Thursday, July 19, 2012

SMPOA Labor Board "Complaint," Is It A Union Negotiating Tactic?

The Sierra Madre Police Officers' Association, which is pretty much a sock puppet of the law firm running the regionally powerful Police Officers Association, has often used legal action as a way of moving things along when it comes to negotiating labor agreements with this city. We have seen the tactic in the past, with the most successful iteration of threatened legal action and lawsuits being 2007, something which eventually led to our UUT taxes being raised to 10%, with the potential of an additional 2% hike still hanging over our heads even now.

You may recall that this rather abject surrender to the SMPOA in 2007, which was rather fatuously proclaimed by then Mayor Enid Joffe as being "peace in our time," did little to ease the labor strife between this "public safety union" and the City of Sierra Madre. With SMPOA members suing us at a brisk clip ever since despite the residents of this city having voted themselves a huge Utility User Tax increase in 2008 to finance their pay increase.

Fortunately the taxpayers learned their lesson and an extension of that large UUT increase was overwhelmingly shot down last April.

According to an article in yesterday's Pasadena Star News (click here) it appears that we could be heading down the road to extended Police Department labor strife once again. The purpose being to move along negotiations with the city that have apparently stalled.

The Sierra Madre Police Officers Association has filed a complaint with a state oversight board alleging officers never received holiday pay for the first half of 2012.

The Sierra Madre POA is in the midst of negotiations with the city on a new memorandum of understanding. The current terms and conditions expired June 30, and the sides haven't struck an agreement in two years.

Back in the earlier days of The Tattler we covered the POA's negotiation methods fairly extensively. Their hardball tactics having beaten City Hall quite soundly in 2007, we figured it was a fair topic. And since it now appears that we could be going down that same road once again, I thought we should repost one article in particular. Just in case people have forgotten what it is we are once again going up against here.

How The Police Officers' Association (POA) Got Business Done (Tattler - April 17, 2009)

In what was probably one of the most extreme cases of "Little Miss Sunshine" syndrome I have ever read, the Mountain Views "Observer" on 12/21/07 ran the following giddy headline.

Sierra Madre And Police Reach 'Historic Agreement' - "It ends years of discord between the city and POA" - Mayor Joffe

Discord that resumed a few short months later after the passage of the Utility User Tax hike with a Police Officers Association initiated lawsuit against the City of Sierra Madre. Apparently this short love match was only a one-sided affair, with this caddish Police Officers Association quickly leaving (by then former) Mayor Joffe at the altar. Oh, and the taxpayers of Sierra Madre holding the very large bill both parties left behind.

The MVO article continued with this little bit of heavily medicated delirium:

"Everyone clapped, cheered and shook hands as the City Council approved during a special meeting Tuesday night, the first police pay raise in years. The increase is subject, however, to Sierra Madre voters approving an increased Utility Users Tax on April 8, 2008."

Of course, not everyone was quite that chipper. Many who read the agreement worked out by Mayor Joffe and the POA realized that this, along with a much higher UUT rate, was going to be a large new financial burden on the City's taxpayers. And there were even those cynics who took this to actually be a fairly serious defeat for the City of Sierra Madre, with the joy offensive by the paper merely an attempt to put a pretty face on it all. All something that could very well have hurt the re-election chances of MVO darlings Enid Joffe and John Buchanan if not properly spun.

So who is this Police Officers Association that so completely took City Hall to the cleaners? It turns out that its leadership isn't quite as local as you might have assumed. Here's a passage from a March 21, 2009 article in the Union Tribune dealing with an acrimonious Police labor dispute in Escondido.

"The association should be like a quiet giant in the position of, 'Do as I ask and don't p--- me off,' the law firm advises ... As the fight between the City and the Escondido Police Officers Association unfolds, the association appears to be taking some of its cues from the hardball battle plan devised by Lackie, Dammeier & McGill of Upland, which is representing the association in negotiations ... The law firm was founded by a former deputy sheriff, Michael Lackie, and a former police officer, Dieter Dammeier, and represents more than 120 public safety unions in California."

Among those 120 "public safety unions" represented by these gentlemen is the Sierra Madre Police Officers Organization. And if you recognized the names of Lackie and Dammeier you get extra points because those are the two gentlemen that won for their clients this stunning victory at the expense of Sierra Madre.

