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International Ass'n of Firefighters Local Union No. 279 v. City of Cheyenne

Supreme Court of Wyoming

December 20, 2013

INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FIREFIGHTERS LOCAL UNION NO. 279, Appellant (Plaintiff),
v.
CITY OF CHEYENNE, Appellee (Defendant).

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Representing Appellant: Julie Nye Tiedeken of McKellar, Tiedeken & Scoggin, LLC, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee: Steven F. Freudenthal of Freudenthal & Bonds, P.C., Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Before KITE, C.J., and HILL, VOIGT, DAVIS, JJ., and GOLDEN, J., Ret.

KITE, Chief Justice.

[¶ 1] The International Association of Firefighters Local Union No. 279 (the Union) appeals from the district court's declaratory judgment on issues related to its 2012-2013 collective bargaining session with the City of Cheyenne (the City). The district court ruled on summary judgment that under the statutory definition of " corporate authorities," the City could negotiate through " either the mayor or any member of the city council" and a quorum of the city council was not required to negotiate. The district court also determined there were no justiciable controversies over whether the Public Meetings Act and the Public Records Act applied under the circumstances presented.

[¶ 2] We reverse the district court's decision that the mayor and/or a single city council member are corporate authorities and conclude the statutes mandate a quorum of the city council to negotiate with the Union. We affirm its decision that the other two issues are not justiciable, although our reasoning differs on the public meetings issue.

ISSUES

[¶ 3] In its primary brief, the Union presents the following issues on appeal:

1. Was the District Court's declaration that " either the mayor or any member of the city council is a corporate authority within the meaning of Wyoming Statute § 27-10-104" in error?
2. Did the District Court err in determining that it did not have jurisdiction to consider whether Wyoming's Public Meetings Act applies to collective bargaining negotiations?
3. Did the District Court err in determining that there was no justiciable controversy on the issue of whether proposals exchanged by the parties during collective bargaining negotiations are public record?
4. Are proposals exchanged by the parties during collective bargaining negotiations public records?

The City restates the issues as:

A. Under W.S. § 27-10-101(a)(ii), does a mayor and/or city council person constitute a corporate authority authorized to negotiate with the union or is a quorum of the city council the corporate

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authority that must conduct the negotiations?
B. Does the obligation to " meet and confer in good faith" under W.S. § 27-10-104 impose a blanket rule that negotiations must be conducted in executive session?
C. With respect to issues D and E, infra, is the Union seeking an advisory opinion?
D. Assuming that a quorum of the city council is required to conduct the negotiations, is it mandatory for the negotiations to be conducted in executive session?
E. Assuming that a quorum of the city council is required to conduct the negotiations and the city council properly votes to adjourn to an executive session, are proposals exchanged between the parties public records?

FACTS

[¶ 4] The material facts of this case are undisputed. The Union is the exclusive bargaining agent for the members of the Cheyenne fire department, and the City is a city of the first class under Wyoming law. Pursuant to the collective bargaining rules set out in Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 27-10-101 through § 27-10-109 (LexisNexis 2013), the Union and the City typically negotiate the wages and other employment terms for fire department members on an annual basis.

[¶ 5] The Union and the City entered into " Ground Rules" for their negotiation of the 2012-2013 collective bargaining agreement. The mayor, one city council member, and other members of the City's administration and staff were the City's negotiating team. A dispute arose over whether a quorum of the city council was required to negotiate on behalf of the City. Eventually, the city council adopted a resolution stating that the mayor and a single city council member had the authority to negotiate on its behalf. The City also released to the press the proposals exchanged by the parties during negotiation.[1]

[¶ 6] The Union filed a declaratory judgment action seeking a ruling that a quorum of the city council was required to negotiate with the Union; the City could not, in good faith, unilaterally decide to conduct the negotiating sessions in public; and the proposals exchanged by the parties were not public records. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment. After a hearing, the district court granted summary judgment declaring the City could be represented by the mayor and one other council member during the negotiations and a quorum of the city council was not obligated to participate. It ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to consider whether or not the negotiations should be open to the public because a quorum of the city council was not required to participate and, ...


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