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Miami-Dade police shouldn't receive $15 million in back pay, court rules


The latest legal skirmish between Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Miami-Dade's police union resulted in a win for the mayor.

Florida's First District Court of Appeal ruled against awarding county police about $15 million in back wages tied to a disputed 2012 payroll deduction aimed at easing a budget squeeze.

The deduction, which reduced county healthcare costs, was imposed when Gimenez vetoed a labor contract approved by the Miami-Dade commission that lacked the pay cut. The commission proposed the contract after the Gimenez administration and the police union reached an official impasse in labor talks and were unable to sign a new three-year contract. 

After the veto, commissioners relented and approved a contract with the deduction intact. It was removed in 2014 -- this time with enough commission votes to override the mayor's veto. 

While the mayor can veto most commission actions, the union successfully sued to have the 2012 veto declared illegal since it involved an alternative to stalled labor talks with the Gimenez administration.

An appeals court in 2015 agreed,  ruling it didn't make sense to give the mayor authority to veto commission action needed to resolve a labor impasse between a union and the mayor himself. That precedent-setting ruling led Miami-Dade's Police Benevolent Association to ask for a refund on two years worth of payroll deductions for its members. 

Late last week, the First DCA ruled that while courts and labor boards eventually  determined the mayor's veto should not have been allowed, legal interpretations at the time backed the adoption of the second contract with the deduction. 

John Rivera, head of the Miami-Dade's police union, said the latest decision was wrong. ""When you have a victim who had property stolen, the remedy is either go to jail or get the property back. Neither of those things happened here," he said. 

Michael Hernández, Gimenez's top spokesman, said in a statement Monday: "Mayor Gimenez made difficult decisions during challenging budgetary times. When our financial outlook improved, the mayor proposed millions in investments in the Miami-Dade Police Department. We feel the court made the right decision."