Police officers hire lawyer, raise contract issues

MLPD 3-23-10The Town of Mammoth has been plagued with the breach of contract lawsuit that ended in a debt payment of $29.5 million over 23 years.  Now, Mammoth Police Officers have pointed to what they say is another possible breach of contract that could end up in court.  In a letter from their lawyer, the police officers say if the Town does cut officers in January, police will go to court over a violation of their signed contract with the Town.

The proposal to cut police sounded more like an accomplished fact when officials specifically said they would make those cuts by January 1, 2013.  Police officers pointed to their signed agreement with the Town which guaranteed a force of 17 officers through this fiscal year.  Attorney Rob Sergi has sent a letter on behalf of the Mammoth Police Officers Association to the Town with a message that if the Town does follow through with proposed police cuts then officers will have no choice, he wrote, but to “seek relief from the courts.”  Sergi’s letter says the police officers will “also consider it a breach of the entire agreement and seek reimbursement for benefits taken away from the original MOU.”

Faced with yet another breach of contract issue and a potential court fight, Town officials are expected to recommend a delay in police cuts until July 1, 2013.  Attorney Rob Sergi sent the letter to Town Manager Dave Wilbrecht last week.  Sergi made it clear that in June police agreed to re-negotiate their contract with the Town only because of a fiscal emergency and to avoid layoffs of police. Based on those conditions, police agreed to a 23% pay and benefit cut.  The Town had agreed in that MOU to maintain staffing levels at 17 police officers.

Town Councilman Rick Wood said that the Town proposed police cuts but never made that decision.  He said the Town is in a “fact-gathering phase for the long-term restructuring of government at a lower cost.  We’re not ignoring the police agreement,” said Wood.  The Councilman also said, “We fired a shot across the bow.  It’s not a done deal.  Citizens have said not to touch their tax measure money.  There’s not a lot to work with.”

Councilwoman Jo Bacon said, “We were well aware of what is in the police contract and there was a consensus to start discussions about cuts.”

Attorney Sergi also says the police contract and staffing levels are a matter of negotiations not public opinion polls. He says the vote on the agreement was made and approved by police and the Town Council.

Town officials did create a community survey that asks several questions about whether to cut police. The police officers association letter is posted below:


October 9, 2012

Dave Wilbrecht, Town Manager

Town of Mammoth Lakes

P.O. Box 1609

Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546

Dear Mr. Wilbrec

I write you on behalf of the Mammoth Lakes Police Officer Association (MLPOA) and to advise you that this office has been retained to represent them regarding recent contract negotiations and the pending breach of that contract.

When the MLPOA agreed to re-open the current MOU it was done on the representation that the Town was acting in good faith and in response to a fiscal emergency. Based on representations made by the Town Manager the MLPOA voluntarily re-opened their MOU for negotiation. This was done for the sole purpose of preventing planned layoffs of MLPOA members. At that time the Town was fully aware of the extent of the fiscal problems and the amount owed to their creditors.

On those grounds the MLPOA gave up significant amounts of their pay and benefits and in return the Town included provisions in the current agreement to maintain staffing levels at 17 sworn officers. This firm recognizes that generally public employers do have the prerogative of establishing staffing levels of the workforce. However there is case law that supports our contention that workforce levels are negotiable and are part of the working conditions of current employees, see Firefighters Union v City of Vallejo 12 Cal. 3d 608. To that end the Town itself opened the door to make staffing levels a negotiable item.

Current proposals by the Town Council are suggesting that those staffing levels that were agreed to will now be reduced to a point that will make it extremely unsafe for the citizens of the Town and the remaining officers. The safety of the officers are most certainly part of their working conditions and are subject to review by the courts.

The California Commission on Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) conducted a “Management Study” of the Mammoth Lakes Police Department (Dated September 20, 2012). Based on that extensive study, POST recommended a base of 20 sworn officers. This firm realizes that the reduction from the agreed 17 sworn positions down to 10 sworn officers are “proposed” and have not been made. It is our position that based on the current agreement; the contract and the stated staffing levels should not be up to public input, that vote has already been cast, as it was ratified by the MLPOA and adopted by the Town Council.

