How the Police Officer Association (POA) Got Business Done In Sierra Madre (link): 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 doubling of our Utility Users Tax (UUT) to pay for all this historic agreement stuff. In what appeared to be an extraordinary act of ingratitude, various Police Officers Association lawsuits were initiated against the City of Sierra Madre. Apparently this short love match was only a one-sided affair, with the caddish Police Officer Association quickly leaving Mayor Joffe at the altar. Oh, and the taxpayers of Sierra Madre holding the very large wedding bill these two parties left behind.
The MVO article continued with this little bit of unmedicated 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 between Mayor Joffe and the SMPOA realized that this, along with a doubled UUT rate, was going to be a large new financial burden on the City's taxpayers. And there were some who took this to actually be a 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. 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 Officer Association that so completely took City Hall to the cleaners? Turns out that its leadership isn't quite as local as you might think. 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 on California."
Among the 120 public safety unions represented by these gentlemen is the Sierra Madre Police Officer Association. And if you recognized the names of Lackie and Dammeier you get extra points because those are the guys that won their clients their stunning victory at the expense of the taxpayers of Sierra Madre.
How they did it really shouldn't be all that big a secret to anyone. Because the team of Lackie, Dammeier & McGill have put together quite a menu of tactics for their charges to use. In a March 23, 2009 piece called "Caring for Union Cops, not their bullying tactics," syndicated columnist Logan Jenkins highlighted a few of them for us. These recommended tactics were all listed on the Lackie, Dammeier, McGill website at that time.
* 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.
* 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, this inflating the need for more officers and better pay and benefits.
* Focus on the 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 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 that same issue of the Mountain Views "Observer" cited earlier, then Mayor Enid Joffe, in her "Coffee With Joffe" column (entitled "Peace In Our Time?"), had this to say:
"The entire MOU (Memorandum 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 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 extreme hardball tactics described on the Lackie, Dammeier & McGill website. The ones that drove City Hall to cry uncle and double our Utility User Taxes.
(Mod: That was then. Today three compliant members of our current City Council, Mayor Nancy Walsh, Mayor Pro Tem* John Harabedian and Josh Moran, are attempting to organize a do-over vote to extend the exact same UUT increase used by Mayor Joffe back then to buy off the SMPOA and its bullying law firm. Which is also the same UUT rate extension overwhelmingly rejected by the voters in April of 2012. Only today things have changed because the POA's thuggish law firm, which until very recently headed 120 POAs all over Southern California, now finds itself in some very serious legal trouble. This from an article posted Tuesday on the Voice of OC website.)
Prosecutors Seize Records from Police Union Law Firm (Voice of OC link): Orange County district attorney investigators obtained a search warrant late last week seeking records at the offices of an aggressive law firm accused of bullying city leaders across Southern California on behalf of police unions.
An Orange County Superior Court filing shows that district attorney investigators filed a search warrant Oct. 9 for the Upland office of Lackie, Dammeier, McGill & Ethir. The warrant, which was sealed, also targeted a Rancho Cucamonga home owned by the family of law firm partner Dieter Dammeier.
Investigators then raided the office in the morning Oct. 10, carting off “scores of boxes full of documents and other materials,” according to the San Bernardino County Sentinel (link).
District attorney spokeswoman Susan Kang Schroeder did not return a message seeking comment. The investigation comes amid accusations that the firm was attempting to blackmail Costa Mesa City Council members in order to get better deals for police officers.
The firm had even posted a playbook on its website that openly called for intimidating city leaders. “The association should be like a quiet giant in the position of, ‘do as I ask and don't piss me off,’ ” the playbook advised. “Focus on a city manager, councilperson, mayor or police chief and keep the pressure up until that person assures you his loyalty and then move on to the next victim.”
The law firm drew sharp criticism last year when Costa Mesa Councilman Jim Righeimer, who is now mayor, accused the firm of orchestrating a botched attempt to have him arrested for drunk driving.
Chris Lanzillo, a private investigator who has worked for the law firm, followed Righeimer home from a bar last August and called 911 to report that he was driving drunk.
An officer then came to Righeimer’s house, but determined that the mayor was not drunk after asking him to follow a pen with his eyes.
Righeimer also produced a receipt showing that all he bought that night was two Diet Cokes. The district attorney’s office has been investigating the Costa Mesa incident, serving a search warrant on the private investigator’s house last year and interviewing members of the city’s police union, according to the Daily Pilot.
Righeimer and fellow Councilman Steve Mensinger filed a lawsuit recently against the Costa Mesa police officers' union, Lanzillo and the law firm, alleging they were trying to coerce and intimidate council members into changing their votes.
The issue of public safety spending is in many ways the backdrop to the Costa Mesa drama, with most of the city’s unfunded pension obligations owed to police officers and firefighters.
A write-up by Dammeier touts his firm’s role in making Costa Mesa’s police officers “the highest paid in Southern California.” He also noted that the boost in Costa Mesa’s pay would help boost officer pay in other cities.
“Many agencies in Orange County base their salaries on the average of pay of other agencies in the County,” Dammeier wrote. “It is anticipated this increase will have significant impact in Orange County and trickle out to the rest of Southern California.”
Officials in other cities, too, have come forward to allege bullying by the firm. Buena Park Councilman Fred Smith has said that after leaving a party for two other council members in late 2010, he was pulled over by a police officer and told he smelled of alcohol. Smith was sober and not arrested, he said, but the officer called the next day to say, “Have you had enough yet?”
The law firm was formed in 1997 by Michael Lackie, a retired Riverside County sheriff’s deputy, and by Dammeier, a former Cypress police officer.
It has represented most police unions in Orange County, according to Dammeier. The firm figured prominently in criminal charges last year against the former city manager of Upland. The former city manager, Robb Quincey, was accused by his ex-girlfriend of sending threatening text messages and attacking her car.
Quincy ultimately agreed in secret to a $50,000 settlement with Dammeier’s firm in order to “handle” the domestic violence police report, according to The Orange County Register. The firm was also accused recently by the nation’s largest police defense fund of committing “serious acts of misconduct regarding their billing practices.”
One of the findings was that an attorney at the firm was triple billing clients by working “on three separate client cases simultaneously” and billing the defense fund “three times for the same period of time spent on each case,” according to the San Bernardino Sun.
With pressure building on the firm, it announced plans last month to close. Dammeier didn’t return a message seeking comment.
(Mod: You can link to a list of the bullying tactics recommended by the POA's law firm by clicking here. With our double digit utility taxes up for a do-over vote next April it is important to remember how some of the highest UUT rates in California came to be.)