Falls officer waits for response

NEWTON FALLS – Police officer David Garvey had been patrolling the streets of the village, teaching firearms courses and working as an evidence officer for the past two decades. Now he is spending his days waiting to hear back from a civil service complaint he filed with the city on Jan. 24.

“It’s not about money. I want my job back. I’ve given 20 years of service to this community,” he said.

Garvey believes he was unlawfully laid off when the village opted not to renew the collective bargaining with the department at the start of the new year. Notice was given to Garvey and the department’s second full-time officer that he was to be fired and could pick up part-time duty instead.

Garvey chose to receive unemployment pay rather than the downgrade.

“I’m fine. I have a nest egg to fall back on financially” he said. “It’s frustrating that they won’t talk to you.”

Notice of his firing came Jan. 15 with reference to the Ohio Administrative Code which outlines layoff policies, including the abolishment of entire positions in the village. Within the 10 days allowed, Garvey filed his grievance, citing the village’s Civil Service Commission Handbook section on layoff procedures.

“I still stand firm in my belief that the city cannot lay off or abolish a full-time classified position within the city and still permit a part-time employee to work,” his grievance begins.

Thomas Bordas, member of the civil service commission, said the commission met about two weeks ago to discuss the matter with their attorney, Charles Ziegler.

“We turned it over to our attorney. He’ll get back to us, I guess,” he said.

Ziegler said he is preparing a written opinion which is currently “in progress.” He expects to have the statement prepared within the next seven days.

Whether the civil service commission will determine Garvey’s firing was against their guidelines or not may take more time. Nevertheless, Chief Gene Fixler said Garvey is still considered an officer in the department, but he has been choosing to remain off the work schedule.

As a full-time employee, Garvey was earning $21.67 hourly and received benefits. As a part-time employee, his rate would be cut to $14. Other officers asked to take part-time positions saw a 25 percent cut in pay.

Garvey is now receiving $418 weekly from unemployment.

All officers lost their benefits when the village chose not to renew the police union contract. Ohio law allows the department to walk away from union negotiations because the 2010 census listed the village at 4,795 residents, less than the required amount of 5,000 to require bargaining agreements. The move was made to save the department money with the 2013 police budget of $940,000 cut to $631,000 for 2014.