Arbitrator Rules In Favor Of 2 Police Union Officials
An arbitrator has ruled Wilkes-Barre’s former police chief disciplined two top union officials without just cause, and he ordered that their discipline be rescinded and removed from their personnel records.
The Wilkes-Barre City Police Benevolent Association filed grievances last October after former city police officer Dan Duffy and Sgt. Phil Myers received written reprimands and suspensions in connection with posts they made earlier that year on the PBA Facebook page that were critical of policy directives from then Commander Ron Foy.
Read the opinion and award here.
On April 11, 2017, Foy emailed some police department members informing them that several officers’ daily community policing reports were being returned for corrections.
Foy said the reports should not note actions such as arrests, traffic stops and assists, but rather, only “non-police action” such as patrols, crime watch meetings, citizen encounters and civilian interactions.
On April 17, 2017, Foy sent a department-wide email stating that many officers were unnecessarily logging into and viewing reports on cases with which they had no direct involvement.
Logging into cases is automatically documented and could cause future issues, such as confidentiality breaches and issues when the records are subpoenaed for court, Foy said. He directed officers not to try to review such cases, and to request information through a watch commander if they need to check a report.
That same day, a post was made to the PBA Facebook page stating that Wilkes-Barre should be outraged that police management made officers “less informed” of current crime trends in the city and that Foy and made their jobs “more dangerous.”
The post suggests that officers who encounter suspects, dangerous persons, stolen property, wanted subjects, drug users, etc., from other officers’ cases would no longer be privy to that information, nor to crime patterns and trends, via the departmental records system.
A post on the PBA Facebook page on April 18, 2017, accused Foy of creating “an ethical dilemma” for officers “by ordering them to deliberately omit information from reports.”
Two days later, a PBA Facebook post noted that Mayor Tony George did not order an investigation into Foy’s directives and how they could be detrimental to public safety and officers’ ability to solve crimes, but rather ordered an investigation into which union officials posted the information.
Foy’s investigation determined that Duffy and Myers, “acting under the cloak of the PBA, have clearly violated numerous sections of the department’s general orders.”
Then police chief Marcella Lendacky issued two five-day suspensions, a two-day suspension and a written reprimand to Myers, and two written reprimands, a two-day suspension and a five-day suspension to Duffy. All suspensions were unpaid.
In his opinion, arbitrator Thomas P. Leonard said he had to determine if the city’s decision to issue discipline met all caveats of a seven-prong test for just cause established by state courts.
Leonard said the PBA raised several reasons why the city did not prove just cause, but he would address only the one he found “most persuasive: the postings were examples of protected activity of … labor officials under Pennsylvania law and they did not violate the city’s own social media policy.”
The PBA postings “stated a sincere employee interest in safety of officers” and, while they may have been “harshly worded,” labor law “gives leeway to union officials in such instances,” Leonard said.
Myers said he was happy with the ruling but declined further comment. City Administrator Ted Wampole declined comment pending review of the award.
Union officials had alleged that George’s administration had been targeting them for discipline. The allegations led city officials to pay for a review of departmental operations by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association.
The chiefs association issued a report in March that was mostly critical of Lendacky’s and Foy’s leadership. Lendacky has since retired. Foy’s position was eliminated, and he returned to the rank of detective.
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Wilkes-Barre City Administrator Ted Wampole confirmed on Monday that the city and police union reached a settlement on a grievance filed after officer Dan Duffy was fired last October for allegedly sending a threatening email to Wampole and Mayor Tony George.
Union officials deny the email was threatening.
Myers declined comment, and Wampole said he would refrain from comment until he had a signed settlement agreement in-hand.