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City And County of Denver v. Denver Firefighters Local No. 858

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

March 3, 2014

City and County of Denver, and Alex J. Martinez, in his official capacity as Manager of Safety for the City and County of Denver, Petitioners
v.
Denver Firefighters Local No. 858, IAFF, AFL-CIO, Respondent

Certiorari to the Colorado Court of Appeals. Court of Appeals Case No. 11CA1770.

Judgment Reversed.

SYLLABUS

The supreme court holds that the City and County of Denver has authority to unilaterally draft and implement disciplinary rules. This authority is not limited by the Denver firefighters' right to engage in collective bargaining. Accordingly, the supreme court reverses the judgment of the court of appeals because the court of appeals erroneously concluded that discipline is a term and condition of employment that is subject to collective bargaining.

Attorneys for Petitioners: Douglas J. Friednash, City Attorney, City and County of Denver, Robert D. Nespor, Assistant City Attorney, Franklin A. Nachman, Assistant City Attorney, Denver, Colorado.

Attorneys for Respondent: Buescher, Kelman, & Perera, P.C., Thomas B. Buescher, Denver, Colorado.

CHIEF JUSTICE RICE delivered the Opinion of the Court. JUSTICE MÁRQUEZ does not participate.

OPINION

Page 355

RICE, CHIEF JUSTICE.

[¶1] We granted certiorari to consider an issue of first impression: whether a proposed amendment to the fire department's disciplinary system is subject to collective bargaining under the Charter of the City and County of Denver (" Charter" ).[1] See Denver, Colo., Code of Ordinances tit. I, subtit. B (2013). Construing the plain language of the Charter to create a harmonious and sensible whole, we hold that the City and County of Denver has authority to both draft and implement disciplinary rules and that this authority is not limited by the Denver firefighters' right to engage in collective bargaining. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the court of appeals because the court of appeals erroneously concluded that discipline is a term and condition of employment under the Charter and therefore subject to collective bargaining.

Page 356

See Denver Firefighters Local No. 858 v. City & Cnty. of Denver, 2012 COA 138, ¶ ¶ 22-24. We remand to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. Facts and Procedural History

[¶2] Respondent Denver Firefighters Local No. 858, IAFF, AFL-CIO (" Firefighters" ), is the exclusive bargaining agent for firefighters who are employed by Petitioner City and County of Denver and supervised by Petitioner Manager of Safety (collectively " City" ). The Firefighters and the City have had a collective bargaining agreement in place since 1971,[2] when an amendment to the Charter first granted firefighters the right to collectively bargain over working conditions. In 2010, the City unilaterally (i.e., without bargaining) attempted to change the Charter's existing disciplinary system governing firefighter conduct. Specifically, the City sought to create and implement a discipline matrix, which lists prohibited conduct along with corresponding disciplinary sanctions that are progressively harsher based on the severity and frequency of the misconduct.

[¶3] Following multiple unsuccessful attempts to engage the City in bargaining over the proposed discipline matrix, the Firefighters filed suit in Denver District Court. The Firefighters alleged that the City violated the parties' Collective Bargaining Agreement (" Agreement" ) then in effect[3] when it unilaterally decided to create the discipline matrix. In order to preserve their rights until a trial on the merits, the Firefighters sought a preliminary injunction ...


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