Supreme Court denies appeal in Act 47 ruling
February 19. 2013 1:00AM
The 6-1 Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling on Oct. 19, 2011 found that the distressed municipalities act, or Act 47, does not supersede the Policemen and Firemen Collective Bargaining Act, or Act 111, meaning that the city could no longer hold up collective bargaining awards because of the city‚??s economic state.
The Supreme Court denied two appeals by the city regarding that ruling on Wednesday. In two other orders, the Supreme Court granted appeals filed by the police and firefighters, vacating awards issued by the Commonwealth Court on Oct 29, 2010.
According to Clifford Levine, an attorney with the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, who represented the city, this effectively ends the case, which dragged on for about a decade. He said this creates a ‚??very serious situation‚?Ě for the city.
‚??Our position has been you have to (honor) the recovery plan whether you have a collective bargaining agreement nor or not. Otherwise, the city gets hit with an unrealistic award it can‚??t afford,‚?Ě Levine continued.
The city faces several dire financial issues, including the borrowing of $9.85 million in January 2012 to pay back 2011 debts. As a condition to the city receiving a 2012 Tax Anticipation Note, the participating banks have required that the city adopt a Revised Recovery Plan by the Pennsylvania Economy League, the city‚??s Act 47 distressed status coordinator, by April 30, 2012.
The city declared Act 47 in 1992 and last revised its Recovery Plan in 2002.
At the Feb. 16 City Council meeting, Council President Janet Evans said that this plan must take into account the union court awards along with unfunded borrowing and 2012 debt refinancing or it will be ‚??bogus‚?Ě and ‚??a feckless attempt to mislead the banking community and the taxpayers.‚?Ě
‚??City employees must contribute and agree to a Revised Recovery Plan. Otherwise, our city is destined to be become embroiled in yet additional multi-year court battle culminating in another significant and unaffordable Supreme Court award,‚?Ě Evans emphasized.
‚??The Revised Recovery Plan must demonstrate that DCED and PEL have learned from their mistakes and will never again lead Scranton and its mayor down the courthouse path to financial ruin. DCED rejected good faith labor negotiations, ordered Scranton onto the Supreme Court where it spoke for our city, and then ignored any responsibility to pay for its actions.‚?Ě
Union attorneys and city officials have estimated that the Supreme Court ruling could be worth over $20 million, but neither side has released an official calculation. Evans estimated that it was close to $30 million.
Mayor Chris Doherty referred all questions regarding the appeals to city solicitor Paul Kelly, who did not return a request for comment.