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.