- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2002

A Metropolitan Police detective has accused the department's top union official of trying to blackmail her into not opposing him in union elections at the end of the month.
Detective Renee Holden has filed a formal complaint against Sgt. Gerald G. Neill, accusing him of trying to prevent her from running against him for chairman of the local Fraternal Order of Police Labor Committee.
Detective Holden, who is the union's vice chairman, filed the complaint Dec. 14 with the police department's D.C. Public Employees Relations Board.
The department has referred the matter to the Office of the Inspector General because the department is in contract negotiations with the union and the Public Employees Relations Board has not scheduled a hearing.
Detective Holden contends that Sgt. Neill told her around Nov. 27 of a petition to recall her as vice chairman and offered not to process the petition if she would not oppose him as chairman. She also contends that Sgt. Neill around Dec. 5 threatened to hold a recall vote against her if she opposed him.
Ted Williams, an attorney for Detective Holden, said yesterday that Sgt. Neill violated his client's rights to oppose him in the union election Jan. 31.
"If these allegations are found to be true, that Sgt. Neill is attempting to blackmail another officer, he should be criminally charged and he should resign from the Metropolitan Police Department," Mr. Williams said. "This matter is clearly notabout politics. It is about the unethical manner in which a sergeant in the Metropolitan Police Department is conducting himself."
Sgt. Neill yesterday denied the charges. He said he told Detective Holden about the recall petition and that he intended to hold a recall vote after the election to prevent any appearance of trying to interfere in the election.
Sgt. Neill also said he believes Detective Holden's complaint is politically motivated. Since he defeated former Chairman Frank Tracy two years ago, members of Mr. Tracy's former administration have tried to undermine him, the sergeant said.
Detective Holden was a member of Mr. Tracy's administration.
During Sgt. Neill's administration, the U.S. attorney and the inspector general have been investigating current and past union officials for misuse of funds.
The Washington Times reported in May that Detective Holden and Mr. Tracy, a retired detective who is working as police department consultant, were among the union officials being investigated.
"If the membership wants to put them back into office, then I'll go back to patrol," said Sgt. Neill, who works full time as chairman. "I think we are doing a better job."
"It is posturing on their part," he said of the complaint against him. "We should let the membership decide."
"How can you blackmail someone if they are running against you?" Sgt. Neill said. "What happened was she wanted to [offer] that if she doesn't run, there would be no recall vote."
Mr. Williams denied that his client's complaint is politically motivated.
"This is clearly, absolutely not a political ploy. This is a sergeant in the Metropolitan Police Department who should know better than going around trying to blackmail a fellow officer," Mr. Williams said. "The actions of Chairman Neill is an embarrassment to every honest officer on the police force."
The Times first reported the investigation of union officials in December 2000.
The investigation began in November after an internal audit noted a number of financial irregularities, such as a lack of documentation and receipts from cash and credit-card purchases, according to a copy of a May & Barnhard accounting firm audit obtained by The Times.
Sgt. Neill brought the problems to the attention of the police department's Internal Affairs unit, which notified prosecutors and the FBI, federal law enforcement sources told The Times.
The FBI in May raided union offices and seized financial records.
Federal investigators are looking into union expenses of as much as $80,000 on items such as stays at a couples-only resort in Pennsylvania, a $300 pair of shoes, art and other items unrelated to official business. Investigators also are looking into missing union computers and other office equipment.
Detective Holden contends in her complaint that Sgt. Neill has not maintained the union's fiscal integrity and is not providing regular financial reports to the membership. She also accuses Sgt. Neill of spending $42,000 for new computer equipment.
Sgt. Neill said new computer equipment had to be purchased because the old equipment was not working when he took office.


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