The New York State Public Employee Relations Board will determine whether Utica police officers can receive healthcare benefits after they are injured on the job.

The pending change in city policy arose after a contract negotiation between Mayor Rob Palmieri and the police union. PBA President John Dellerba believes the mayor is being spiteful and retaliating against officers, a move than has lead to more than 70 members leaving the department, he said.

Dellerba says the mayor's new interpretation of general municipal law (207-c) means that if an officer is injured on the job the city would stop paying for his or her health insurance and their family's coverage, too. While Palmieri concedes this is a rare interpretation, he contends Dellerba agreed to the change during negotiations, something the PBA president vehemently denied while calling Palmieri's tactic 'gutter politics' during his appearance on 'WIBX First News with Keeler in the Morning' this week.

Dellerba said the 'dome of instability' this created has led to many retirements and 20 officers just flat leaving the UPD and transferring to other departments.

Full interview with John Dellerba (2-17-15):

The PBA went to so far as to call for Palmieri's resignation, 'this is that deadly serious', he said, because police may over-think situations for fear of risking injury, meaning officers and residents are less safe, he said.

Responding to very harsh criticism from the PBA, Palmieri wouldn't delve into the negotiations because the case is pending. ''At this point, the city is still providing medical benefits as we speak, (and will) until there is a ruling by the arbitrator.''

''The Utica Police Department does an outstanding job. There is no one that appreciates more what the Utica Police Department does more than I do. My door is open. The interpretation will be ruled on by an arbitrator,'' Palmieri said.

The mayor clarified that under the change, if approved, an officer were injured on the job, the injury would be covered, but anything else would not, he said.

Palmieri responds (2-18-15):