Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s legal battle with the state police union appears to be winding down, though both sides remain divided over whether Connecticut has enough troopers protecting the state.
Attorney General George C. Jepsen’s office notified the state Supreme Court Thursday that it would drop its appeal of a lower court ruling that upheld the union’s right to bring a claim against Connecticut.
“Legislative changes that have taken effect since our appeal was filed and briefed have made moot any claim of a mandatory, judicially enforceable trooper staffing level,” Jepsen’s office wrote Friday in a statement. “This fairly straightforward mootness argument will be presented to the trial court and does not require consideration by the Supreme Court.”
Jepsen’s office was referring to a 2012 statute in which the legislature repealed an earlier mandate for a minimum trooper level of 1,248.
Connecticut currently has about 1,050 state troopers.
“The state’s withdrawal of its appeal … is a victory for public safety,” State Police Union President Andrew Matthews wrote in a statement. “… We look forward to continuing to work with the governor and the commissioner (of emergency services and public protection) to ensure that appropriate resources are dedicated to provide for the safety of our members as they continue to serve and protect the public.”
The union, which represents just over 1,000 troopers, sergeants and master sergeants, has been at odds with the governor since July 2011. That’s when the bargaining unit rejected the two-year wage freeze Malloy sought — and which was accepted by most unions — to help close a nearly 20 percent annual operating deficit he had inherited.
The governor responded by laying off 56 troopers, even though many were rehired within the next year.
But the union noted that Malloy — as a gubernatorial candidate in 2010 — not only argued that state government needed to start complying with a 1998 law that mandated a minimum trooper level of 1,248, but also needed to expand the ranks beyond that.
A Malloy campaign position paper stated that “we must … ensure that Connecticut meets and exceeds statutorily required State Police staffing levels.”
Still, when the union responded to layoffs with a lawsuit, the administration filed a motion to dismiss. Hartford Superior Court Judge James Graham dismissed that motion in January 2012, finding that the 1,248-trooper standard, though ignored by some governors and legislatures in the past, was mandatory, and that the union had the right to bring a claim against the state.
The administration appealed Graham’s ruling to the Supreme Court. But it also convinced the 2012 legislature to remove the trooper mandate.
Jepsen’s office did file a motion Friday in Hartford Superior Court to dismiss the police union’s claim in light of last year’s legislative action.