Friday, October 16, 2015

Oro Valley's Heroes: There They Go Again

There they go again
We are always appalled that the police and the firefighters weigh-in on one side in our local Oro Valley elections.

They did it in 2010.

They did it in 2014.

They are doing it again with their expensive post cards in 2015.

It is the same stuff every time.

The Majority-4 "protect us. So we have their backs."
Front of postcard
Back of postcard

The latest entry into politics is a 4-color, 2-sided postcard mailing. The card supports the incumbents.

The text would infer that something terrible is going to happen to the firefighters and the police if the Majority-4 are not elected.

This is not so.

The recall election has nothing to do with public safety.

Town council members have no authority over the firefighters. The firefighters are a separate taxing district. They have no "stake" in the election. We suspect that their support is nothing more than a "red herring" in support of their police brothers.

All candidates have voiced strong support of the police
Nothing bad is going to happen to public safety if candidates Didio, Straney, Hartung, and Lamonna are elected.  To think otherwise is wrong. These candidates have voiced their support of public safety.

How Oro Valley's Fraternal Order of Police skirt the Hatch Act
The police are supposed to be "Oro Valley's Heroes." Yet, their support of one side of this election says that they are nothing special. In fact, this particular postcard shows just how "misleading" they can be.

The law governing a public employees participation in the political process is the "Hatch Act."

There are certain political activities on the part of a public employee that are not permitted. This, according to the Fraternal Order of Police ("FOP").

One could misinterpret that there are Hatch Act violations with the mailing of this postcard.

Yes. The picture on the back of the postcard is that of a female, whose shirt says: "Oro Valley Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge #53." She writes an endorsement of the candidates on the postcard's back.

Her name is Shawn Benjamin. She also has a video that you can watch which endorses the Majority-4.  In that video, Benjamin states that she is a retired police officer. She is also an FOP representative. If, indeed, she is retired, then she is not subject to the Hatch Act. She is acting within the law.

One might also think that there is a Hatch Act violation on the front of the postcard. There, we see a person's picture standing in front of a what looks like police car. The individual is wearing a shirt that has the logo of the Town of Oro Valley.  Certainly, one might conclude, this must be a violation of the hatch act.

But wait! Is that really an official Oro Valley uniform? Where, for example, is the badge. How about a hat?  Is that really an official Oro Valley police car? Where's the logo on the car the identifies it as such? Is that really an officer of the Oro Valley Police Department?

The postcard may be legal but it is most certainly not ethical
So, one can reasonably conclude, that there is no legal violation.  But, one could also conclude that there is an ethical violation on the part of Oro Valley's heroes by sponsoring a post card in support of the incumbents that is a clear attempt to deceive and a clear effort to "skirt the law". This would be considered "sleazy behavior" if any ordinary citizen did this. But, when the cops do it, there is a special message saying to all: "This type of behavior is really OK."

Follow the money
Who is on council matters a great deal to the police because they report directly to council and their wage and working conditions agreement is approved by council.

The police are the only Oro Valley town department whose head, Chief Sharp, reports directly to town council. The police have a "memorandum of understanding" ("MOU") that governs their wage and working conditions. Other town employees have no such special agreement. The police "union" negotiates this MOU with the town. Then the council approves it. This MOU was annually negotiated until last year, when the Majority-4 approved a measure to make it a 2-year agreement. The next negotiating cycle begins shortly for a 2-year agreement that will be in effect for fiscal 2017 and 2016.

It's not a good thing when the police take sides

By supporting one group, the FOP, and by inference, the Oro Valley Police Department, antagonizes another group. The police are certainly not hero's to those antagonized.  We doubt that the Oro Valley police will win over friends at the "coffee with a cop" by taking sides in this, or any other election.

Is it ethically wrong for the police to take sides in the Oro Valley election?

You tell us.

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