OCEAN CITY — A resort elected official addressed this week what he believes are employees’ misconceptions about current and past government affairs.
Last week, The Dispatch published an interview with Parks employee Greg DeMarco, who alleged it was the council majority’s actions over the last two years that caused the city’s general employees to seek the protection of a union in this fall’s election.
After DeMarco and other employees made their organization efforts known, the Mayor and Council said it wanted the voters to decide the matter, advising the employees to launch a petition effort to have the issue appear as a ballot question this fall. The employees were successful in their referendum bid and the town’s voters will be asked to decide whether the general employees can join the firefighter/paramedics and police efforts in organizing.
Ocean City Councilman Brent Ashley has been the most outspoken critic against the further unionization of city employees, buying advertisements warning against more unions coming to town, and this week penning a letter to this newspaper specifically addressing six of DeMarco’s comments, which he views as inaccurate.
In last week’s interview, DeMarco rehashed how the union effort began and mentioned employees’ union desires “almost happened in 2005 but then City Manager Dennis Dare calmed it down and it went away.”
In response, Ashley said it was an employee raise that actually quelled the movement.
“The calming effect in FY05 was city employees received an extra 3% wage adjustment,” Ashley said. “This was in addition to their annual anniversary and COLA salary increases. In FY06, city employees received another extra 5% wage adjustment, again in addition to their annual anniversary and COLA increases.”
In his interview, DeMarco contended the 2011 pay and benefits ordinances, proposed by the council majority, came “out of the blue” and led to town employees no longer trusting the majority power on the council.
Ashley said that was not the case.
“Before the current majority, the previous council, led by Joe Mitrecic, had pay and benefit consultants come before them on Oct. 12, 2009 and June 1, 2010 (over a period of several months) to offer review and options on pay and benefits for current employees,” Ashley said. “Then at the Nov. 30, 2010 council meeting, a presentation was made by Human Resources Director Wayne Evans and the city manager, Dennis Dare, to discuss the consultants’ proposed changes to the current employees — 5th week vacation, ICMA match and the holiday schedule.”
To prove the point, Ashley went so far as to cite a July 27 letter to the editor from Mitrecic, who referenced council cost-saving discussions, such as payroll and medical benefits, and at least three meetings with consultants hired to “present the facts.”
Furthermore, Ashley said DeMarco was incorrect when he said he believes the council majority intended for those pay and benefits changes to apply to existing workers.
“Our discussion was only about new hires,” Ashley said. “At a council meeting on Jan. 19, 2011, Mayor Meehan stated, ‘I believe the intention of the council was to eliminate the fifth week for new employees.’” Ashley said DeMarco was wrong to credit the mayor and the council minority members for averting the pay and benefits changes.
“It was Mayor Meehan who brought into council discussions the subject of the new wage scale applying to all employees, including current employees, because he said that would save the city an additional $1.5 million. It was also the mayor who suggested reducing the maximum vacation for the current employees from five weeks to four weeks,” said Ashley.
According to Ashley, elected in 2010 after an unsuccessful run in 2008, Councilman Joe Hall’s motion earlier this month requesting the council take a stand against the union effort did not “taint the system,” as DeMarco alleged.
“No … Joe Hall’s motion had nothing to do with changing the system or taking away the citizen’s right to decide the referendum issue at election time. His motion, that I seconded, was simply to poll the council members’ own opinions. This was clearly stated and restated at that council meeting,” Ashley said.
In his interview, DeMarco asserted the council majority continues “attacking us and spreading fear … It’s because of them and their actions. That’s why this is happening.”
Ashley responded nothing has changed for the town’s current employees, saying no employees have been laid off since the election of 2010 and there have been no furloughs.
“Since July 1, 2011, 57 budgeted city positions have been filled. All full-time employees were given an extra paid day off this year for Random Act of Kindness Day (Good Friday) that resulted in an extra three-day paid holiday. In July 2012, all full-time employees received a $1,000 extra pay bonus,” Ashley said.
Ashley’s last point of contention dealt with DeMarco’s allegation of the council majority’s “hit list” of certain employees slated to be terminated.
“I have never seen a hit list. If one does exist, I would imagine the current council majority is on it,” he said.