OCEAN CITY — City Solicitor Guy Ayres has reportedly responded to a so-called grievance filed several months ago by the local lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) contesting the town’s recent decision to take away a longtime perk from several public safety workers.
Ayres said this week that prior to the new year, he had sent a letter to Walter “Buck” Mann, the town’s labor commissioner, in regards to a letter penned by Fraternal Order of Police President Glen McIntyre, which criticized the Mayor and City Council’s decision to trim the city’s take-home vehicle fleet by 63 percent last October.
Ayres said that from his legal perspective, the town had every right to limit the use of its vehicles and that the FOP’s claim that the town perhaps was in violation of the collective bargaining agreement was essentially off the mark.
“The usage of the take-home vehicles is a management right that the town retains, and take-home vehicles were never a part of what was written in the collective bargaining agreement”, said Ayres. “So basically, all that the city took away from the FOP and the other employees was a perk.”
Of the 45 cars that were cut from the town’s 71-vehicle take-home fleet, 14 of them were from police officers, including two captains, six lieutenants, one sergeant, a corporal and four detectives.
Ayres went on to explain that City Manager Dennis Dare had worked a procedure into the new ordinance that would make the vehicles that were essentially taken away, accessible if needed, including keeping the popular “saturation program,” which allows officers who live in the city limits to park their police cruisers in their respective neighborhoods to increase the appearance of police presence.
Even those on the council that were the most outspoken about the need to trim the town’s take-home fleet were in favor of keeping the “saturation program.”
“I think the [saturation] program is a great thing that we need to keep going in our neighborhoods,” said Councilman Jim Hall in October.
Ayres said he was not surprised that the FOP thought that it was being treated unfairly, but he noted that the decision and the discussion on the matter was made very much public.
“This was never done in secret, as I recall this being talked about in open session at a number of public meetings,” said Ayres. “As I recall, no one from the FOP showed up for any of those public discussions.”
McIntyre did not return several phone calls this week for comment.