Byline: R.I. Lawyers Weekly Staff
Where a judge ordered the city of Cranston to arbitrate a union's grievance that was filed on behalf of a police officer, the order should be affirmed despite the city's argument that the officer was retired and that the union did not have standing to represent him.
"The plaintiff, the City of Cranston (the City), appeals from a Superior Court judgment in favor of the defendants, the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, Local 301 (the Union); Daniel W. Nuey, Sr. (Nuey); and the Municipal Employees Retirement System (MERS). In his decision, the trial justice ordered the City to arbitrate the Union's grievance that was filed on behalf of Nuey, after the trial justice found that Nuey had not retired from his position as a Cranston police officer and thus remained a member of the bargaining unit.
"On appeal, the City presents an array of arguments. First, the City contends that the trial justice erred when he determined that Nuey had not been retired as a matter of law as soon as the Retirement Board granted his application for an ordinary disability retirement. The City further maintains that the trial justice erred when he found that Nuey had not retired as a matter of fact, as a result of his own conduct.
"The central dispute in this case is whether Nuey retired. If that is the case, the Union lacks the standing to pursue a grievance on Nuey's behalf, making the dispute nonarbitrable. On the other hand, if Nuey was not in a retired status, the grievance would be arbitrable because he remained a member of the bargaining unit.
"To begin, we must clarify the true inquiry governing the issue as to Nuey's employment status. The trial justice and the parties focus on two issues: (1) whether the Retirement Board can retire an employee by granting the employee's application for an ordinary disability retirement and (2) if the Retirement Board lacks that authority, whether Nuey retired by his conduct. Clearly, if the Retirement Board is vested with the authority to retire a municipal police officer, the inquiry is over and we would be drawn to the inescapable conclusion that Nuey had retired.
"The City argues that the Retirement Board has the authority to unilaterally retire a municipal police officer after he or she applies for an ordinary disability retirement. To support this argument, the City targets the language in G.L. 1956 45-21-19 that says that 'the retirement board may retire the member for...