How they did it really shouldn't be all that big a secret to anyone. Because if you go to the Lackie, Dammeier & McGill website, you will actually be able to read all about the kinds of hardball tactics that have made them the leaders in their field. Some of which you might recognize from what happened here in Sierra Madre.

In a March 23, 2009 piece called "Caring for union cops, not their bully tactics," syndicated columnist Logan Jenkins highlighted a few of them for us:

* Storm City Council: No meeting should take place without association members publicly chastising council members for their lack of concern for public safety.
* Billboards: Nothing seems to get more attention than a billboard entering the city limits which reads that crime is up and the City could care less about your safety. The message being City councils love crime and hate safety. (Remember all those Arcadia billboards last year?)
* Job Fair: Encourage cops to sign up at job fairs, sending an alarming, but false, signal of imminent flight from the department, leaving virtually no one to protect the public from gangs, parolees and sex offenders.
* Work Slowdown: Drive the speed limit, make investigations as time-consuming as possible, while "asking for back-up on most calls." In other words, perform the job in malingering slo-mo, thus inflating the need for more officers and better pay and benefits.
* Focus on an individual: "Avoid spreading your energy. Focus on a city manager, council person, mayor or police chief and keep pressure on until that person assures you of his loyalty and then move on to the next victim." Victim? You heard it right.
* Press Conferences: "Every high-profile crime that takes place should result in the association's uproar at the governing body for not having enough officers on the street, which could have avoided the incident." Read: Exploit suffering, fear and anger.
* In its summation, Lackie, Dammeier & McGill acknowledges that cops often come up with their own variations on the theme of beating public officials into submission. "Just keep in mind, the idea is to annoy your opponents into giving in to your position and almost equally as important, to let them know that next time they should agree with you much sooner."

In the same issue of the MVO cited at the beginning of this article, then Mayor Enid Joffe, in her "Coffee with Joffe" column for that week (grandly entitled "Peace In Our Time?"), had this to say:

"The entire MOU (Memo Of Understanding) is conditioned on the passage of the proposed Utility User Tax (UUT) ballot initiative approved by the City Council on December 18th. Without approval of the Measure, the POA agreement is null and void, and we will all go back to our previous adversarial positions."

I can only assume that by "adversarial positions" the mayor was referring to a possible return by the POA to the kinds of hardball tactics described on the Lackie, Dammeier & McGill website. The ones that drove City Hall to cry uncle and get their MOU on.

Which, judging how the UUT vote turned out, worked quite well for our Police Department.

When it came to larding out the bull, nobody could ever do it quite like Enid Joffe.

One thing that always needs to be remembered. Without community support most of the POA's tactics will not work. They are dependent upon the natural goodwill many citizens feel towards police officers in general, which is what makes their methods work.

People elected to City Councils are aware that if they oppose the demands of a police union, they run the risk of alienating the more naive voting public. People who, properly marketed to by labor organizations such as the POA, will give a sympathetic ear to their demands. This in spite of the fact that the results will likely come straight out of their pockets.

What the SMPOA needs to understand is that if they go down this path once again, it could adversely effect the vote on the next UUT extension request. Something that will go back on the ballot, and relatively soon. And should this UUT extension be turned down by the taxpayers a second time?

Then the Sierra Madre Police Department will become a luxury that this city will no longer be able to afford.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

60 comments:

  1. Give them what we all wantJuly 19, 2012 at 6:47 AM

    Mr. Tattler, you left so much out of that story. You failed to mention how they put up signs that said Sierra Madre Sucks. and had a web page for a bit that bad mouthed our town. Yes, they did all the slow down stuff you talked about and to this day I have seen 3 cars on a routine stop. With 3 cars it must be a real criminal they are using 3 officers to keep the community safe, or, are they so afraid that they need that kind of back up? Let's face it, the SMPD would love to have the opportunity to be on the Sheriff's Department and this is their way of doing that. There is so much to say here but to get to the bottom line, give them what they want, let them and us go to the SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT. These officers want to get some real action, they hate all the petty little things they do here, they want to work in a real high crime area where they can shoot the bad guy, "not some guy waking up in the back of his suv". They want to be real police officers not a Barny type cop working in Mayberry.

