- The Washington Times - Monday, April 29, 2013

After months of upheaval, the only thing impeding the president of a D.C. youth-corrections officers’ union is a board member with a checkered past and an employee relations director who, despite city requirements, does not live in the District.

Since January 2012, Cedric W. Crawley, a program analyst at the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, has been trying to unseat Takisha Brown as head of the Fraternal Order of Police Labor Committee.

But on April 19, in the latest development in one of the District’s more bizarre labor-management cases, police labor committee members held a special election and voted unanimously to retain Ms. Brown to represent them in contract negotiations.

Mr. Crawley on April 22 called for an investigation of the election, claiming it was held without approval of the labor committee’s executive board, of which he is vice chairman. The following day, the executive director of the Public Employee Relations Board, Ondray T. Harris, halted a mandatory mediation to resolve the leadership dispute on grounds that Ms. Brown’s right to speak for her membership is unclear.

This past Friday, Director Natasha Campbell of the D.C. Office of Labor Relations and Collective Bargaining claimed that the unanimous election of Ms. Brown did not comply with labor committee bylaws.

The dispute, which has resulted in multiple court and administrative rulings adverse to the city, is being closely watched by labor leaders representing police and firemen trying to negotiate new contracts with Mayor Vincent C. Gray.

The Gray administration has insisted it does not seek to meddle in union affairs. An official who was not authorized to speak publicly recently said, “Why not just have a new election?”

But now that the election has occurred, Mr. Crawley, Mr. Harris and Ms. Campbell have acted to invalidate it or keep it from taking effect. Ms. Brown said the labor committee’s charter gives members the unrestricted right to hold a special election, which was conducted by TrueBallot, a neutral third-party company that specializes in union elections.

The unanimous vote, she said, should have resolved the controversy, which surfaced after she filed unfair labor practices complaints on behalf of her members, who last negotiated a contract in 2007.

Meantime, questions exist as to whether Mr. Crawley and Mr. Harris should be involved with the dispute. Mr. Harris, a lawyer paid $134,000 per year as principal officer of the city’s employee relations board, was hired through a job vacancy announcement that requires he be a resident of the District. Labor officials say that according to D.C. law, failure to do so “shall result in forfeiture of the position to which the person has been appointed.”

In a recent conference call with The Washington Times, Mr. Harris confirmed he is a Virginia resident.

In Mr. Crawley’s case, city records show he holds a job coded as a management position. Ms. Brown has claimed that DYRS management, with help from the Gray administration, has installed him in the labor committee to disrupt collective bargaining activities despite being a nonunion member.

D.C. and Maryland court records also show Mr. Crawley has a history of criminal charges and debt, ranging from forgery and unemployment fraud to harassment and failure to pay child support.

On Monday, Ms. Brown accused Mr. Gray of allowing his management team to interfere with labor organizations. “If this is not conspiracy to run a labor committee,” she said, “I don’t know what this is.”

A representative for the Gray administration said it is concerned Mr. Harris appears “out of compliance” with the residency requirement, and urged the employee relations board to review the matter. The representative added that the Gray administration continues to view the police labor committee dispute as an internal union matter.