BARNEGAT – Ongoing negotiations between PBA local 296 and the Township of Barnegat have become increasingly contentious, with the PBA recently having taken to social media alleging a “war on cops” waged by the Barnegat Township Committee due to a lack of progress on the negotiations, while township officials have pushed back on the PBA’s criticisms, with Barnegat attorney Jerry Dasti alleging that meetings have been cancelled due to the PBA attorney’s refusal to provide written proposals articulating the PBA’s position before negotiations or respond to his messages.
Tuesday night’s regularly scheduled meeting of the Barnegat Township Committee is expected to focus on the negotiations issues, as PBA members and their supporters are set to stage a protest at the meeting, according to statements made by the PBA on social media.
The PBA’s social media postings claim that responsibility for the lack of progress rests unilaterally with the Barnegat Township Committee, and that despite township committee members making statements to the effect that they want to negotiate, they have not lived up to their promises.
In a later statement posted to its Facebook page, the PBA went into detail with regard to the negotiations:
Jerry Dasti: “It Makes No Sense” To Hold Meetings Without Written Proposal From PBA
Emails obtained by Ocean County Politics that were sent between Barnegat’s attorney, Jerry Dasti, and the PBA’s attorney, Stuart Alterman, showed a back-and-forth between the two sides. Dasti argues that the meetings have been repeatedly canceled due to the PBA’s failure to provide a written proposal for the township to review before negotiations.
According to the emails, the most recent meeting between the two sides was tentatively scheduled for Monday, November 21st, 2016 at Dasti’s Forked River law offices.
“I previously asked you by letter, and confirmed again with your office yesterday, to provide me with a written proposal that we could review before the meeting on Monday. Your client [The PBA] and presumably your office has our last proposal,” he wrote to PBA attorney Alterman. “It makes no sense to show up on Monday without being provided the opportunity to review your clients’ new proposal.”
Mayor Novak Disappointed By PBA Attorney’s Lack Of Response
Asked to comment on the allegations, Barnegat Mayor John Novak expressed his disappointment regarding the lack of movement on the PBA contract, and argued that the cause of the stall has been due to the PBA attorney’s failure to reduce the union’s demands to a written proposal. Novak is not directly involved in the negotiations, with two other members of the township committee selected to represent the township in PBA negotiations.
“Speaking for myself, I was very disappointed to learn that the attorney for the PBA never responded to requests over the last weeks by letter, email and phone for a position paper of sorts prior review prior to the scheduled meeting,” Novak said. “I have held out hopes for some time that this matter would be resolved to everyone’s satisfactions – or at least as close as contract negotiations ever provide for satisfaction.”
“While we are not permitted to discuss/disclose the specifics of negotiations, several offers over many months have been tendered – all without acceptance or tenable counter-proposals, Novak added. “A ways back, negotiations closed and the PBA was to submit the matter to arbitration; they never did and the matter has lingered without negotiations or arbitration. The concept of one more ‘last’ meeting came up and was scheduled. It was hoped, and sought, that the PBA would have their attorney provide a position paper in advance of the meeting as repeatedly requested but that never materialized. In fact, no response of any sort was received from the PBA attorney.”
Amid those concerns, Novak still expressed his support for the township’s officers, and stated that he has been attempting to bring the two sides together in recent months, to no avail.
Taxpayer Group: PBA Demands Are “Unreasonable”
George Kneisser, the executive director of the Red Bank-based NJ Citizens For Property Tax Reform group announced his intention to counter the PBA’s demands during the public comment portion of Tuesday night’s meeting. He argues that the PBA is not being reasonable with their demands and that citizens should oppose them.
“Apparently, The Police Benevolent Association Union No. 296 is staging a protest at the meeting, because they are not getting the raise they want and they want to limit how much they contribute towards their medical care, even though their salaries, their healthcare and pension benefits are already extremely generous, especially compared to all of us in the private sector,” Kneisser said in an email to group members.
“For their purpose, they are asking the public to support their demands against the Township and they intend to bring lots of out of town people to support their protest, most likely other cops and their friends and family.”
“Their unreasonable demands will inevitably increase property taxes in Barnegat and will encourage other unions to demands the same in other town,” Kneisser argued.
The meeting is set to begin at 6:30 PM on Tuesday, December 6th at the Barnegat Township municipal building, 900 W. Bay Avenue in Barnegat.