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Posted on Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Labor committee chairman disputes accuracy of claims made by Ann Arbor police officers union

By Ryan J. Stanton

Ann Arbor City Council Member Stephen Rapundalo used Monday night's council meeting as a platform to publicly respond to recent comments by the city's police officers union, including allegations that high levels of radon and asbestos in the old police department inside city hall have triggered a higher-than-normal need for health care for city officers.

The union has identified that as a reason for not wanting to make changes to its current health care structure, a concession the city is seeking in labor negotiations.

Thumbnail image for Stephen_Rapundalo_January_2010.jpg

Ann Arbor City Council Member Stephen Rapundalo

Ryan J. Stanton |

"There is no evidence to support the union’s contention that they have a higher need for health care because of the building in which they were housed," said Rapundalo, D-2nd Ward and chairman of the council's labor committee.

"More importantly, if there was a demonstrable link, the conditions would be considered as compensable under the Worker’s Compensation Act, and any employee who could substantiate a claim would receive their full medical coverage pursuant to that act, and not under the city’s health care plan."

Rapundalo also disputed claims that the city has reduced or sought to reduce the union's health care benefit levels, saying that's simply not true. He pointed out that other labor groups in the city have made the switch to the new health care plan and have not seen a drop in benefit levels — they're just sharing more of the cost now.

"For the groups who have already agreed to the new health care plan, the benefits coverage remains the same and, in fact, is even enhanced in some instances such as preventative care, where the per-person wellness coverage has been increased from $750 to $1,000," he said. "The city has not sought a reduction in benefits, but rather is requesting that employees share in the ever-increasing cost and risk of health care, both now and in retirement."

A representative of the police officers union could not be reached for comment Monday night.

Rapundalo took issue with other statements by union officials in which they said police officers are sensitive to the city's budget woes and that's why they aren't asking for a pay raise.

"If the union thinks that forgoing a wage increase during this budget crisis is a fair sacrifice, then they really haven't been paying attention," Rapundalo said, noting other labor groups have not only agreed to new health care plans, but also have given up longevity bonuses, uniform allowances and 457 plan contribution matches, and have increased pension contributions.

Under the current agreement with the police officers union, Rapundalo argued in his comments, officers still are receiving step increases based on years of service, as well as all the previously negotiated benefits, which equates to a 3.5 percent increase in costs next year — at the same time as the costs for other groups are going down, he said.

Rapundalo has publicly spoken out at City Council meetings about the city's struggles in labor negotiations multiple times this year now. He said the fact that the city is asking for concessions right now doesn't mean the city is calling into question or criticizing previous contracts.

"The fact of the matter is that we recognize that both sides negotiated in good faith for those agreements based on their needs at that time," Rapundalo said, though he noted economic circumstances facing the city have changed in the last two or three years.

"What the city is asking for in terms of concessions in future contracts now is really a reflection of today's economic reality," he said.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.



Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 6:15 p.m.

MORE COVER_UP by the city to save money! "I did not have sex with that women" Same thing. Shame on you!


Wed, Mar 23, 2011 : 11:35 a.m.

Snapshot, the basement was closed so no other employees would be exposed to Radon. If the City did not have a radon problem, then why close city hall? Why would the city have the employees of the police department who opted for the early retirement sign paperwork indicating that they would not sue the city for health issues? The basement of City Hall is underground which makes that particular space of City Hall more susceptible to Radon as Radon usually enters a building through the foundation. The basement of City Hall did not have any air flow like all the other levels of City Hall as they could open windows etc which will then get rid of Radon levels. With the construction of the Justice Center, the old basement of City Hall has been worked on to alleviate the radon problem. Jack you are misinformed about the police union hiring a company to do radon testing. If the City hired a company to do the air quality testing and it was deemed acceptable, then why move the police department out of the basement that quickly?


Wed, Mar 23, 2011 : 3:49 a.m.

Abestos is only dangerous if it is crumbling or disturbed. If it is intact it is harmless. Current abatement trends in other states are to leave it alone or encase it rather than remove it. How many of these officers have had their own homes tested for radon if they're that concerned?


Wed, Mar 23, 2011 : 3:45 a.m.