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    1. Actually the Tattler had an article on the "Sierra Madre Sucks" sign a couple of months back. Posted a picture as well. Check the archives.

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    2. If they were real cops ,they would already be working for the likes of the Sheriff ,LAPD and other large Police Departments.Let's hire some real cops;we're not getting the service we are paying for!GO Sheriff!

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    3. dude you are out of your mind

      these cops we have chose to work here because it's a cushy do nothing minimial talent required police force

      in my years here, i have never heard of one of our officers being recruited on moving to another police force

      what do we receive?

      a cop who doesn't follow basic procedure and secure a vehicle and tows the vehicle to the station and when he opens the rear hatch he freaks out at a sleeping man climbing out and shoots him in the back

      yeah, right - the reason none of our cops are at another force is because they aren't qualified

      the only decent officer we have is Ruben and in the past tense Wayne Bailey

      the rest are yahoos

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    4. Ruben Enriquez IS the only real police officer in Sierra Madre. It would be nice if we could clone him, since the rest of the department is reluctant to follow his lead. Unfortunately, I suspect Ruben has had enough of this nonsense and may be considering retirement in the next couple of years.

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  2. I for one feel intimidated by those policemen and don't want to say anything that will upset them. They can stop you for any reason and embarrass you in front of your friends and neighbors and I just don't have time for that.

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    1. nahhhhh, not the SMPD

      we've got a true professional police department

      they aren't up to petty retaliation

      "Sierra Madre SUCKS"

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  3. A neighbor had their car broken into an it was all smashed in. The police officers that responded made them feel like it was there fault for upsetting the person that did that and the officers didn't even want to take a report.

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    1. I had a brillant officer once tell me to get a street parking sticker and pointed to the corner and said that is where I should park.

      Which had I parked there, I was creating a blind corner and a traffic and pedestrian hazard and he didn't understand that when I asked him about it.

      That was Barney and since then I just wonder just how bright he actually is.

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    2. The police don't have any use for you and hope you feel the same way about them.

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  4. If Sacramento ever needed to investigate something our police department should be.

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  5. Enid was truly a piece of work. The POA played her like a fiddle, and she called it a victory for Sierra Madre. What an awful mayor she was.

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    1. Enid Joffe is just awful, period!

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  6. Looks as if we have a bunch of organized thugs posing as "Guardians of the Peace" and why not, it is consistent with the tone of the entire City Establishment.

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    1. Alriiiiiight!

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    2. What passes for government in Sierra Madre spends most of its time fretting about not getting enough of our money to sustain itself. Something that causes them to devise all sorts of ridiculous schemes to get that money. The current ticket blitz the SMPD is on would be one of them.

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  7. "Job Fair: Encourage cops to sign up at job fairs, sending an alarming, but false, signal of imminent flight from the department, leaving virtually no one to protect the public from gangs, parolees and sex offenders."

    This POA tactic wouldn't work here. We do not have a gang problem, any parolees seem to understand how lucky they are to be here, and Bob Matheson roams the town at will with no interference from the local police.

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  8. Would't it just be dandy if Sierra Madre someday declares bankruptcy because of paying out tons of money to cover the PD lawsuitd such as Mamouth did?

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    1. Actually it was a developer who sued Mammouth. Fortunately there is no MOU with our PD now, so really they're here pretty much as guests. We can ask them to leave at any time.

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  9. John,

    They you again for another enlightening and insightful article. I have been following the POA and its shenanigans for several years. I recall that in years past, the most common complaints emananting from the POA were directed at former Chief Diaz. In a nutshell, the Association claimed that she was an ineffective leader. Of course, now that she has stepped down, the POA is complaining about her replacement -- an experienced and competent, interim Chief.

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    1. So much for department discipline. Our PD has a union that encourages its members to take on the brass. How great for us ...

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  10. Is it just me, or does demanding pay raises in 2008, when we were in the midst of recession and in 2012, when we are coming out of the recession, just plainy greedy?

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  11. Chief Giannone, worked for the Monterey Park Police Department for nearly 30 years. He was twice honored as that City's municipal employee of the year -- a rare honor for a police officer. He's solid and I'm sorry he has to deal with our POA.

