A fiscal and political crisis in the nearly-broke northeastern Pennsylvania city of Scranton deepened Tuesday as public employee unions sought to have the mayor held in contempt of court after he defied a judge and slashed workers’ pay to minimum wage.
Unions representing firefighters, police and public-works employees also filed a pair of federal lawsuits against Mayor Chris Doherty and the city that alleged violations of labor law and due-process rights.
Doherty last week ignored a court order and cut the pay of about 400 city workers to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The Democratic mayor said it was all the cash-strapped city of more than 76,000 could afford, promising to restore full pay once finances are stabilized.
“It’s incredible,” the unions’ attorney, Thomas Jennings, said Tuesday. “I’ve never had a public official just say, `I’m not going to obey a court order. I’m not even going to try. He can’t tell me what to do.'”
Doherty is locked in a dispute with Scranton’s city council over a financial recovery plan as it faces a $16.8 million budget deficit. The mayor didn’t return a phone message from The Associated Press on Tuesday, but he told the Times-Tribune of Scranton on Monday that his administration and the council remained at stalemate over the $85 million budget.
“If I had the money, I’d pay them,” Doherty said of city workers.