East Peoria firefighter contract on hold, council asking for legal guidance

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EAST PEORIA, Ill.– The East Peoria firefighters union is waiting on East Peoria City Council members to pass a union contract.

Council approved the first reading on October 1, 5- 3, but now, it’s seeking legal guidance for how to move forward.

One of the sticking points with this contract is a residency clause, which would mean that all firefighters would have to live within a certain designated area to serve in the department.

Another hold up for passing a multi-year contract has come to light because of a unique statute held within the city.

“We’re here because of a law that permits firefighters, unlike police officers or any other employee to hold public office,” said Dennis Triggs, East Peoria City Attorney.

It’s this intricacy that puts City Commissioner and Assistant Fire Chief Dan Decker in a unique position.

Regular Session | 10/15/19 | East Peoria City Council

Regular Session | 10/15/19 | East Peoria City Council

Posted by East Peoria – City Government on Tuesday, October 15, 2019

“I would prefer if three people would come to an agreement on the contract,” said Decker. “This would be easy. But, without that, now I have the issue of ‘if it’s legal for me to vote, then I have an obligation to vote.'”

Commissioner of Public Property Mike Sutherland said Decker shouldn’t be able to cast a vote.

“I don’t believe it’s not a conflict of interest,” said Sutherland. “I don’t see how in some way, shape, or form, that it’s not.”

Sutherland opposed it because of the absence of a residency requirement.
Mayor John Kahl opposed the contract because of a sick-time buyback program. Decker says upon his promotion to assistant chief, he’s no longer included in the firefighters union, therefore feels as though he should be allowed to vote.

“There are people out there who have a problem with it so I would respect that,” said Decker.

Decker and Sutherland both agree they don’t want to delay much longer for fear of arbitration.

Arbitration is a private process where disputing parties agree that one or several individuals can make a decision about the dispute after receiving evidence and hearing arguments.

American Bar Association

“I’d prefer not to see arbitration happen,” said Sutherland. “Why would I want to have my life decided on what [collective] you think?”

Tuesday, the council voted to delay the passing of the contract until an outside law practice analyzes if there is a conflict of interest.

East Peoria City Council meets every first and third Tuesday of the month.

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