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  12. It's a sad situation when our officers won't walk among us on the streets,they just stay in their cars. They don't know who the locals are so when we have another big riot in LA thet won't know us from those who are out of towners. They even leave town to eat, they really must hate this town.

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    1. I recall Diaz stating that she personally was gonna walk the downtown and our officers would be on foot more often.

      Our lazy officers rallied and that never happened.

      They once had a crosswalk sting and that must have worn them out all that walking.

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    2. It's difficult to walk and eat a donut at the same time. It's a balance issue.

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  13. Thanks for the memoriesJuly 19, 2012 at 9:57 AM

    While it is nice having our own police department, police services are a commodity. According to the city we can buy that commodity for $1 million less than we pay for it now. I think we can do better, as matching the La Canada deal will save us $1.5 million a year.

    Either figure represents a huge savings when measured against our $6.5 million general fund. This one change will cure all budget concerns and leave us with a surplus to spend on parks, etc.

    Sad as it is to say, its time for our SMPD officers to go. To keep the transition smooth, I suggest we keep Officer Ford, who is decent and competent, to act as Community Security Officer once the Sheriff takes over.

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  14. Sierra Madre really has some good officers. The unfortunate problem, SM is short on funding the kind of PD we all want. I would guess officers get frustrated when it comes time to pay their bills and I guess take it out on us the tax paying residents. Maybe we should be doing everyone a good turn by hiring the Sheriff here in town. Our officers will get a raise and we will have the power of the entire Sheriffs Department to handle crime with the backing of a much bigger police department. That seems logical.

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    1. logical except the Union and the PD will fight that every second because they know that none of our officers would get hired by the Sheriff's office

      why do people assume if we brought in the Sheriff's office our PD officers would be automatically hired

      face it, they aren't qualified - it's basically ticket writing and minor issues like coloring on the bathroom walls at the parks

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  15. The POA is definitely starting their campaign of getting the citizens on their side. They are sponsoring the newest Friday night movie series, and will be handing out ice cream vouchers to Mother Moo and the frozen yogurt place at 2 of the events. Sounds like they are trying to buy favor with the good folks here. Of course, I don't mind taking their ice cream vouchers! But a little ice cream won't is not going to buy my approval.

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    1. I guess I won't go to the Moo anymore.

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    2. Remember the last time the POA was looking for money? They sent out all these postcards with teddy bears dressed up in police uniforms. Now its ice cream? They must think we're little children.

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    3. I would think they did a bulk purchase, or will be reimbursing the businesses for each voucher uesd. I do think it is great for both local businesses, as it may get people in and hooked who have not tried either before. I would doubt that Mother Moo and the frozen yogurt shop are in cahoots with the POA.

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  16. 53% of our General Fund budget for a PD that is constantly asking for more, and then suing us when we don;t get it, is an intolerable situation for us to have to live with. This is a little town, we cannot afford to be hit with more and more taxes and costs. Our UUT rate is already the highest in California. What's next, highest in the galaxy? It is time to rethink everything. There are no more sacred cows. Even the PD needs to be looked at.

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  17. If you are not nor never have been a member of a union, nor have a close relative in a union, it is very difficult to understand the importance of unions in our country. It is easy to blame individuals and unions for many problems.

    Looking at this from a bigger picture, there is more than one way to skim a cat. Why not let go some of the employees in City Hall who really just sit around and are not pulling their weight. Seriously.

    The police in town are not perfect. On the other hand, does one group always deserve all the blame. There seems to be alot of pointing the finger to the unions. Simple fix McCarthy style.

    We might want some FACTS, not emotions and heresay.

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    1. The only union discussed here is the POA. It's tactics are clearly listed. Are you saying you approve of them, or is this just some sort of general guilt trip?

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    2. There are good unions, and there are unions that aren't quite so good. Given the amount of lawsuits and other filings, the POA has cost this city a lot of money. Something that we cannpot afford. That hurts us.

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    3. union or not, we can't afford the police department any more. the POA's request for money at this time makes the transition easier.

