Lisanti, who praised the amendments to the bill when they were being approved at the Dec. 13 council meeting, said Monday evening she had been in negotiations with HCEA President Randy Cerveny since the Dec. 6 public hearing on the bonus legislation.

Lisanti said Cerveny always had concerns about the union signing the memorandum of understanding with the school board to accept the one-time payment, which she called a fairly generic, three-bullet template.

"Mr. Cerveny expressed to me that he believed it [the MOU] would affect the impending suit before the labor relations board," Lisanti said, explaining she then had county attorneys confirm the county was not a party to that controversy.

"If in the fiscal year, if you give them more money, he thought it would confuse the labor relations board," she said about Cerveny and the bonus agreement.

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The amendments that seemed to please Cerveny arrived at the last minute, just before the council meeting, Lisanti said.

"I thought we were moving forward. That's the basis of negotiation," she said of the amendments.

Lisanti "absolutely" believed Cerveny would sign the MOU after the bill was passed. Cerveny got up at one point and thanked the council for "all you've done to make sure all Harford educators benefit from the county surplus."

"That was our conversation from day one. My question has always been, 'What's it going to take to get you to sign the MOU?'" Lisanti said. "It certainly led everybody to believe that he [Cerveny] was going to… I feel that I was purposely misled – either purposely misled or somebody saw an opportunity to use a set of circumstances as a strategy to forward another agenda."

Never would have signed

On Monday, however, Cerveny questioned Craig's attempt to control the distribution of bonus money and said his organization would never have signed the MOU anyway, but instead wanted to negotiate with the school system on the salary issue.

"No county executive in the state of Maryland can condition funds to a school system. That is a Maryland statute," he said.

Asked why four other school unions apparently disagreed, Cerveny said he could not speak for the other unions.

He said HCEA may have been able to negotiate the bonus with the school system if the union had had more time after the council's vote Dec. 13.

"I am reaching out to the county council and county executive to see if I can get this resolved," he said about the veto situation.

"I have been getting all kinds of e-mails, many that are supportive and many that are vilifying me. Until this can be negotiated, there's nothing we can do," he said. "HCEA wants the teachers to get this money as much as they deserve it."

HCEA released a statement on its website explaining why the union wants to make the bonus money part of negotiations and accusing Craig of illegally trying to tell the school system how to spend its money.

"If we allow David Craig to do this it will take away all your rights to negotiate money in the future," the statement said. "The County Executive could claim every year that there is not enough money to fund wage increases. When a surplus is miraculously found every year he could give you a one-time bonus in lieu of steps and cost of living. This is what happened this year."

At Monday night's school board meeting, Cerveny did not address Craig's veto on the bonus, but commented on a school system e-mail sent out regarding negotiations for the bonus.

Cerveny said he was "concerned" with the wording in that e-mail that stated the HCEA had elected not to respond to the school system's offer to enter into negotiations. Cerveny said that the statement was not accurate.

He said that the morning of Dec. 14 he received an e-mail asking if the HCEA wanted to enter into negotiations regarding the bonus, but was unable to respond before the HCPS statement was released "less than four hours later." Cerveny said to do so in that period of time would mean that county teachers represented by the union would have had to take time off from work to meet and discuss the matter.

"I didn't realize your offer had a less than four hour time agreement," Cerveny said. He added that he hopes the "lines of communication can be improved" between the school system and group.

Labor talks go on

HCEA also released a statement on the results of Friday's meeting with the labor relations board.

Labor board chairman Seymour Strongin said Friday it may be better for the school board to return to the bargaining table and try to reach a settlement before the labor board issues a decision, according to the statement.

The labor board decision is expected to be issued in 30 to 45 days. Strongin, according to the union, told the school system that "any settlement must include an irrevocable commitment to fund the settlement."