The building will continue to be occupied by other government employees. This tells me the police union is full of it, or the city considers the lives of other government employees expendable. The facts speak for themselves. If there was a significant radon problem, why continue to occupy the building? Would other employees stand by and say "that's OK, I'll die for my city". I think not.


Wed, Mar 23, 2011 : 3:06 a.m.

Rapundalo's statements are accurate. Also, the City did do air quality assessments and the air was found to meet standards. My understanding is that the police union hired their own people and that group detected radon. The basement was thereupon evacuated. So, conspiracy theorists, get a grip. There was no coverup. The whole of the Guy Larcom Building is riddled with asbestos, not just the basement where police and others were lodged, so all City employees have been exposed. However, a lot of buildings do have asbestos in them. I believe as long as it is not brittle and flaky, it is okay. Therin lies the danger.


Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 11:01 p.m.

The police officers union did the testing for the radon in the basement of City Hall where their members locker room was and the detective bureau was housed. They reported the tests to the City who then did their own tests. The employees then were removed from City hall and relocted. The basement then was closed.. So I guess the test results did show that there were high radon levels in the basement of city hall otherwise the city would never have done that. Mr Rapundalo should look how the city handles workman compensation claims. One employee was injured on the job and had to go to arbitration in order to get her rightful benefits from the City because they denied them. So would any union member believe in Rapundalos statement about workmans compensation? Would any union in the city trust any City of Ann Arbor Official? Take for example recently the Ann Arbor Fire Department Union who gave up pay, contributed more to their own pension and their members were then laid off. They again are threatened with even more layoffs


Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 4:58 p.m.

braggslaw, you may want to check what you are saying. Have you ever been in the old basement of city hall? Have you ever had asbestos ladened water drip on your head EVERYTIME it sprinkled? That's exactly what the cops put up with for decades! Rapundalo isnt stupid enough to say that the union is lying because he knows that more than one city cop has test results (from 3rd parties) that they have yet to reveal because they've been trying to keep it "in house" and not make it a public issue. They just wanted the people who worked in those conditions taken care of. But the city wants to open the can of worms I say the officers union does just that! Then you wouldn't question the integrity of anyone except the people YOU voted into office


Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 3:55 p.m.

I worked in one of those offices for a number of years. I'm retired. I'm not eligible for Workman's Comp. I have health problems that I believe may be related to the where I worked. I asked my doctor how they could tell if the I was affected by the radon and asbestos. My doctor told me you die, the we cut you open to find out what killed you. The City of Ann Arbor lied to City employees for years about the radon levels, asbestos levels and health implications. Now they want employees to trust that they will be taken care of if they end up with related illnesses. Give me one good reason these folks should trust anything the City of Ann Arbor tells their employees?


Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 2:58 p.m.

The city needs to make public the results of all the air quality tests that were done in city hall in the last 20 years


Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 6:38 p.m.

Agreed but I need it to go back 30 years.


Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 3:32 p.m.

Agreed! I just generally believe that if you make an accusation, particularly in the press, you should HAVE to back it up. I am a little disconcerted with com not asking the obvious follow up questions.


Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 2:32 p.m.

@bugjuice. There is the problem. Rumors are often false. If the City did tests that showed no problem it still might start rumors of a cover up. The Union stated that asbestos and radon levels were high. They stated this as fact. Now they must prove it or we will know that they are using scare tactics to cheat us. If it is a fact, and the City knew it, then Mr. Rapalundo is conspiring to hide that fact from other City workers and the citizens. The taxpayers. The people who ultimately will have to foot the bill. The question for Ann What proof does the Union have that this is true and the City knew?


Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 2:53 p.m.

Then the city should make the air quality test results public


Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 2:25 p.m.

What is unusual about Union Leaders and Politicians not telling the truth? My favorite is "forgoing a wage increase during this budget crisis is a fair sacrifice".


Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 2:18 p.m.

The city made many tests over the last 20 years for air quality in City Hall and to my knowledge never made the results public. IT was common knowledge that asbestos and radon was a problem but council, mayor and administration continually covered up the results.


Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 1:57 p.m.

