ROOT — For a time last year, those who sued the city over unilateral changes to their health care benefits thought they had won.
In a Dec. 2 email obtained by the Journal Times, attorneys representing retired firefighters told the more than 300 plaintiffs “we won our lawsuit against the city,” a statement that now appears to be untrue.
This email then asked for a series of facts from each of the plaintiffs involved, including their date of retirement, date of hire, insurance premiums they were paying, etc.
The email read: “Unfortunately, instead of working in a collaborative approach to calculating damages – to which the City already has access to all of these records – the City is making us jump through hoops and spend money to calculate each member’s respective damages. The City refuses to take responsibility for its actions. This will require us to do more legal work. This can be compared to filing a tax return, where the Internal Revenue Service has access to data, but forces people to do the work themselves.
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Throughout the 19 months of litigation, since the lawsuit was filed in September 2020, Racine County Circuit Court Judge Eugene Gasiorkiewicz has been publicly annoyed by attorneys for both sides, both accused of not comply with court orders and/or the discovery process. .
“I shouldn’t have to sit next to you and say, ‘OK. You provide that information,” Gasiorkiewicz told Christopher MacGillis, lead attorney representing the plaintiffs, during a January 10 hearing, according to a court transcript.
During that hearing, Gasiorkiewicz told lead attorneys for both sides, “I don’t want to have to sanction any of you, but I’m quite willing to do so.”
CLICK HERE to read a selection of documents associated with the lawsuit filed against the Town of Racine
MacGillis had tried, after hearing about planned changes to health care benefits in September 2019, to open negotiations by emailing City Attorney Scott Letteney.
But that email came from MacGillis’ assistant, not MacGillis’ own email address, and would have ended up in the town’s spam folder. City Attorney Scott Letteney said he never saw him.
Trading in the months that followed was frosty even before health care benefits were cut and lawsuits were filed. Relations between the city’s police and fire unions and City Hall have only cooled since, with talks over new contracts stalled amid ongoing litigation.
A failed attempt
On Dec. 11, 2019, after negotiations were actually attempted, according to court documents, MacGillis said unions would not bargain “related to health plans” unless “active and retired premium shares are calculated.” together”.
Two days later, MacGillis offered a 0.25% wage increase to union members as well as an increase “in city contributions to union members’ HSAs.”
The city rejected the offer, saying it would illegally unbalance its budget.
An agreement with the police union was reached on December 27, 2019, according to court documents, but no such agreement has been reached with the Racine firefighters union, local 321.
Neither city attorneys nor MacGillis’ firm, Milwaukee-based MacGillis Wiemer, LLC, responded to requests for comment on the report.
In photos: City workers call out to the mayor during a protest against economic changes to health care in September 2019