I would also like to advise you that if the Town does decide to follow through with the proposed changes to the agreement and reduce the number of positions from the agreed upon number then you will leave the MLPOA no choice but to seek relief from the courts. The MLPOA will also consider it a breach of the entire agreement and seek reimbursement for benefits taken away from the original MOU.

If you wish to discuss the matter further please do not hesitate to contact me at (562) 810-0560.


Robin L. Sergi, Esq.


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38 Responses to Police officers hire lawyer, raise contract issues

  1. Charles O. Jones October 15, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

    A councilman said they are firing shots over the bow? Seriously? This is their strategy to deal with their legal agreements? This sounds like deja vu’ all over again. This shooting from the hip stuff is really making the town look silly.

    And I certainly can’t blame the cops for looking out for their own legal interests, particularly in light of their employers history with previous contractual agreements.

  2. Sean F October 15, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

    “We fired a shot across the bow. It’s not a done deal. Citizens have said not to touch their tax measure money. There’s not a lot to work with.”

    Guess what – You shot at cops and they will shot back.

    And what are the survey results he is quoting? Are the survey results posted somewhere or are they s secret? Isn’t the survey still running and therefore result may change?

    There are too many managers getting paid too much money in this town. Cut manager pay and keep cops on the streets!

    • Benett Kessler October 15, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

      Just a note – Mr. Wood was not quoting any survey.

  3. Town Attorney October 15, 2012 at 7:00 pm #

    To Mammoth Lakes Town Council: Go ahead and lay them off. It’s just a silly piece of paper that you signed. There is no way they have a case. If they do sue, you will win it on appeal.

    • Town Attorney October 15, 2012 at 9:24 pm #

      This is sarcasim guys. Whats up with the thumbs down?

  4. Cat October 15, 2012 at 7:23 pm #

    Guess the Police did not get the memo on waiting till the contract comes due prior to disbanding them!

    • Tourbillon October 15, 2012 at 7:47 pm #

      The union has hired a lawyer to promote special interest pubic employees over the taxpayers. Remember that, next time you read a maudlin letter from law enforcement about putting the citizens first. If MLPD wanted to demonstrate the insidious effect of public unionization, I cannot imagine a better way to do it than this.

      • Legal Boy October 15, 2012 at 11:05 pm #

        Tourbillion, MLPOA hired an attorney to enforce the contract that the town signed just a few months ago, and now wants to break. The key point is that both sides agreed to the contract and the MLPOA took very significant pay and benefit cuts.

        Tourbillion, how about you try telling the truth for once instead of making things up.

      • Mark October 16, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

        Tourbillon even with all the thumbs down you have hit the nail on the head.

        Thank you for posting the real truth of the matter. You have a good head on your shoulders.

        They would like us to believe it’s about us, but the truth of the matter is it’s about them.

        • Mark October 17, 2012 at 8:39 am #

          I also understand how the thumbs down directly relate to the demographics of the area.

          Sheeple get the government they deserve, and they deserve to get it good and hard.

  5. concerned October 15, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

    So, now signed agreements hold no weight in court due to appeals, I heard Mono county was corrupt but this post takes the cake…and eats it too. Impressive.

    • the only REAL course of action October 16, 2012 at 5:54 am #

      Please take the time to file a complaint with the Grand Jury.
      It is the only way to stop corruption in this town.


      • Legal Boy October 16, 2012 at 9:55 am #

        The only thing that is a bigger joke than the Mammoth Town Council is the Mono County Grand Jury. Don’t waste your time.

