ATLANTIC CITY - A week after layoffs cut the police and fire departments, there is a chance that at least some of the workers will return.
But how and when that could happen remained unclear Thursday, after union leaders and others met with the mayor behind closed doors.
"There's hope," PBA President David Davidson Jr. said after the meeting. "We just have to understand the rules. Who are we dealing with?"
Davidson and fire union President Angelo DeMaio said with the state coming in, they are unsure if the negotiations should be with the city, or if someone from the state should be sitting in.
But, on Thursday morning they were dealing with Mayor Lorenzo Langford and budget officer Duaane Carrington - although scheduling caused the mayor to leave about 20 minutes early.
"They're still meeting," he said. "They can say what they want to say, but I have nothing to say."
The Police Department has lost 60 officers in two rounds of layoffs this year; the Fire Department lost 30 last week. At Wednesday's City Council meeting, the mayor agreed to meet with the union leaders to try to restart negotiations and maybe get some of the lost workers back.
The mayor also allowed a handful of the laid-off officers to sit in on the meeting. Davidson said he is always upfront with his members, so he didn't mind the move - which he saw as the mayor's attempt to undercut him.
"There are a lot of rumors out there right now," Davidson said. "That all 60 will be back. That 12 are coming back tomorrow. I want to let (the union members) know what's really going on."
Atlantic County Prosecutor Ted Housel has lent the city some of his detectives to temporarily help with the shortage, although he has declined to give an exact number for security reasons.
"It's tough to make it with 60 less officers," Deputy Chief Ernest Jubilee acknowledged Thursday. "We're surviving."
He and Deputy Chief Henry White were in the closed-door meeting, but declined comment about the discussions. Neither is involved in negotiations.
Davidson said he planned to meet with the 60 laid-off officers today to talk with them about what may be required of the remaining department members in order for them to be brought back.
"The question is, what are they willing to give up?" Davidson said. "At the end of the day, I think we can get something done."
The administration has painted the unions as unwilling to negotiate or reopen their contracts. But Davidson and DeMaio said they have come back to the city several times with ways to make up the city's budget shortfall. But, they said, the administration wants the money from specific areas.
"If they're getting what they ask for, why do they care where the money comes from?" Davidson asked.
DeMaio said the number always seems to be changing.
"They have to get right with these numbers," DeMaio said. "Why should we have to make up for anyone else's fiscal mismanagement?"
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