Potential “quid pro quo” being discussed between City of Peoria, Peoria Firefighters Local 50 Union to save two fire stations

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — A legal agreement was being discussed between Peoria City Council and the Peoria Firefighters Union.

While Peoria City councilmembers agreed to bailout the Peoria Civic Center with $4 million, two Peoria fire stations are still set to be shut down.

The questioned quid pro quo, or legal agreement, asked for the Firefighters Union to drop an Unfair Labor Practice Charge from 2018 if City Council would restore the two engine companies set to be closed down.

The discussion came just over a week until Station Four on Peoria’s Southside is set to shut down.

“Last night (Tuesday), Councilman Grayeb made a motion that would restore the two machines if the union would drop their unfair labor practice charge. That raised this question of if that would be considered a “quid pro quo,” said Peoria City Manager Patrick Urich.

The Unfair Labor Practice Charge is around $600,000. The Illinois Labor Relations Board ruled against the City of Peoria.

“It’s really the way the ruling works, is we took away their potential for earning overtime and we should pay them that period of time. We’re objecting to that, that is being litigated right now, it’s up in front of the appellate court. We’re waiting on a hearing date for that matter,” Urich said.

Peoria Firefighters Local 50 Union President Ryan Brady sent the following statement to WMBD.

Peoria Firefighters Local 50 agreed to concessions with the City of Peoria to keep seventeen fire “machines” in service for FY 2018. In late May of 2018, the city unilaterally implemented “brownouts” of one or both rescue squads for the remainder of 2018. As a result of the loss of these firefighters staffing each rescue squad each day, Peoria Firefighters Local 50 had no other recourse, but to file an unfair labor practice against the city despite attempts to negotiate fairly these reductions. The notion of settling the unfair labor practice has been ongoing since the city permanently decommissioned the rescue squads dating back to January of 2019. Our intention of resolving the unfair labor practice with the city was to ensure our firefighters and the citizens of Peoria would have a more adequately staffed fire department post CoVid 19 than what we are currently facing with the loss of an additional twenty firefighters and two fire engines beginning October 1st.

Ryan Brady | President | Peoria Firefighters Local 50 Union

Urich said the Council believes this agreement will be best for both parties.

“We do feel that it’s appropriate to look at a global settlement of some of these issues as we move forward with that,” he said.

A quid pro quo, which is Latin, literally translates to “something for something” in English.

It’s a legal agreement between two parties. It’s being considered essential bargaining in this case, but sometimes it can be done in an illegal manner.

Attorney at Law Shaun Cusack spoke to WMBD about the legality of the matter.

“You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. It’s very common,” Cusack said.

He said so far, it seems this agreement is being done by the books.

“When you get into questions of legality and ethics is when you’re dealing with things that are completely disproportionate in value to where the argument can be that the consideration was too low so we don’t have a quid pro quo or contract,” Cusack said. “To be honest, it happens frequently, it really does. You can see where this situation may raise an ethical question in people’s minds. But as far as what we know about it right now, I think the idea of it is just in its infancy, nothing sticks out to me that “oh boy, this looks illegal.”

Cusack said quid pro quo is a contract term, and in order to have a valid contract, you have to had what’s called “consideration.”

“That’s value. If you exchange something for value, give something up for value, that’s a valid contract in that situation and is probably legal,” Cusack said.

Urich agreed.

“In criminal matters, a quid pro quo is something that isn’t legal. When it comes to collective bargaining matters, it’s pretty common. You may see as you’re negotiating a contract one party may have to give something up in order to get something. I think that becomes a pretty standard practice in matters of collective bargaining,” he said.

While things are changing almost daily, Ryan Brady said he’s under the impression Station Four on SW Jefferson Ave. would close Oct. 1.

Brady said he’s set to speak with the membership Thursday morning and believes discussions will ramp up quickly after.

Peoria Firefighters Local 50 Union Attorney Jerry Marzullo sent the following statement to WMBD Wednesday.

While IAFF Local 50 Peoria Firefighters will not comment on ongoing discussions between Local 50 and the City of Peoria, what Local 50 wishes to continually reiterate is that it is sad and unfortunate that it is always the Union that has to fight to maintain the proper staffing and Emergency Response Equipment to keep the citizens of Peoria safe.  The City of Peoria continues to take a backseat when it comes to citizen safety.  Every day, Peoria firefighters are the best in the business when it comes to fire and EMS safety and Peoria elected officials are asking these men and women to do so much more, with so much less, putting the lives and property of taxpaying citizens at increased risk.  

Jerry Marzullo, Attorney for IAFF Local 50 Peoria Firefighters

As of Wednesday evening, no official offer has been made from the City of Peoria to the Firefighters Union. This was a matter discussed Tuesday night, with the following discussion coming straight from the meeting.

“Can you secure, in your opinion, an agreement on the part of Local 50 to drop this unfair labor practice if we restore those two engines?” 2nd District Councilman Chuck Grayeb asked Local 50’s President Ryan Brady.

“I cannot speak on behalf of the entire body,” Brady said.

“How soon would you be able to canvass your members if we vote to approve this subject to your members agreeing to this?” Urich then asked.

“By the bylaws, we would have to have seven days’ notice to discuss an option like this,” Brady replied. “Seven days from the day of posting. The earliest we could do is a week from tomorrow (Wednesday) to have a meeting and it would have to be two meetings.”

“We took care of the [Peoria] Civic Center […] because they are an integral part of the Peoria family,” said Grayeb. “So are our citizens who need protection.”

Chuck Grayeb proposed issuing bonds to salvage the two engines before they are permanently shut down on October 1, eliminating 22 positions in the process.

Councilman Sid Ruckriegel called it “Quid Pro Quo’ and “Illinois Politics at its finest.”

The city attorney would only comment on the statement’s legality in closed session, prompting the council to meet privately for roughly 20 minutes.

When they returned to the council chambers, they rejected a motion to issue bonds in support of the Peoria Fire Department. The vote failed 4 to 7, with Grayeb, Ali, Moore, and Beth Jensen voting in favor.

This story will be updated when more information becomes available.

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