SEPTEMBER 18, 2012
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it has asked a Maricopa County Superior Court to allow five officers of the Phoenix Police Department (PPD) to intervene in a lawsuit challenging the employment agreement entered into by the City of Phoenix, AZ, and its rank and file police officers. The Motion to Intervene was filed on September 13, 2012, by two taxpayers represented by the Goldwater Institute (Cheatham, et al. v. DiCiccio, et al., (No. CV2011-021634)).
The lawsuit seeks to declare the officers’ two-year employment agreement with the city, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that went into effect on July 1, 2012, to be unconstitutional. The lawsuit also seeks to “preliminarily and permanently enjoin” the city from honoring the agreement, which would effectively leave the officers without an employment agreement and the City of Phoenix without a police force.
At issue is a provision in the MOU concerning the payment of “release time,” which is used to represent officers in disciplinary proceedings, grievances, and other employment matters. The “release time” in the MOU is bargained for compensation paid by the city to its rank and file police officers as an element of the officers’ total compensation, not an unconstitutional “gift” to the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA), the officers’ legally authorized representative, as the lawsuit contends. According to Judicial Watch’s motion:
Some [of the officers seeking to intervene in the lawsuit] are members of PLEA; others are not. Some have utilized PLEA’s representation in grievance meetings and before Use of Force and Disciplinary Review Boards, as well as in other employment related matters … All of them believe it is important for line officers like themselves to have an authorized representative that is available to assist them in employment matters, and, as a result, agreed to have a portion of their total compensation paid to them in release time to be utilized by their authorized representative instead of being paid to them in the form of higher wages or other benefits.
The MOU treats release time no differently than any other element of compensation paid by the city to its police officers, including base wages, overtime pay, sick leave and other benefits.
“Judicial Watch understands that Phoenix Police Officers, who risk their lives to ensure due process for the general public, are entitled under law to due process themselves in their employment relations with the City,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “While the Phoenix Police Department uses taxpayer money to pay for more than 25 police supervisors to investigate allegations of misconduct against rank and file officers, these same officers have chosen to have a portion of their total compensation paid to them in release time – in lieu of higher wages or other benefits – to secure the representation that enables those who risk their lives for their community to be treated as fairly as the community partners for whom they work. Judicial Watch understands that police officers face unique challenges in carrying out a vital, high-risk job and is proud to support the efforts of these five officers to defend the contractually agreed upon wages, benefits, and rights in the employment agreement with the City of Phoenix. It would be unfair, and we believe contrary to law, for the courts to intervene and throw out Phoenix’s employment agreement with its line police officers.”