yes indeed, the Yonkers Police Benevolent Association has been cheaply sold by Olson. The ratification of the contract was not a victory of any sort to the PBA membership, and specifically not to the newest members. Even CoY, as did Mayor Spano, but CoY and Mayor Spano will not recognize for at least 3 to 6 months. The reality is that at any given time in the line of emergency service to benefit CoY, one can be injured. It is at those episodes in the life and death struggle of a Police Officer or Firefighter that one will feel the impact of the porous construct of this contract adopted so far only by the PBA membership.
While one may hope they will never become ill or injured, reality has shown itself to be quite the opposite. Even the invincible suffer injury. This contract is a gamble that will benefit only Olson should he win his re-election effort by sustaining his hold on the office of Yonkers PBA president. Olson’s viability, should it be maintained, will be paid by the PBA membership whether Olson wins or loses the January 7th election. The story is a simple one… The PBA membership were betrayed by their own man in blue. The truth hurts. Olson sold his membership for his own political survival and gain. The gamble will reveal Olson’s temporary good fortune or his even quicker and eventual demise.
The “Why” this ploy unfurled, as it did, is calculating, and cuts to its betrayal of blue on blue trust. That is the shame of it all. Olson betrayed the PBA membership. He knows it; Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano knows it. The shame of it is that Yonkers Mayor Spano has no remorse; Olson is not embarrassed his demeaning himself to save his derrière in prostituting himself to Yonkers City Hall while throwing the PBA membership under the bus. This is nothing to cheer even during the backdrop of Christmas best wishes. This is simply a “ho ho ho”!
Withholding and omitting the facts, and trying to force a kabosh on the “truth” by claiming plausible deniability with intrigue and spin is why this contract was ratified. The deception of that “truth”, kept from the union membership is the clear path to the self-destruction of any “strength in unity” term often heard espoused by Olson. The contract solely belongs to Olson. The membership will pay dearly. Olson wears that contract like an albatross of shame about his neck, and his signature is indelibly clear exhibit of his doing. The telephones to the PBA board have been ringing as CoY pushed the men and woman in blue off their 207-c benefits. Many members that have been out injured or ill have been getting appointment letters to get examined by a doctor hired by Yonkers City Hall. The doctor’s philosophy is, simply put, “if you can use the bathroom, you can go to work”.
CLSA and Local 628 leadership are well respected, as well as intelligent leaders that have the best interest of their members in mind, and had obtained excellent legal advice. They are not unaware of CoY’s fiscal plight, now negated by the Standard & Poors report, which further denies the fiscal prognosis of the Commission of Inquiry headed by the Honorable former NYS Lt. Governor Richard Ravitch and the Honorable former NYS Assemblyman Richard Brodsky who concluded Yonkers faces a $500 million deficit over a five-year time frame, from January 2012 to 2016. At issue now is whether Yonkers City Hall lied to the Commission of Inquiry to extract a doomsday scenario, or they lied more recently to Standard & Poors to get a rosier conclusion with S & P finding over $31 million not previously known but now revealed. Will Mayor Mike spano ever reveal the “facts”? No likely. Don’t hold your breath.
Fiscal doomsday scenarios reveal themselves in Yonkers every year at least once, Under Mayor Spano’s Administration it is heard more often. What needs to be recognized is that Spano Administration will eventually bite the dust, but the City of Yonkers will survive every calamity thrown at it, including this underhanded betrayal of blue against blue. It is high time Yonkers owned up to its fiscal status and decide whether it is a city worthy of exemplary police, fire, and DPW personnel who can be paid and protected for the jobs they perform every day in good health and when / if they should suffer injury. Yonkers must reflect upon itself with honesty… did the union membership create the fiscal crisis Yonkers City Hall claims exists? Or is it that Yonkers City Hall’s feigned claim to being unaware of Yonkers plight evident of Mayor Spano’s conflicted denial of the city’s plight. What is the truth? Besides, while Mayor Mike Spano admonishes the unions, City Hall has become a depository of “family and friends” employment opportunity that continues to run amuck. What’s up with that Mayor Spano?
The final concern is that the City of Yonkers, specifically Mayor Mike Spano has permitted a self-serving PBA president to hurt the PBA membership and Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano has not come to their defense. Why? No good can come from Mayor Mike Spano not perceiving the debauched ethical standards to which Olson has maneuvered his ploy with the might and clout of Mayor Mike Spano to hurt the very people who maintain the security and civility to which the fourth largest city in the State of New York claims to aspire. Perhaps Yonkersites do, but Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano has another agenda. Before you know it, instead of calling 911, Yonkersites will need to call the Mayor’s Hotline for assistance. Will Mayor Mike Spano be at Yonkers City Hall to take the call? Yonkersites may learn the answer to that question sooner than later.
2014 promises to be a tumultuous year. It will only be fun if we collectively resolve to maintain an ethical standard which has been eclipsed by newly adopted dysfunctional standards that do not serve Yonkers well.