Monday, September 24, 2012

MoCo Police Union Calls for Investigation of "Misuse of Taxpayer Funds" // FOP Questions Government Lobbying on Referendum

UPDATE: Montgomery County Councilmember George Leventhal forwarded Maryland Juice a memo from county government attorney Marc Hansen. In the document below, Hansen advises members of County Executive Ike Leggett's staff that he believes it is legal for government officials to lobby for one side of a referendum:
MoCo Attorney Advisory Memo on Government Lobbying for Referendum

BACKGROUND: Maryland Juice recently reported on the battle over the Montgomery County Democrats' upcoming sample ballot mailing. The stakes are high this November, with voters being asked to weigh in on numerous contested referenda on the Presidential ballot. Along with the statewide questions regarding marriage equality, the Dream Act, redistricting and gambling, MoCo voters will be asked to decide whether police officers should have "effects" bargaining rights in their labor agreements (Question B). The Fraternal Order of Police, the labor union representing MoCo cops, is now questioning whether government officials can lobby for one side of a referendum using taxpayer resources. The Washington Post recently summarized the battle as follows:
WASHINGTON POST: The union, Fraternal Order of Police Local 35, is able to bargain on traditional rights such as wages and vacation time. But for decades, the police have been able to bargain on other aspects of a police officer’s job — even something as seemingly small as checking e-mail. Last year, the Montgomery County Council unanimously voted to repeal those additional rights....

Question B outreach on MoCo's Facebook page.
MOCO EXECUTIVE IKE LEGGETT'S AIDES PROMOTING "VOTE FOR" QUESTION B: In their efforts to promote a "vote for" Question B and repeal "effects bargaining" rights, County Executive Ike Leggett's aides have been working overtime to contact Democratic officials and MoCo residents about the issue. We previously noted that various MoCo government agencies were beginning to promote Mr. Leggett's views on Question B through government email lists, Facebook pages, and more. See some email examples excerpted below:
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Falcon, Karen
Date: Tue, Sep 18, 2012 at 2:51 PM
Subject: Vis-a-vis Question B

Dear Democratic Precinct Official:

Vis-a-vis Question B, please see the attached Police Department policies awaiting that have been sent to Police Union leaders and are still awaiting "approval." You will note that one  --"Use of Force"  -- is pending for over four years and ten have been pending for at least two years.

Patrick Lacefield, Director
Montgomery County Office of Public Information
101 Monroe Street
Rockville, MD 20850
240-777-6528
240-777-6515 (fax)
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Silver Spring Regional Center <silver.spring@montgomerycountymd.gov>
Date: Thu, Sep 13, 2012 at 8:37 AM
Subject: Information You Need on Question B on the November Ballot

SPECIAL MESSAGE
The Facts on Question B & “Effects Bargaining”

Produced by the Montgomery County Office of Public Information
  • “Effects bargaining” means that Police Chief Tom Manger has to bargain the effects of any and all management decisions with the Fraternal Order of Police leadership. Such mandated bargaining prevents the Chief from carrying out his job of running the Police Department and protecting both his officers and the lives and property of County residents in the most efficient and productive way,
  • No other police union in the State of Maryland has this power.
  • No other Montgomery County employees’ union group has this power in their contracts.

MOCO POLICE UNION CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION OF "MISUSE" OF TAX DOLLARS: Now the labor union representing Montgomery County police (FOP Lodge 35) is questioning whether it is appropriate for government agencies and staff to be promoting one side of Question B. The FOP press release below notes, "The police have asked the IG to examine whether it is illegal or improper for county employees and public resources to be used to advocate only one side of the question...."

PRESS RELEASE

Montgomery County Fraternal Order of Police Calls for
 Inspector General Investigation of Possible Misuse of Taxpayer Funds
Cites “Ballot Question B” Advocacy By County Employees To Overturn 30-Year Statute Protecting Police Right to Discuss Effects on Families of Police Management Decisions Within Strict Time Limits

Police Attorney Lanny J. Davis Cites As Precedent County Councilman Philip Andrews, Who Called “Highly Inappropriate and Misuse of County Employees” Two Years Ago When County Government Officials Advocated Ballot Question Approving Ambulance Fees
Rockville, Maryland, September 24, 2012 –

In a letter delivered to Inspector General Edward L. Blansitt III delivered last Friday, the Montgomery County Fraternal Order of Police asked the IG for an immediate investigation into a possible misuse of taxpayer funds involving county employees using publicly funded resources to advocate approval of Question B, which would overturn a 30-year old law.

Question B, if approved, would hurt county police and their families by barring police from requiring discussions on effects of police management decisions – not on the decisions themselves. Under current law, if the management decisions significantly affect public safety, there would be no delay– the decisions could be implemented immediately.  All other decisions could be implemented within 50 days – less than two months.

The police have asked the IG to examine whether it is illegal or improper for county employees and public resources to be used to advocate only one side of the question – supporting Question B – as well as doing so using false and misleading statements on the county website and elsewhere.

Lanny J. Davis, attorney for the police, cited incumbent Democratic Councilman Philip M. Andrews as taking the same position two years ago when the county government spent tax money to advocate in favor of a Ballot Question that would have imposed fees on ambulances.  He quoted Councilman Andrews as saying then:   “I think the issue of the county executive using county personnel to lobby for keeping ambulance fees is highly inappropriate and a misuse of county employees, regardless of the legality. I'm very concerned about the precedence it may set for the future.”

“I agree with Councilman Andrews that using taxpayer funds and personnel to lobby for one side of a ballot question is ‘highly inappropriate and a misuse of county employees’”, Davis said.  “I call upon my friend Councilman Andrews to join me in asking County Executive Leggett to put a stop to such improper activity – or to support the IG investigation called for by the County police.”

Davis also reiterated the facts that he asserted in a recent letter to Democratic Party precinct officials.  He proved that all the assertions by County Executive Ike Leggett and Council President Roger Berliner in their recent letter to Democratic Party precinct officials that the 30-year old law allowing for “effects bargaining” impedes or delays the ability of the police chief to make management decisions were “false and misleading.”

Davis cited the plain language of current law that allows the Police Chief immediately to implement any policy that “significantly impacts public safety,” and if no public safety issue is implicated, then implementation of all decisions can occur in “less than two months—specifically, within 50 days.”

Davis reiterated his challenge to Council President Berliner to meet him in a series of debates before Legislative District precinct officials in the near future.  Davis said he emailed such a request to Council President Berliner last Friday and is awaiting his acceptance to join him for these debates.

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