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    4. Here I go dating myself, but in the "olden" days, unions were almost necessary to get private businesses to treat their employees right - right pay, right hours, right conditions. They were good for workers and forced private business to do the right thing. Public workers, however did not have unions, but had good hours, and good working conditions, and while their pay was lower than private sector, they had great job security in what was called "civil service". Then along came Jerry Brown who unionized the civil servants. The public union sector got bigger and more powerful and now we have teachers, police, and even jail workers who are represented by the most powerful unions in the country. Some of their tactics are akin to blackmail. Public Service Unions are not in the best interest of the citizens, and certainly not in the best interest of the cities and states.

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    5. If we fired the extraneous staff in City Hall, then where would the Dirts' friends and relatives find paychecks?

      I say "paychecks" because some of them only show up to collect their paychecks. The rest of the month they are completely absent.

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    6. I beg of you...please don't fire the bartender.

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  18. lol what a joke

    holiday pay?

    everyday in the SMPD is basically a holiday if you as a real policeman working in on a real police force

    holiday pay?

    what a joke at our expense

    brats with a badge and a gun

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  19. 10:21 & 10:30, it is so hopeful to see some good questions and discussions on the POA and unions and the actions of this Association. All cities are facing financial problems. It is time to make sound decisions for our town and us residents. The new city council needs to get rid of my friends and my control type of decisions that affect us all financially and physically. The safety of our family is always the first thing on our minds, even before the costs. It now is time to evaluate just how safe are we and what this safety is costing us, period. It will be interesting to see what will happen with this new city council, I sure hope they make the right choices because there is a lot on the line here. We need to have every resident know the truth as to whats going on here so that the right choices are made for the good of all, not some special intrust group.

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  20. In the end this will all come down to cost. How you feel about the SMPD or the Sheriffs or even the POA isn't really the point. What kind of policing can we as a purchase and still remain solvent? That is the real issue. Times are changing in California.

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    1. Thanks 11:51. Best comment so far, by far.
      Believe the word "city" has escaped, but still, wonderful clarity.
      Go logic!

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    2. Thanks. I did leave "city" out of there. Darn.

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    3. Your brain was moving like lightning.
      Hard for the fingers to keep up.

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  21. Say what you want about Barney Fife, he did care deeply about Mayberry.

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  22. Yes, the issue IS safety. Like fire dept, teachers and nurses. All of those employees put safety first. They never are honored for their job UNTIL the public actually is fully made aware
    'in their face" of how the Fire/Police/Nurse/Teacher saved someone and made a difference. (Remember 911 and how the Fireman were honored like never before. Even here in Sierra Madre there was a collection at each stop sign for the families of the victims and the fire fighters' victims. The country came together on that issue.)


    In the meantime, if they do not make the headlines, too many citizens are apt to take the behavior of a couple, take them out of context and stereotype their behavior and then blame them all.

    Great educated critical thinking skills......no it is not really just about our dept/city at stake. It is a reflection of our society getting so out of control with extremist thinking, bullying, irrational accusations filled with fear.

    The picture is always larger than it seems.

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    1. So how are we going to pay for the SMPD's raise?

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    2. What do nurses, firemen and teachers have to do with this? We're talking about the SMPD and the POA. Apples and oranges, 12:48?

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    3. Never pass up a talking point, do you, 12:48?

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    4. 12:48 read like a conversation with Joe Mosca sounds. All crap, no content.

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    5. Okay, I'm stumped.

      What have the good folks at SMPD done that should make me yearn for their continued employment? Busting a cap in that drunk guy in the Murano? Having officer Berry stink eye housewives and kids? Suing the city at every opportunity.

      I don't care which cops in which cars patrol town. I want to save money so that we can buy open space, build a new field for the glory of our local little league dads, etc.

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  23. Could 12:48 be a former candidate for city council with a police back ground?

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    1. Or a former candidate for city council that got appointed to the Library Board?

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    2. No, I don't think so. He didn't mention Little League.

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    3. Or Cub Scouts.

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    4. No.
      The hint is teacher. Under appreciated teacher.

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    5. But the comment seemed very appologetic for the SMPD "...take the behaviour of a couple... " I take that to me a couple of police officers out of the entire bunch. Problem is, the POA that is suing the city is suing for the entire bunch.

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