On July 19, 2013, Arbitrator Timothy Buckalew reinstated Millbury Police Detective Kimberly Brothers, who terminated in August 2012 for allegedly “harassing” three residents of the Town. Two women who had formerly dated Detective Brothers’ boyfriend, and one who had recently ended her friendship with Detective Brothers, accused Detective Brothers of either following them in a cruiser, or parking near their workplaces in order to intimidate them.
The Union, represented by Attorney Leigh Panettiere of Sandulli Grace, P.C., demonstrated at the arbitration that Det. Brothers, a busy and well-respected detective who before being promoted to detective was an extremely productive patrol officer, had been assigned to official police duties that often brought her near the homes and workplaces of the accusers. The Union was also able to present numerous instances of inconsistencies and untruths in the testimony of the three accusers, and that the accusers were all talking to each other about Det. Brothers. Additionally, the Union demonstrated that the investigator failed to inquire about any of the inconsistencies in the stories the accusers told.
The Arbitrator rejected the allegations of harassment. He called the Town’s investigation “hasty and inadequate.” He found that all three of the accusers were motivated to lie, and he found Det. Brothers to be “credible and consistent.”
The Town also accused Det. Brothers of “excessive texting,” clearly in an attempt to shore up the weak harassment allegations. The Police Department had no policy on texting. The Town never reviewed the text records of any other officer in the department, and did not even give Det. Brothers an opportunity to defend herself against this allegation during the investigation. Moreover, the Union presented testimony of fellow officers and the Chief of Police that Det. Brothers did not text on duty any more than other officers in the department. The Arbitrator credited the testimony of those witnesses, and stated, “the Town cannot not show excessive texting when it has no standard from which to argue the employee deviated.”
The Arbitrator delivered the Millbury Policy Association a resounding victory in this case, ordering Det. Brothers reinstated with full back pay and restoration of all benefits, including details and overtime. Det. Brothers returned to her Detective position on August 26, 2013. This is the third in a series of recent victories for the Millbury Police Association. The Arbitrator’s Award in the Kim Brothers case can be read here.
Arbitrator Nancy Peace recently issued an arbitration award reversing disciplinary action issued to a Concord police sergeant. In the award, Arbitrator Peace found that the sergeant – who had a spotless 20 year record with the Concord Police Department – did not commit the offense he was accused of. The case includes some important language regarding the nature of insubordination, an offense that often leads to employee discipline. The Union was represented by Sandulli Grace attorney John M. Becker
The case involves the police department’s planning for a large public event in Concord. Sgt. Joseph Connell was not involved in the planning, but two other sergeants were. Sgt. Connell and his Union – the Concord Police Association, Local 260 of the Massachusetts Coalition of Police – understood these sergeants to be acting on a voluntary basis. At one point, the Police Chief asked Sgt. Connell to help with the planning on a voluntary basis. Sgt. Connell provided some assistance, but eventually e-mailed the Chief stating that there was nothing more to do. The Chief e-mailed back, “I want you to handle the scheduling for us.” Sgt. Connell responded (also by e-mail) that he did not want to volunteer to work on the planning, and he expressed concerns that the process had begun so late. The next thing Sgt. Connell knew, he was brought in to the Chief’s office and issued a written reprimand for insubordination. He was also reassigned from his midnight shift to the day shift where he would allegedly undergo training for an undetermined period. As it turned out, he was reassigned for seven weeks and received very little training. Interestingly, Sgt. Connell was required to take part in the event planning during his reassignment.
Sgt. Connell and the Union grieved the discipline and the reassignment and the grievance proceeded to arbitration before Arbitrator Nancy Peace. After hearing testimony from Sgt. Connell, Union President Chuck DiRienzo, the Police Chief and others, the Arbitrator ruled in the Union’s favor. According to the Arbitrator, insubordination must be determined by looking at the understanding of the person receiving the alleged order. Here, while the Chief may have believed he was giving an order, Sgt. Connell, based on all the facts, believed he was being asked to volunteer. The Arbitrator reasoned, “It is the responsibility of a superior officer to insure that his or her orders are clear and have been received. Where there is any indication that there may be some confusion or misunderstanding, as there certainly was here, it is the responsibility of the superior officer to investigate and clarify.” The Arbitrator concluded, “This grievance and arbitration could have been avoided had Chief Neal responded to Sgt. Connell’s August 25, 7:59 a.m. e-mail by clarifying that he was not asking Connell to volunteer to handle the scheduling; he was ordering or directing him to do so.”
Arbitrator Peace found that the Town violated the just cause provision of the collective bargaining agreement between the Town and the Union by issuing the discipline and reassigning Sgt. Connell to the day shift. She ordered the discipline removed from Sgt. Connell’s record and ordered him compensated for financial losses as the result of the reassignment.
Read the decision…
In a show of solidarity with the members of Teamsters Local 25, Sandulli Grace client Massachusetts Coalition of Police (MCOP) has joined in the boycott of Dunkin Donuts. The Teamsters organized the workers of DCP company, the largest distributor for Dunkin Donuts in the northeast, in 2009. Despite meeting three times per month since, the company has refused to agree to a fair contract for its workers. The Teamsters have therefore called for a boycott of Dunkin Donuts, and MCOP has answered the call.
As the MCOP announcement notes, “When the police needed the Teamsters in our fight against “flaggers,” they were there… It’s our turn to support the Teamsters. Please join all Mass.C.O.P. members in boycotting Dunkin Donuts until Teamsters Local 25 reaches a fair agreement.” (Click here to view the MCOP announcement).
Sandulli Grace, PC, congratulates its longtime client, the Massachusetts Coalition of Police, AFL-CIO (“MassCOP”), on its recent appointment as the only police labor representative to a special commission on local police training. Earlier this year, the Massachusetts Legislature passed Chapter 3 of the Resolves of 2008 to establish a special commission. The Commission’s dozen or so members will study the creation of a statewide law enforcement training program and improvement of municipal law enforcement training. Commission members include representatives from the Massachusetts House and Senate Joint Committee on Public Safety, the State Police Colonel, the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, and several other entities related to law enforcement. MassCOP, which represents more than 3,200 police officers and police employees in the Commonwealth, was named in Chapter 3 as the only representative of rank-and-file police officers and police unions. MassCOP Vice President and Legislative Committee Chair Kenneth J. Scanzio will serve as MassCOP’s representative to the Commission. Sandulli Grace again congratulates MassCOP and Vice President Scanzio on yet another recognition of their status as leaders in advocating for sworn police officers.