  6. H October 15, 2012 at 7:43 pm #

    A “shot across the bow” – really? I think its more like Mr. Wood shot himself in the foot (or the mouth)… When he ran for Council again in June 2010, his mantra was “never again” as if he was referring to himself being the savior running the Town from behind the scenes. Sounds to me however someone (Council, Town Attorney, Town Managers A and/or B, staff) was asleep at the wheel once again regarding the provisions in the MOU about minimum staffing levels. Perhaps the Town should think first before “firing more shots across the bow”… This is the most inept leadership from Council on down that this Town has ever had… My recommendation is take the money away from Tourism and be done with it – force Rusty to pick up the slack – and let our professionals at the MLPD do their job!

    • amused October 15, 2012 at 11:10 pm #

      Sounds like he shot himself in the a**.

    • sierragrl October 16, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

      I think you’re right. Why is tourism the only ‘untouchable’??? Wood makes it very clear, they proposed this ridiculous cut to the police force to ‘encourage’ town citizens to make earmarked measure money available to pay the judgment. Doesn’t take a high school diploma to figure out the method to their madness.

      • concerned October 16, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

        Because tourism is what the town relies on for income.

        • Mark October 16, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

          I’d bet tourist would still come if TOML didn’t spend a penny tourism. I’m sure Rusty appreciates the advertising he doesn’t have to pay for though.

        • H October 16, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

          Fair enough. But do we need what is essential three tourism entities (Town, MMSA, and Mono County)? Seems to me that we could be more efficient and combine the Town and Mono County efforts and significantly reduce our tourism expenditures. MMSA spends a huge amount of $$$ regarding advertising and tourism – pressure them to step it up another notch. Of course Mr. Urdi and others will fight this to death, but I bet it could be efficient and actually work.

  7. concerned October 15, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

    Yes,Charles and like the police, the town managers are looking out for their own interests as well, and no one else. If they were that concerned, they could take cuts off the top from their own salaries. A little here and a little there, it adds up quickly if you do the math.

    • Legal Boy October 15, 2012 at 11:12 pm #

      Concerned, they are looking to work in a safe enviroment so they can have backup on calls. That is impossible with a 10 man department. It takes many months to go through the process and get hired as a cop. Now the cops have time to leave the sinking ship known as MLPD that the council torpedoed.

      Stand by for mandated overtime for what is left of MLPD starting in December or January.

  8. upthecreek October 15, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    get a clue mammoth…start by getting rid of both town managers and the overpaid police chief.. that should save almost a cool million plus benefits

  9. tired of it October 16, 2012 at 8:01 am #

    Even more can be saved by reducing both of the Town Managers wages, (especially if they are actually considering keeping her past her contract date),getting rid of Tourism and Subsidized Housing. How about the Bear Whisperer? If the Town is considering laying off 7 officers is he going to be able to come to the calls instead? The officers can handle bear calls as well as police calls. He can only handle bear calls. If the people of Mammoth want him so bad then help him get grants to subsidize his wages. I don’t think there’s another town anywhere that pays to have a novelty hanging around unless it’s Virginia City where to old miner and his jackass stroll the streets.

    • amused October 16, 2012 at 9:22 pm #

      I agree… how about only having one fairly paid town manager, putting the salary of the second town manager toward the annual settlement payment, having the bear whisperer funded by grants, and getting rid of subsidized housing?
      I find it insulting that one of the managers is provided housing in addition to her salary and benefits, even though her benefits alone add up to more than a lot of families make annually. Most long term residents that I know work multiple jobs to pay for a roof over their heads in this beautiful place we call home.
      How sad that this amazing place has such a dark underside….

    • Bert4 October 17, 2012 at 8:29 am #

      Well said.

  10. Lawyer Councilmen October 16, 2012 at 8:32 am #

    With a lawyer as a councilman, don’t think for a moment that this guy does not understand employment contracts, clauses, etc. And as an elected official, has the power to do whatever the hell he wants.
    Lawyers can twist words around so fast, they’ll have you believing it was best that could have ever happened that the town now owes gazillions.

