Council supports town joining 'lifetime contracts' lawsuit

Council member Jacob Brier casts the lone nay vote

By Josh Bickford
Posted 11/22/19

More than a dozen cities and towns in Rhode Island recently filed a lawsuit in opposition to the state's "lifetime contracts law."

The legislation, which was signed by Governor Gina Raimondo in …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Not a subscriber?


Start a Subscription

Sign up to start a subscription today! Click here to see your options.

Purchase a day pass

Purchase 24 hours of website access for $2. Click here to continue

Day pass subscribers

Are you a day pass subscriber who needs to log in? Click here to continue.


Council supports town joining 'lifetime contracts' lawsuit

Council member Jacob Brier casts the lone nay vote

Posted

More than a dozen cities and towns in Rhode Island recently filed a lawsuit in opposition to the state's "lifetime contracts law."

The legislation, which was signed by Governor Gina Raimondo in 2018, states that expired contracts for teachers and other unions will continue automatically even when town officials and union leadership are unable to reach a new agreement. 

Barrington Town Manager Jim Cunha has spoken out publicly against the "lifetime contracts law" and brought the issue to an executive session for the town council. In that session, four members of the council voted to have Barrington join the lawsuit against the "lifetime contracts law."

The final vote was 4-1, with council member Jacob Brier casting the lone nay vote.

In an emailed response to the Barrington Times, Mr. Brier wrote that he believes cities and towns need to push back against the General Assembly's legislation, but stopped short of supporting the litigation. 

"My reason for voting against it is that I didn’t view the legislation as problematic for Barrington, and didn’t want to spend Barrington money on it," he wrote.

Council member Steve Boyajian voted in favor of the town joining the litigation. 

Mr. Boyajian said that from his perspective, the lawsuit is about two related issues — first is the power of cities and towns to govern themselves on local matters, and second is about how towns maintain relationships of "trust and mutual respect with municipal employees."

"Our firefighters’ are universally trained in advanced life support and as you can see just from reading letters to the editor, they literally save residents’ lives on a regular basis," Mr. Boyajian wrote in an email to the Times. "Our police officers bear the horrible responsibility of informing residents that they’ve lost a loved one in an accident. Our public works team will work around the clock to make sure the streets are cleared of tress and snow so that we can respond to life or death emergencies. 

"These teams of public employees do these things in service to the residents of Barrington, and I’ve heard nothing but praise for their work. We don’t need the state injecting itself into the difficult calculus of how Barrington will reward a job well done while at the same balancing the need to be good stewards of tax dollars."

Barrington Town Council President Michael Carroll also voted in support of the town joining the lawsuit.

"I voted to support this lawsuit because this lifetime contracts legislation is bad for our town and represents a state-imposed ‘solution’ to a problem we don’t have in Barrington," he wrote. 

"Barrington has excellent relationships with our labor unions and we work collaboratively with them. We don’t need this legislation forced on us, and we said so when this legislation was pending. This is an overreach of state power, and an unwarranted intrusion that hinders the ability of local government to serve local needs. One message of this lawsuit is that our leaders on Smith Hill should listen when the cities and towns speak."

The Barrington Times also emailed council members Kate Weymouth and Joy Hearn regarding the lawsuit, but neither councilor responded.

The town recently ratified three-year contracts with unions representing the local firefighters, police officers, public works employees, and dispatchers. 

2020 by East Bay Newspapers

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff
Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.