The results of long-term exposure to a high-radon or high-asbestos environment is well known and really does not need proof. Has there been any study done to verify that these conditions exist? Allegations are one thing; proof another. Perhaps Ann should check with the contending parties? If there is then I would agree that some sensitivity be shown. Even family members can be harmed by secondary exposure to asbestos, and they would not be covered under Workman's Comp.


Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 1:34 p.m.

Sorry, but I forgot to point out that regardless of health issues I believe that all employees should share the burden of paying toward their health care benefits. Prior stupid decisions have got to be rectified based on today's economy.


Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 3:39 p.m.

I agree with 'yourdad.' The City should negotiate to have everyone on the same plan. And the Unions are going to have to make sacrifices. Reality. I don't blame the Unions, however. The City has mismanaged its finances including the retirement fund over the years and recently spent like drunken sailors inthe expectations that revenues will always go up. Citizens suffer through cuts in services, debt burdens and less qualified staff. Sad.


Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 2:56 p.m.

Like any insurance pool, if it allows people to opt out, the costs rise for everyone else.


Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 2:40 p.m.

I agree, all employees should be on the same plan no matter which department they are in. The city should find a single provider and leverage the numbers to get the best rate possible. And they should all contribute at an equal percentage of salary. Do they offer a payout for those that opt out of the offered insurance? The opt out pay (if it exists) should be near the same amount that the employee is contributing so that it becomes a wash.

Mr. Ed

Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 1:32 p.m.

It appears AAPD officers are a bunch of spoiled City employees. All they do is take and take. It's time to give something up. I say negotiate no health care, period. Where does it say we have to provide health care. If they don't like them apples then they can leave.


Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 2:14 p.m.

Simple minds demand simple solutions. If the city does as you say and not offer PD health care in negotiations the contract will never be signed, PD will work without a contract and Act 312 will be invoked and the city will lose. So much for cutting off your nose to spite your face. And if we go as far as you suggest and get "them" to leave, no self respecting police officer would take a position in a PD that did not offer health care for it's employees. Is this the kind of police protection you want? How about them apples?


Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 1:28 p.m.

I worked in city hall for 8 years and was at the time a smoker. Back then the building was heavy in smoke because so many employees smoked. The basement lunchroom was a common meeting area. What is causing the speculation of cancer associated with radon and asbestos in the building? I know of one officer currently suffering from lung cancer. How many others have there been? What about other employees?


Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 12:53 p.m.

On the question of benefit reduction, I disagree with Mr. Rapundalo. If you have to pay significantly more for the same (or slightly enhanced) health coverage, your benefits have decreased. The definition of benefits technically might ignore the costs of coverage but, as a practical matter, someone who has to pay 3X as much as someone else for the same type of coverage does not have the same benefits. They may have the same coverage, but not the same benefits. On the issue of workers compensation, strictly speaking I believe he is correct. However, except in straightforward circumstances (an acute injury at work), proving that an illness is work-related can be very difficult and subject to months and years of litigation. If a smoking police officer should develop lung cancer while having worked in a radon-laden environment, would the lung cancer have been from the smoking or from the radon exposure? It would likely be from both, actually, but to what extent would the radon have contributed? Good luck trying to have all the costs of the lung cancer surgery and treatment covered promptly by workers compensation insurance.


Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 12:43 p.m.

"This guy has proven time and time again, it doesn't make a difference what you bring to the table, he's going to have a problem with it." It sounds like someone is trying to bring made-up stuff to the table, which we should all have a problem with.


Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 11:08 a.m.

Wow, they are now making stuff up to keep their health benefits. What type of integrity is that?


Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 12:33 p.m.

It doesnt say they are making up the radon and asbestos claims. Those are accurate. Rapundalo is saying their argument would fall under workers compensation, not the need to keep current health care, or an increase in health care. So now you dont have integrity if you are worried about getting leukemia and lung cancer from a hazerdous work environment?


Tue, Mar 22, 2011 : 10:59 a.m.

over the long run if u have to pay more for health u certainly lose the benefit of that extra money paying for other expenses so in effect paying more for health care cost u something somewhere along the monthly expense trail. at least though the city didn't drop health care totally like many employers are.