  11. K Irvine October 16, 2012 at 9:03 am #

    Who is in charge: Marx brothers, the Stooges, Dumb and Dumber? 2 months ago the Town approved this contract and now they want to rescind it. As Yogi Berra said: “It’s déjà vu all over again”.

  12. concerned October 16, 2012 at 10:05 am #

    Yes, legal boy, the cops should be looking out for their own interests because they keep the town safe. The Town Council, however, not sure what they claim their contribution is.

  13. sierragrl October 16, 2012 at 12:09 pm #

    Come on people, use your heads. All this arguing about the police force is what the Town Council wants…The reality is a police force needs to have a minimum number of LEO’s in order to have proper coverage. Just a fact, officers need back up. It’s a red herring. The Town Council wants us to approve the use of measure money earmarked for other things. They picked the least palatable and feasible plan in order to get us to approve other funds. Look at Woods comments, he makes it clear what they are doing. We need them to sacrifice other places, like Tourism. Let the mountain do their own advertising and small business up their own ante. Make minimal cuts all around other departments (get rid of the school resource officer for one, that’s a luxury we can’t afford, not to mention it adds no value to anyone). I for one don’t appreciate their attempt to manipulate their constituents!

  14. Roy October 16, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

    I have two questions,, how much is the chief of the police dept paid a year, and what does Steve Searles doing during the year when the bears are hibernating:

    I live in a city of 80,000 people, our chief of police only makes 175,000 a year, and our city manager only gets 250,000…

    There is no reason Mammoth Lakes should pay outrageous pay for such a small town….

  15. concerned October 16, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

    Mark- ya youre probably right. Mammoth is getting plenty of publicity these days, bad publicity, but getting noticed none the less. The ridiculous scenario of overpaid Town Managers who are making cuts and taking exorbitant pay is enough to have people talking everywhere. Once the snow falls, skiers will be headed for town. Despite the embarrassment.

    • Charles O. Jones October 17, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

      @ concerned,
      I believe you are right. Most visitors couldn’t care less about Mammoth’s recent legal and political travails. But I’m willing to bet a months pay that they will care when a fight breaks out in a bar and the town has only one cop on duty.

      You want to see bad press? – Wait until the town becomes the equivalent of the wild wild west. That would hurt tourism far more than any of this bumbling bureaucratic crap ever could.

  16. Wayne Deja October 17, 2012 at 7:05 pm #

    Charles O. Jones…..Your statement is so true….Hasn’t it already happened ?…Can remember a story a couple years back about that surfer guy beating up on a couple girls (which I don’t think has gone to trial yet),and then a few guys kicking on his butt for doing it….If what you say does happen,don’t think it would be as bad or as dangerous as the old wild,wild west days though….more like a bunch of drunken pot-heads flailing around at eachother while the crowds watch and laugh.

  17. ferdinand lopez October 18, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    i wonder if the mammoth town council reads these comments,otherwise all this “wisdom”falls on deaf ears

    • Mark October 18, 2012 at 12:37 pm #

      If I person is interested in the success and safety of the town you’d better bet they read these comments. I have to commend the chief for not only reading the comments here but actually adding his own professional opinion and comments to the site.

      Some of us might feel the chief is over compensated but regardless of that discussion it’s obvious the chief is a professional and a gentleman. TOML is fortunate to have him as their police chief.

  18. Thumbs down to Grand Jury? October 18, 2012 at 1:12 pm #


    Does the Mammoth town council read these comments?
    Apparently so.
    Who else would give a “thumbs down” to the citizens of Mammoth demanding a Grand Jury investigation for the council’s misdeeds and perhaps their illegal behind-the-scenes malfeasance?
    Go get ’em Grand Jury!

  19. john October 20, 2012 at 11:09 am #

    The Mono County Grand Jury is a joke.

    • Mammothite October 20, 2012 at 5:38 pm #

      You got that right John. It would be a total waste of time. A bunch of good ole boys controlled by the DA and the Judge.


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