- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 24, 2001

A D.C. Superior Court judge yesterday sent the selection of general counsel for the D.C. police union back to the drawing board, setting the stage for a continued internal legal and political struggle over who to put in the position.
Judge Linda K. Davis gave two apparent victories to Sgt. Gerald G. Neill, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Police/Labor Committee, but the unions disputed attorney promised an appeal, calling the judges ruling "clearly incorrect."
Judge Davis ruled that Ted J. Williams, who has served as the unions attorney until last month, when Sgt. Neill picked a new general counsel, has no standing to sue over the matter and must seek arbitration instead.
The judge also dismissed a lawsuit filed by three members of the unions Executive Committee who sought to bar Sgt. Neill from picking Kenneth Bynum as the organizations new attorney.
Judge Davis didnt formally rule on who should be the general counsel or who makes that choice, but said, "Frankly, I think chairman Neill is allowed to proceed as he pleases."
Both Mr. Bynum and Mr. Williams insist they serve the organization as general counsel. Now the Labor Committee, which represents about 3,200 D.C. police officers and sergeants, must make a selection again.
Sgt. Neill says he will rehire Mr. Bynum today and plans to take the vote to the entire membership next month. Meanwhile, his three opponents on the five-person Executive Committee plan to make their own selection.
Sgt. Neills opponents on the committee are Detective Rene Holden, vice-chairman; Officer Tyrone Best, treasurer; and Detective Michael W. Johnson, executive steward. Together with Sgt. Neill and Sgt. Gregory I. Green, they are the elected leaders of the Labor Committee.
Judge Davis admonished Sgt. Neills three opponents to "follow proper procedures" as they make decisions.
Addressing all the parties yesterday, Judge Davis said, "I think it would be good to make an effort to cooperate and work together and agree on who should be the general counsel."
The ongoing legal battle is being waged on several fronts. The unions former chairman, Frank Tracy, is suing Sgt. Neill for defamation. Mr. Williams, who still holds the union files, has promised more lawsuits against Sgt. Neill. Mr. Bynum yesterday withdrew his request for the judge to order Mr. Williams to return the files.
At the same, union officials are struggling over other matters.
An investigation by the D.C. Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, which includes the Metropolitan Police labor committees and 17 other committees, found the bylaws were improperly changed last year. Officials have been directed to use the previous rules.
"We have directed them to operate under the previous bylaws," said U.S. Mint Police Lt. Lou Cannon, who is president of the D.C. Lodge of the FOP.
Audiotapes of a meeting last year reveal that the necessary quorum of 250 members was not present, thereby invalidating the vote to change the bylaws, said Lt. Cannon, who is trying to mediate the disputes.
A recall effort is afoot against Detective Holden and Officer Best, and one organizer said he has about 700 of the 820 signatures needed.
The recall petition focuses on Detective Holden and Officer Best because they are subjects of an ongoing federal criminal probe into the misuse of as much as $80,000 in union funds, as first reported by The Washington Times in December. Mr. Tracy, now a consultant for the D.C. police department, also is a subject of that investigation.
All three have denied any wrongdoing in the matter.
FBI agents raided the unions offices last week to obtain additional records from Officer Bests office, sources familiar with the case told The Times.


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