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Summit County Sheriff v. Fraternal Order of Police

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District, Summit

January 11, 2017

SUMMIT COUNTY SHERIFF Appellee
v.
FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE, et al. Appellants

         APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF SUMMIT, OHIO CASE No. CV 2015-06-3032

          GWEN CALLENDER and PAUL L. COX, Attorneys at Law, for Appellants.

          SHERRI BEVAN WALSH, Prosecuting Attorney, and COLLEEN SIMS, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Appellee.

          DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY

          MOORE, Presiding Judge

         {¶1} Appellant, the Fraternal Order of Police, appeals an order that vacated an arbitration award. This Court reverses.

         I.

         {¶2} Deputy Angela Molea submitted a request to her employer, the Summit County Sheriff, to use bereavement leave to attend the funeral of her husband's grandfather under a provision of the parties' collective bargaining agreement that permitted the use of bereavement leave for "grandparents." Although similar requests had been granted in the past, the Sheriff denied her request, citing the execution of a new collective bargaining agreement and a memorandum from the Sheriff informing employees that all past practices had been discontinued as a result. Instead, the Sheriff informed Deputy Molea that she could request sick leave to cover her absence.

         {¶3} Deputy Molea grieved the decision, and the Union pursued the grievance through arbitration on her behalf. On May 21, 2015, arbitrator William C. Binning issued an award in favor of Deputy Molea, concluding that the terms of the collective bargaining agreement were ambiguous, that the ambiguity could be resolved by resort to the parties' established past practices, and that the Sheriffs memorandum constituted an attempt to circumvent the collective bargaining process.

         {¶4} The Sheriff filed an application to vacate or modify the arbitration award, and the Union filed an application to confirm the award styled as a counterclaim. The trial court concluded that the Arbitrator exceeded his authority by relying on the parties' past practice and vacated the award. The Union filed this appeal.

         II.

ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR I
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED AS A MATTER OF LAW IN VACATING AND MODIFYING THE ARBITRATION AWARD BY FINDING THAT THE ARBITRATOR EXCEEDED HIS AUTHORITY IN INTERPRETING ARTICLE 24 OF THE COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT.

         {¶5} The Union's first assignment of error is that the trial court abused its discretion by granting the Sheriffs application to vacate the arbitration award. We agree.

         {¶6} Ohio's public policy strongly favors arbitration, as expressed in the Ohio Arbitration Act codified in R.C. Chapter 2711. Taylor v. Ernst & Young, LLP., 130 Ohio St.3d 411, 2011-Ohio-5262, ¶ 18. Consistent with this policy, R.C. Chapter 2711 limits the jurisdiction of trial courts once arbitration has been conducted. See State ex rel R. W. Sidley, Inc. v. Crawford, 100 Ohio St.3d 113, 2003-Ohio-5101, ¶ 22. "An arbitration award may be challenged only through the procedure set forth in R.C. 2711.13 and on the grounds enumerated in R.C. 2711.10 and 2711.11. * * * 'The jurisdiction of the courts to review arbitration awards is thus statutorily restricted; it is narrow and it is limited.'" Miller v. Gunckle,96 Ohio St.3d 359, 2002-Ohio-4932, ¶ 10, quoting Warren Edn. Assn. v. Warren City Bd. of Edn.,18 Ohio St.3d 170, 173 (1985). In applying R.C. Chapter 2711, Ohio courts defer to arbitration awards and presume their validity. Lauro v. Twinsburg, 9th Dist. Summit No. 23711, 2007-Ohio-6613, ...


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