The fight between Montgomery County officials and the county police union over a ballot question on bargaining rights is intensifying as Election Day nears.
The county is throwing its resources at the referendum, which would back the County Council's 9-0 vote to strip away the Fraternal Order of Police's "effects bargaining" rights. Those rights allow the union to bargain over every management decision, from requiring police officers to check their email daily to clothing allowances for undercover officers.
The county has created a webpage for the issue, ads are running on the county's Ride On buses, and the county is handing out bumper stickers and yard signs.
|Question B ballot language|
|Shall the Act to modify the scope of collective bargaining with police employees to permit the exercise of certain management rights without first bargaining the effects of those rights on police employees become law?|
|For: Approves the County Council's vote to take away the police union's "effects bargaining" rights.|
|Against: Restores the police union's "effects bargaining" rights.|
"The county has a right to defend county policy and law,"said county spokesman Patrick Lacefield.
The union is accusing the county of misappropriating taxpayer funds and has asked for several investigations. On Friday, the union said it was asking for a state and federal investigation to determine if the county illegally used county taxpayer or federal funds to support the measure with items such as mailers.
Union leaders say county officials are lying to taxpayers, misusing taxpayer money and hiring people at $15 an hour to campaign at the polls for the measure, which is Question B on the Montgomery County ballot.
"There's something wrong with that," said Lanny Davis, a lawyer representing the Fraternal Order of Police. "In fact, we suspect it's illegal to do so."
Maryland State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt last week closed a criminal investigation into whether the county acted inappropriately, saying county officials acted in good faith because they received advice from the county attorney on the issue.
In a letter to Attorney General Douglas Gansler, Davitt sought an opinion on whether it is appropriate for governments to use public resources during referendum campaigns.
Lacefield said it's no secret the county is hiring workers to campaign at polls -- adding it's perfectly legal to do so -- and says the money being put into campaigning for Question B is perfectly legal, as well.
Lacefield said the county believes Question B will not affect police officers' ability to maintain shift schedules, adding that no other police unions in the state have the same system as the county FOP.
"Montgomery County is one of the most family-friendly places to work for," he said. "[Schedules] are all negotiated in contracts. If Question B passes, they're totally covered."