Mayor Marion Barry ended his lengthy legal fight against a proposed pay increase for District police officers yesterday by sending the measure to the City Council for a vote.
In a letter to Council Chairman David A. Clarke, Barry announced the transmittal and his decision not to veto or sign emergency legislation aimed at forcing action from the mayor by giving the council authority to consider the pay increase if Barry failed to transmit it within 10 days.
Even before Barry's announcement, Clarke scheduled an initial hearing on the pay raise for Dec. 16. If the full council votes in favor of the raise at its Dec. 17 meeting, Clarke said, police officers could receive pay increases for fiscal 1985 and 1986 before Christmas. Barry's letter stated that police had gone too long without a raise and that he would be prepared to order a retroactive payment for fiscal 1985.
"I think we have fulfilled the collective bargaining process," said Clarke, who first asked Barry in July to transmit the award. "I agreed with the mayor that the police have had to wait too long for a decision."
Barry, who once said approval of the proposed three-year pay award would force him to consider a tax increase, told Clarke he would send the council a balanced budget and did not mention a tax increase. But Barry said the pay increase may mean reductions in funds budgeted for the police department or other agencies.
Barry had turned to the D.C. Public Relations Board and the D.C. Superior Court to overturn an arbitration panel's decision to award police officers a 4 1/2 percent increase retroactive to October 1984, a 5 percent increase this year and a 5 1/2 percent increase for 1986. Annual police salaries in the District range from $19,000 to $31,000.
Barry estimated the cost of the 15 percent pay increase at $57.4 million, $23 million more than the government had proposed spending. The arbitration panel's award granted for the first time larger pay increases to the city's police officers than to its firefighters, and Barry challenged the decision as unfair and too costly.
In the letter to Clarke, Barry maintained that the council's emergency legislation tended to "undermine the collective bargaining process" and "may give the impression that collective bargaining could be circumvented "by politicking the council."
Nevertheless, Barry told Clarke that despite the appeal procedures still available to him, "I feel compelled to now officially transmit this award to you for your action . . . in order to avoid the dangerous precedent of the council's actions."
Clarke said that Barry had tried to treat the emergency legislation, adopted unanimously by the council, as if it were a council decision to grant the pay award. Clarke said the council was merely trying to protect the "integrity" of collective bargaining.