Minneapolis City Hall security say they were illegally fired www.privateofficer.com
Minneapolis MN March 12 2011 Officials say changing security guards at Minneapolis City Hall will improve security and save money, but an attorney for some laid-off guards is threatening to sue, telling elected officials who run the building that they’re using a discredited tactic from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s playbook.
The Municipal Building Commission, which controls the building that’s jointly owned by Minneapolis and Hennepin County, last month laid off seven security guards and their supervisor, effective Saturday. It plans to use Hennepin County guards plus private-firm guards who already patrol nearby county buildings.
Attorney Judy Schermer, representing four of the workers, told the commission its layoffs violate a state law that requires a hearing before an employee is removed. She said that when people’s jobs are eliminated, that’s a termination, not a layoff. She cited a 1903 state law, which specifically bars the City Council and Hennepin County Board from “anything to do with the care” of the building, reserving that to the commission. She said she’ll go to court if the commission doesn’t change course.
Schermer noted the Jan. 10 decision by an arbitrator who overruled an attempt by then-Milwaukee County Executive Walker to replace courthouse guards with private guards. The arbitrator cited lack of notice and said the guards must be reinstated for 180 days, costing $90,000 monthly.
In Minneapolis, the commission approved the new contract nine hours after the new guards took over last Monday. Mayor R.T. Rybak signed the new deal for the commission instead of commission director Jose Cervantes, who said he had unresolved questions about the contract. The county said its lawyers and those for the city feel the deal passes legal muster.
The total cost is estimated at $866,693 annually, or slightly more than what Cervantes estimated is spent now, but there’s hope for savings later. The county will bill extra for extra staffing for special events and public hearings. The laid-off workers got no guarantee they’ll be hired for two guard jobs the county is adding.
Council President Barb Johnson said there’s concern at City Hall over incidents elsewhere involving attacks in public buildings, but she doesn’t think that City Hall’s ornate architecture lends itself to the type of tightly controlled access like that found at the county Government Center.
One of the laid-off workers is less than a year from when his age and service years would allow him to retire without penalty.