A trial has been set in a class-action suit between local police and firemen and the city of Conway.
The suit stems from a 2012 complaint filed in Faulkner County Circuit Court by Conway Police Department K-9 officer Richard Shumate and Conway Fire Department firefighter Damon Reed that accused the city of breaching its contract for salary improvements.
Questions for those who worked for the Conway police and fire departments between Dec. 1, 2001, and Dec. 31, 2012, pertaining to whether the funds previously promised through salary improvements will be paid out will be answered in the spring.
Thomas P. Thrash, who represents the plaintiffs in this matter, began Thursday's pretrial hearing before Circuit Judge Troy B. Braswell Jr. by stating both parties were ready to settle this case before a jury.
"We're at a point where we need the court to set us a trial date," he said shortly after 9:15 a.m.
Parties entertained setting an April 2019 trial date but settled on scheduling a one-week trial in May 2019.
Braswell granted the plaintiff's class action status back in December 2015. However, the city appealed the decision to the Arkansas Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court has since upheld Braswell's decision, ultimately ruling Braswell did not abuse his discretion when he certified about 200 Conway police officers and firefighters in the breach of contract lawsuit despite claims made on the city's behalf.
“A court abuses its discretion when it acts improvidently, thoughtlessly, or without due consideration. ... We cannot say that the court abused its discretion here, when it carefully considered the complaint and matters in the record to find that common questions were present,” Associate Justice Rhonda K. Wood wrote in a majority opinion earlier last year.
Braswell dismissed the plaintiffs’ illegal exaction claim in December 2015 but ruled in favor for police and fire employees that were employed with the city between Dec. 1, 2001, and Dec. 31. 2012, to move forward in a class-action suit against the city.
The lawsuit stems from a Conway City Council-approved quarter-cent sales tax that was to be used “exclusively to the salaries of the employees of the City of Conway,” according to the ballot resolution that was passed by Conway voters in August 2001.
Employees allege they did not receive money they were promised.
Should the city be found at fault and forced to repay these police and firemen, repayment would be based off each member's payment records. The plaintiffs' attorneys have previously argued these employees are entitled to the interest the money they have yet to receive has accrued over the years.
A week-long trial is set to begin May 6 in Faulkner County Circuit Court. Prior to this trial, Braswell set a number of deadlines during Thursday's hearing to ensure both parties are absolutely ready to go on the first day of the spring trial.
All discovery and evidence pertaining to this case must be submitted within 90 days of the scheduled pretrial date prior to the May 2019 trial. A pretrial hearing was scheduled for April 23, with the prior deadlines for evidence and other motions to be submitted beforehand so that the trial process runs smoothly, Braswell said.
Following the 90-day evidentiary deadline, is a 60-day cutoff for all dispositive motions. Any pretrial motions, including motions in limine, must be filed within 30 days of the April 23 pretrial hearing.
Braswell also ordered mediation in this matter, which must be completed two months before the pretrial hearing.