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Fraternal Order of Police v. Montgomery County

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

May 30, 2013

FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE, MONTGOMERY COUNTY LODGE 35, ET AL.
v.
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MARYLAND, ET AL.

Krauser, C.J., Matricciani, Watts, JJ.

OPINION

Matricciani, J.

On May 26, 2011, the Montgomery County Council ("the Council") passed Council Resolution No. 17-149, which adopted a fiscal year 2012 operating budget to fund its obligations under its police officers' collective bargaining agreement ("CBA"). On June 24, 2011, the Fraternal Order of Police, Montgomery County Lodge 35, and ten of its members (collectively, "the FOP"), filed suit in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, naming the Council and Montgomery County as defendants. The complaint sought declaratory and injunctive relief and alleged that the Council's actions breached the collective bargaining contract, violated the Montgomery County Police Labor Relations Act ("the PLRA"), [1] and violated the Maryland Declaration of Rights, Articles Nineteen and Twenty-Four.

On March 1, 2012, the circuit court dismissed two counts of the complaint, [2]entered summary judgment in favor of the County and Council on all remaining counts, and issued a declaratory judgment upholding the County and Council's actions as lawful. After the circuit court denied its motion for reconsideration, the FOP noted this timely appeal on April 2, 2012.

Questions Presented

The FOP presents one question for our review, which we have rephrased as follows in order to comport with our discussion:

Did the Montgomery County Council violate the PLRA or the Maryland Declaration of Rights when it passed an operating budget that rejected a proposed amendment to the FOP's collective bargaining agreement and did not fund three categories of employee benefits?

For the reasons that follow, we answer no and affirm the judgments of the Circuit Court for Montgomery County.

Background

The Police Labor Relations Act

The Montgomery County PRLA governs negotiations between the County and the members of its police force over collective bargaining agreements and amendments, and it designates their respective bargaining agents: the County Executive and the FOP.[3]PRLA §§ 33-75, 33-76, 33-80. If these two parties cannot reach an agreement, they are bound to submit to an "impasse procedure" in which an arbiter chooses one side's proposed contract to be conveyed to the Council for consideration. PRLA §§ 33-81(b); 33-80(g). The Council then must "indicate by resolution its intention to appropriate funds for or otherwise implement the agreement or its intention not to do so, and . . . state its reasons for any intent to reject any part of the agreement." PRLA § 33-80(h).

The PRLA gives the Council unilateral discretion to refuse to fund "conditional wage or benefits adjustments" in whole or in part:

(i) Adjustments. Any agreement shall provide either for automatic reduction or elimination of conditional ...

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