- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 12, 2000

The District of Columbia Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) today will consider a complaint that could result in the overturning of the recent election of the head of the D.C. police officers union.

Detective Ronald Robertson filed the complaint last month, claiming he was wrongly kept off the Aug. 30 ballot for chairman of the Fraternal Order of Police Labor Committee for the Metropolitan Police Department.

Detective Robertson, who served as the committee's chairman from 1996 to 1998, filed a "motion for preliminary relief" with the labor board to delay the election and allow him to campaign until it decides on his formal complaint.

"I think the union did this clearly to keep me from running for office," Detective Robertson told The Washington Times recently.

An attorney for the union has argued for a dismissal of the claim in papers filed with the board, saying Detective Robertson was expelled from the group in April 1999, and thus he is not eligible for election.

"This is a case of an expelled union member attempting to use PERB's procedures to attack his … expulsion from the union," wrote lawyer Ted J. Williams. "He is now grasping at an undeserved second chance to rehabilitate himself, simultaneously causing delay and disruption to a proper union proceeding."

Today is the first time the board will take up the issue. Because the election already has occurred, it is not clear what a ruling in favor of Detective Robertson would mean.

The board could temporarily invalidate the election until it decides on Detective Robertson's formal complaint or temporarily let the election stand but still consider his formal complaint. Either of those options would require a new election to be held.

The board also could deny his complaint, which would let the original election stand.

First District Sgt. G.G. Neil won the Aug. 30 election, defeating incumbent Chairman Detective Frank Tracy, who beat Detective Robertson in the 1998 election.

Sgt. Neil was not available for comment yesterday.

The conflict between Detective Robertson and the union began in February 1998, after a TV reporter obtained a videotape of several D.C. police officers interacting with naked female strippers, according to documents Detective Robertson filed with the board.

According to the documents, the reporter showed the tape to Detective Robertson, who said, "This is absolutely a lewd and immoral conduct, really. This is something the policemen ought not be doing."

When asked if the officers should be fired, Detective Robertson responded, "Probably," the documents show.

One of the officers on the tape who received a five-day suspension, Christopher N. Johnson, filed a complaint saying Detective Robertson's comments were detrimental to other union members, a violation of the group's by-laws.

A union panel found Detective Robertson guilty of the violation in April 1999 and expelled him, documents filed with the board show.

Detective Robertson told The Times that the union panel convened when he could not attend and waited too long to hold a hearing, thus invalidating its decision. He also objected to one panel member.

The union continued to deduct membership dues from his paycheck after his expulsion.

Mr. Williams, the union's attorney, wrote that Detective Robertson "was paying a service fee to the union and dues to the FOP lodge," and "it was incumbent on Mr. Robertson to request reimbursement for the dues."

When Detective Robertson tried to place his name on the ballot for chairman of the union last month, he was told he was not a union member in good standing and thus ineligible for election.

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