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Castleberry Fairs

Both sides agree to settle police union dispute


October 03, 2012
LITTLETON — Both sides have agreed to settle the 16-month-old dispute between the town and its police union. On September 21, the Public Employee Labor Relations Board granted a joint motion to dismiss the suit. The settlement was reached on September 18.

Last week, Town Manager Fred Moody said that both sides were satisfied with the agreement.

The dispute began in 2011. The State Employees Association (SEA), representative of the town's patrol officers, organized a boycott of certain town businesses. Owners of those businesses had supported budget cuts that concerned SEA.

After those cuts were approved, the town eliminated nine employee positions, including two in the police department. After the boycott, questions were raised about the police department's involvement.

After a subsequent town investigation of that question, disciplinary action was taken against officer Michelle Soares. She was the department's SEA representative at the time of the boycott.

SEA filed a grievance with the state labor board in May 2011. It claimed that the town acted improperly in its disciplinary action against Soares. The town's counterclaim disputed the union's views.

Soares resigned from the department in December.

The period of the labor dispute was one of major change in police department personnel. By January of this year, seven officers left to pursue other career opportunities.

One of the officers who departed in 2011 is now back on the force. Gary Hebert was promoted to sergeant earlier this year. Hebert said his departure last year was motivated by a concern that the town's finances could lead to additional layoffs on the force.

The settlement does not resolve another SEA complaint against Littleton. The matter relates to a May 2011 grievance against the town's policy on employee social networking.

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