Sandulli Grace, P.C. and the Massachusetts Coalition of Police are litigating two ULP cases this fall for police sergeants who have been the targets of retaliation for exercising their protected speech rights as union members.
The first is Town of Mansfield and Mansfield Police Association, MCOP Local 298, MUP-11-6146, which is scheduled for hearing on September 25, 2012. The Mansfield Police Association represents patrol officers and sergeants. Sergeant Tracey Juda was assigned to investigate an incident in which a patrol officer under her command was accused of misconduct. In the process of investigating the incident, Sergeant Juda advised the officer to contact his union representative, and gave him an opportunity to do so. Chief of Police Arthur O’Neill presented her with a written reprimand accusing her of incompetence and excoriating her for acting as a “union friend” rather than a sergeant by advising the officer to seek union representation. Sergeant Juda’s union filed a charge of prohibited practice, and the Department of Labor Relations issued a complaint alleging that the Chief of Police had retaliated against Sergeant Juda for her protected activity. (A copy of the Complaint of Prohibited Practice and the union’s charge may be viewed here.)
The second case to appear this fall is City of Attleboro and Attleboro Police Association, MCOP Local 352, MUP-11-1161, which is scheduled for hearing on October 16, 2012. The Attleboro Police Association represents patrol officers, sergeants, lieutenants and captains. In February 2011, the City fired a police officer based on the statements of a fellow officer. Chief of Police Kyle Heagney told the fellow officer that he should obtain the investigation report leading to the termination, and the fellow officer submitted a public records request through Sergeant Michael McDonnell. Sergeant McDonnell, perceiving that the Chief was pitting union members against each other to weaken the union’s defense of the terminated officer, advised the union president of the public records request. The Chief issued Sergeant McDonnell a scathing reprimand, accusing him of “disloyalty,” saying that the union should not have been informed of the public records request, and punishing him for trying to “provide the union with some kind of advantage.” Sergeant McDonnell’s union filed a charge, and the Department of Labor Relations issued a complaint alleging that Chief Heagney had discriminated against Sergeant McDonnell for engaging in concerted, protected activity, and interfered with his exercise of rights protected under the law. (A copy of the Complaint of Prohibited Practice and the union’s charge may be viewed here.) The APA has two other ULP charges pending based on retaliatory conduct by Chief Heagney. Those charges are still in the investigatory stage.
Every police officer has the right to encourage fellow officers to seek union assistance. These Department of Labor Relations decisions support our belief that sergeants and other supervisory police personnel are entitled to the same collective bargaining and protected speech rights as non-supervisory employees. Sandulli Grace, P.C. and MCOP will continue to advocate for their rights.
Leigh Panettiere, Esq.
Sandulli Grace, P.C.