Univ., city debate who should foot strike bill



Over a month after the city of New Haven first billed Yale for the cost of providing police coverage during the strike of Yale’s unions, city and University officials remain divided over whether Yale is obliged to pay the bill.

While the University contends state law prohibits it from paying for any police services related to a strike, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said he still expects Yale to cover over $100,000 in overtime logged by New Haven police at strike-related events.

“I’ve conveyed directly to the University that I expect them to pay the bill,” DeStefano said. “I have not talked to [Levin] recently about it. We presented him the bill and we expect them to pay.”

Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said the University was still looking into the applicable state law to determine whether it could be legally held responsible for the overtime bill. But he said the University is questioning whether Yale’s two largest unions, locals 34 and 35 — which held the rallies that required additional police presence — should bear responsibility for the costs of their three-week strike this fall.

“If you are going to bill anyone, why would you bill the University?” Conroy said.

New Haven police logged hundreds of hours of overtime during the walkout, said New Haven police Sgt. Louis Cavalier, the head of the New Haven Police Department’s union. In part because of the strike — which ended Sept. 18 — the city spent more than half of its $1 million police overtime budget in the first 10 weeks of the fiscal year.

City officials said the costs of police overtime would be hard to bear during difficult fiscal times. New Haven ran its first budget deficit in a decade last year and laid off several hundred city employees.

The University has paid the city in the past for events it planned and organized, like the tercentennial celebration in 2001. Yale officials initially said the fact that the costs are related to a labor dispute preclude it from paying the bill in this case. Conroy said the University is still examining the issue and its legal implications were still being considered.

But DeStefano said the city is convinced that Yale can be held responsible for the costs.

“I don’t really care what their opinion is,” DeStefano said. “My counsel advises me that there is no prohibition, and there is none.”

Ward 27 Alderman Philip Voigt, chairman of the finance committee and a member of the Local 35 negotiating team during the strike, said he was trying to determine whether Yale could pay the bill.

“I haven’t formed a real hard opinion because I’m still trying to find out if the state statute says the municipality has to pay for such services,” Voigt said.

Cavalier said Connecticut law seemed to be on the side of the University.

“By law, they’re not supposed to pay police during the strike,” Cavalier said.

Cavalier said the police union and the city had resolved another dispute involving police coverage of the strike. Cavalier had accused the NHPD of pulling officers from their beats to cover strike activities, a claim some city administrators disputed.

“I’m not being a mercenary,” Cavalier said. “My concern is it’s a safety issue for the officers and the neighborhoods.”

Cavalier said the union filed a complaint with the city about moving the officers and that the city agreed not to take police off their beats again.

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