On Thursday, August 8, 2013, the New Orleans City Council considered the proposed OPSE ordinance, yet again. The ordinance considered today was an amended version of the ordinance.
On Wednesday, August 7, 2013 the DOJ send a letter to the City Attorney’s office complaining that some of the amendments to the proposed ordinance would be contrary to the provisions of the Consent Decree. The DOJ Letter can be found by clicking here.
As a result of the DOJ letter, the City Attorney’s office advised the City Council that if they didn’t pass this ordinance and adjust it to comply with the Consent Decree that either the City would be held in contempt of the Consent Decree or that Judge Morgan would not allow any paid details at all.
The City Council met in Executive Session for about two hours while they discussed how they were going to handle the ordinance in relation to the DOJ letter. Once they came out of Executive Session, Stacy Head offered the following amendments: Section b(6) was to be deleted in its entirety and the words “or rotation requirement” were to be deleted in Section b(9). These two amendments passed 6-0. Cynthia Hedge-Morrell did not vote.
Susan Guidry then offered an additional amendment that deleted section b(8) in its entirety. Ms. Guidry’s amendment passed with a vote of 5-1 (Head voted AGAINST).
The entire, amended ordinance was then offered and voted on by the entire City Council and it passed with a vote of 5-2 (Head and Hedge-Morrell voted AGAINST).
Myself and Raymond Burkart, III were present the entire day and worked tirelessly to try to get the best possible outcome for FOP members. Raymond gave an impassioned plea to the City Council, but by then they had already decided what action they were going to take. The video can be found here.
The entire City Council insisted that it was their intention to further examine the issues raised in the letter from DOJ and revisit the ordinance accordingly. It should be noted that Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, who was responsible for most of the amendments to the ordinance, did not vote out of protest and because of an ethics complaint leaked to the media. It should also be noted that Stacy Head was steadfast in her opposition to today’s second amendment and the ordinance as a whole. It is worth watching the entire video.
What does all this mean?
The ordinance that passed set the pay scale for paid details that are time-based (as opposed to flat-fee details. For example, a four hour stand-up at Wal Mart is a time-based detail. A motorcycle escort is not a time-based detail.
The ordinance defined “Major Special Events” to include events held at the Convention Center, Fair Grounds, Mahalia Jackson, New Orleans Arena, Saenger, Superdome, and Lakefront Arena with an expected attendance of at least 2,000 people. Major Special Events are exempted from the rotation requirement.
Holiday/High Demand premiums of $17/hr (which will all go to the officer working the detail) will be charged on New Year’s Day, MLK Day, Mardi Gras, Good Friday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, Lundi Gras, Friday after Thanksgiving, and Christmas Eve.
The rates were set. They can be found on this document. The $17/hr premium will be added to the amounts on this chart. The OPSE fee will not change.
The fee charged by OPSE to administer details will be 15% or $5.00/hr whichever is less. The fee is capped at $5.00/hr. This fee can be waived by ordinance of the City Council. Exceptions to the pay scale can be made by ordinance of the City Council.
Any fees collected by the OPSE which are not spent on the administration of the OPSE will be returned to the officers who worked details in an amount proportional to the amount of detail hours worked.
There can be special rates of pay for details requiring special certifications. For example, K-9 handlers, bomb techs, and divers may command a detail rate commensurate with their level of training.
Officers can agree to work a detail for an amount lower than the pay scale for pre-existing details. For example, if you currently work a detail for Mom and Pop Restaurant for $20/hr., you can continue to do that if you wish.
The amendments that were deleted today are lined out on this document. In effect, the amendments were to remove options for the City Council to waive the rotation requirement and protections for the special taxing districts. This does not necessarily mean that Lakeview and Mid City will fall under the OPSE, but it does exist as a possibility. We will be staying on top of this issue to try to get that amendment protecting the special taxing districts reintroduced.
You may have some questions after reading this. You are welcome to ask. I don’t know if we will have an answer yet, but if we do, we will share it. There are plenty of things that remain to be seen with this OPSE plan. We will keep you updated as much as possible.
In 1995, the City of New Orleans implemented a domicile ordinance. The 1995 ordinance required that one live in the city to work for the city. In 2005, following Hurricane Katrina, the City Council waived the ordinance. It was waived once more and on December 31, 2012, those waivers expired. What we were left with was a domicile ordinance that could have significantly impacted the NOPD’s ability to recruit new officers.
The Fraternal Order of Police argued that the domicile ordinance should be permanently repealed. While we were lobbying for the ordinance’s repeal, it became clear that we did not have the votes on the Council and there was going to continue to be a domicile ordinance in some form.
City Council President Stacey Head took the lead on modernizing the ordinance. Under Councilmember Head’s amendment (Grandfather Heavy), the following changes would be implemented:
1. New police and fire hires would not have to comply with the domicile ordinance until they became regular employees (permanent employees).
2. For police employees, that would be 180 days after becoming a regular employee (after P/O I probationary period).
3. Any employee hired prior to January 1, 2013 would be globally exempt from the ordinance. That would mean that if you lived out of the city, you could remain out of the city and you would be free to establish a new domicile out of the parish without jeopardizing your employment. Finally, you could move into or out of the city as you saw fit.
If there had to be a domicile ordinance, which appeared to be the case, Councilmember Head’s ordinance seemed reasonable, especially if you were hired prior to January 1, 2013.
On March 4, 2013, the FOP appeared before the Governmental Affairs Committee for the City Council to again argue (.pdf) for the ordinance’s repeal. It appeared that Councilmember Head’s amendment, as outlined above, would be presented to the City Council on March 7, 2013.
At that time, we learned that Councilmember Cantrell intended to introduce an amendment (Grandfather Lite) that would require anyone hired prior to January 1, 2013 who lived out of the city to move back into the city if they changed their actual domicile address. Furthermore, the amendment would have required you to move back within 180 days in order to accept a position at a higher classification (promotion).
A little while later, we learned that Councilmember Hedge-Morrell intended to introduce an amendment (Grandfather Lite) that would make it illegal for city employees hired prior to January 1, 2013 who lived in the city to move out of the city.
Councilmember Head’s amendment came up for a vote first and passed. Councilmember Hedge-Morrell’s amendment came up next and passed. Councilmember Cantrell’s amendment, one urged by Mayor Landrieu, came up next and failed.
What are we left with? Here is a gist of how the ordinance will look:
1. All city employees must live in the city.
2. In order to be hired by the City of New Orleans, you must live in the city. However, you will be given a 180 day grace period in which to comply. New police employees (after January 1, 2013), they will have 180 days from the point they become regular employees (permanent) to comply with the ordinance.
3. If you were hired prior to January 1, 2013, and you live outside of New Orleans, you can stay outside of New Orleans without effecting your employment or ability to be promoted.
4. If you were hired prior to January 1. 2013 and you live outside of New Orleans, but subsequently move back in to the city, you cannot move back out.
5. If you were hired prior to January 1, 2013 and you live in the City of New Orleans, you cannot move out. If you move out of the city, you would be in violation of the ordinance and subject to termination.
6. If you are hired after 12/31/12 and the applicable grace period has expired, you must live in the city and you cannot move out of the city.
7. You will be able to request a hardship waiver through your Appointing Authority (for police that is the Superintendent) and the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) for the city. At this point, we do not know exactly how that will work.
The FOP would like to thank Councilmember Head for working closely on drafting this ordinance. She and her staff were very responsive to our concerns, even if we did not agree on everything. Hopefully the Council will realize the folly of this ordinance and repeal it in the near future. You should feel free to contact your elected representatives and express your opinion.