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City of Lockport sues CSEA unit in effort to prevent arbitration over deputy treasurer grievance

LOCKPORT – A longtime city employee, who filed an unsuccessful grievance when she wasn’t appointed deputy city treasurer, has demanded state arbitration in an effort to obtain the job, or at least its salary.

The move by the Civil Service Employees Association led the city to file a lawsuit against the union last week, asking a State Supreme Court justice to prevent the arbitration.

“There’s nothing to arbitrate,” Deputy Corporation Counsel David E. Blackley said.

Barbara A. Parker, a senior account clerk in the city’s Accounting Department and vice president of the city’s CSEA unit, applied for the deputy treasurer post when it became vacant earlier this year.

Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey and City Treasurer Sue A. Mawhiney interviewed eight candidates in April, including Parker. They chose Aaron E. Schifferle, a 26-year-old M&T Bank employee, as the new deputy treasurer.

Parker filed a grievance, contending that she might be a victim of discrimination because of politics and her union involvement.

The form said, “It has become apparent that representatives of and officials of the City of Lockport may be discriminating against Barbara Parker due to her holding an office in the CSEA union, and may be the victim of discriminatory practice based on her support of the recently defeated Democratic mayoral candidate.”

Parker, 49, a city employee for 26 years, supported Roger L. Sherrie for mayor last year, but Sherrie, a former regional director of the CSEA, lost to McCaffrey in November.

Parker’s grievance seeks for her to take over the deputy treasurer post or, failing that, to be paid the difference in salaries between that job and her current one for the next six years or until Parker retires from City Hall, whichever comes first.

Blackley said the city flatly rejected both notions. “We can’t do that. That would be a gift of public funds,” he said.

Parker is to earn $40,826 as a senior account clerk this year. Schifferle is being paid $44,951.

The contract between the city and the CSEA says that employees are allowed to transfer to vacant positions in other departments “with the approval of the department heads, which shall not be unreasonably withheld.”

Blackley said that provision applies only to transfers to jobs in other departments where the job title is the same. The Common Council’s Personnel Committee, whose chairman is Alderman Richard E. Abbott, D-5th Ward, agreed, and rejected Parker’s grievance May 11.

CSEA regional spokesman Ove Overmyer said the union hadn’t been served with the suit and had no comment. Parker did not return calls seeking comment, and neither did Victoria A. Haenle, president of the CSEA’s City of Lockport unit.