The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District responded Tuesday to an unfair labor practices complaint filed against it by the Kenai Peninsula Education Association and Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association.
In the written response, the district maintained there is no legal merit to the unions' allegations and asked the Alaska Labor Relations Agency to dismiss the complaint and award the district fees and costs associated with the defense of the action.
Jean Ward, investigator with the Alaska Labor Relations Agency, was not in the office to comment on the response Tuesday. She has said previously that the unfair labor practices complaints filed by both the district and the associations against one another will be investigated simultaneously. She also already has ruled that the district's complaint has merit warranting referral to a hearing.
Both ULPs deal with the ongoing teacher and support staff contract negotiation process that has hit numerous snags since beginning last year.
In the written document filed Tuesday, the district responds to several complaints lodged by the unions.
The unions' alleged that the district violated state law by sending a letter discussing negotiations directly to members of the collective bargaining units.
The district's response admits to sending the letter, but states that "Nothing (in the law) prevents employers from communicating directly with employees, and there is no legal precedent or support for the unions' allegation that the mere sending of a letter to employees is an unfair labor practice."
The unions also claimed that the content of the letter in question gave district employees a misleading picture of the negotiation process by referring to an offer that had lapsed.
"But there is nothing misleading about the statement in the July 2 letter, which simply said that 'on April 13, 2002, the district made the following offer' and then explained the offer," the district wrote.
The district response also addresses the unions' assertion that the district has delayed bargaining since January.
"The parties have met at the bargaining table 13 separate times since January," the district wrote. The response also explains that union negotiating teams asked not to meet during June and July and that the administration teams were unable to meet in August due to scheduling conflicts.
Other issues included in the complaint and response included disagreements over the discussion of selecting a mediator, the release of information to the press and the district's decision to continue contract negotiations even after it filed a ULP against KPEA regarding an alleged e-mail security breach.
The district submitted its response to the Alaska Labor Relations Agency Tuesday after receiving an extension because district counsel was out of town.
The response repeatedly calls the unions' complaint "frivolous" and refers to at least one of the unions' claims as "preposterous."
"The unions' true motivations are revealed by their prayer for relief, where they ask for a statement to the media and that the district's ULP be retracted. Tellingly, the unions do not ask that any district conduct be enjoined or stopped, or that any other remedial action be taken," the district wrote.
"Because there is no legal or factual merit to the unions' unfair labor practice complaint, the district asks that it be immediately dismissed and that the district be awarded its costs and fees associated with the defense of this frivolous action."
District Assistant Superinten-dent Todd Syverson had little to add to the response, reiterating that the unions' claim has no factual or legal support and asking that it be dismissed.
And, he added, the district is still committed to reaching an acceptable contract with the employee unions.
"Bargaining sessions are set for Sept. 12 and 13," he said. "We're looking forward to reaching a settlement in this."
The previous contract for teachers and support staff expired June 30 and rolled over for the duration of negotiations. School will start as planned next week.
In other district news, Syverson said district counsel had received a copy of a lawsuit filed by the KPEA, association president Hans Bilben and three teachers Monday.
Both Syverson and Bilben clarified claims reported in Tuesday's Clarion. Bilben admitted that copies of the intercepted district e-mails had crossed his desk and that he did look at some of them before discarding them.
Syverson said KPESA president Karen Mahurin reported that Bilben had passed the e-mails on to her.
Otherwise, Syverson and Bilben had no additional comment on the suit.
"Our legal counsel will be sending them a response," Syverson said.
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