AFSCME, Council 4, Local 1303-325 v. Town of Westbrook
When a party that has agreed to arbitrate the question of arbitrability wishes to challenge the arbitrators' determination regarding that issue, the court's review of that determination, like its review of any other issue that parties empowered the arbitrators to decide, is limited. The town of Westbrook Board of Selectmen voted unanimously not to reappoint Ivan Kuvalanka as town assessor in 2008. Westbrook terminated his employment. Kuvalanka filed a grievance and arbitration ensued. The arbitrators concluded that the assessor position was a political position with a one year term. With no evidence that Kuvalanka had a right to reappointment, the arbitrators concluded that the board's decision not to reappoint Kuvalanka upon the expiration of his eighth term was not subject to review under the grievance and arbitration procedures of the agreement, rendering the grievance not arbitrable. The trial court denied the application of AFSCME, Council 4, Local 1303-325, to vacate the award. The union appealed, contending that the court improperly limited its scope of review to determining solely whether the award conformed to the submission and incorrectly concluded that the town's decision to terminate Kuvalanka's employment upon the expiration of his term was not governed by the collective bargaining agreement. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment. The trial court appropriately applied a limited scope of review. Both parties clearly and unmistakably agreed to arbitrate the question of arbitrability, intending and expecting to be bound by the arbitrators' decision in that regard. The court properly denied the union's application to vacate the award because that award, finding the grievance not arbitrable, conformed to the parties' submission seeking a determination of that precise question. Exceptions to the general rule of deference were unmet. The award was not rendered in excess of the arbitrators' authority in violation of C.G.S. §52-418(a)(4) and violated no clearly defined public policy The arbitrators did not exceed their authority by referencing town ordinances in interpreting the agreement. Arbitrators may look to many sources for guidance in interpreting collective bargaining agreements so long as their award draws its essence from the agreement. No colorable claim was raised of a clearly existing, well defined public policy, as of 2008, of treating municipal assessors as nonpolitical employees. P.A. 10-84 indicated that the assessor position was a politically appointed one until Oct. 1, 2010.