Any discussions that are part of the process are confidential, but the agreement to go before Bankruptcy Judge Scott Clarkson was filed with U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Riverside on Wednesday. Clarkson is not the judge handling the city's bankruptcy case.
Salaries, overtime and other benefits for firefighters and police officers have been under scrutiny as the city fights to prove it is eligible for bankruptcy protection, with supporters of the unions saying rising crime and an exodus of public-safety workers shows more support is needed and others saying six-figure take-home pay is hard to justify in a city that says it has no money to spare.
City Attorney James F. Penman said the mediation, particularly the fact that both unions will negotiate in the same room, is a tactical victory for the city.
"It's a step forward because traditionally when fire and police are doing negotiations, neither one will want to give up something the other got, and that can complicate things," Penman said. "Now they're together."
Jim Morris, chief of staff and son of Mayor Pat Morris, said he hopes Clarkson will lead the parties to a compromise soon.
"We might have a special (City Council) meeting to approve contracts soon," he said.
The San Bernardino Police Officers Association has met with the city several times since negotiations began in October, said President Steve Turner, and mediation might help that process.
"I think it's a good, positive step," Turner said. "I'm hoping that the mediator ... can help us get over those certain hurdles, little things that can be difficult."
Because of the confidentiality agreement, Turner said, he couldn't say which points in the contract were preventing agreements.
He said he wasn't sure how the negotiations might be changed by meeting alongside the San Bernardino City Professional Firefighters.
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