An unusual ethics complaint charges that the director of the District’s office of labor relations is attempting to oust the leader of a youth-corrections officers’ union from her position.
The union has asked the D.C. Superior Court to halt the alleged ouster and has sought to overturn a public employee review panel on grounds it overstepped its authority when it sided with the city official.
The controversy within the Fraternal Order of Police union that represents 200 youth-corrections officers with the D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services surfaced last July when FOP Chairperson Takisha Brown sensed interference from a union official whose wife worked with the union’s attorney — first reported by The Washington Times.
Citing concerns about “money and leadership,” Ms. Brown fired the attorney and called for an audit of union finances. The situation escalated when the official whom Ms. Brown suspected of interference, DYRS employee Cedric Crawley, attempted to orchestrate an executive board vote to unseat Ms. Brown and hold a special election to replace her.
However, Mr. Crawley held what appeared to be a management position and, according to Ms. Brown, shouldn’t have been in the union in the first place. So when he had union funds deposited into an account he controlled, Ms. Brown filed a fraud complaint, according to documents obtained by The Times. Ms. Brown’s complaint was never resolved, but recent claims that the executive board “removed” her from her position and a request from DYRS management for “guidance” prompted Natasha Campbell, director of the Office of Labor Relations and Collective Bargaining, to question “whether DYRS should continue to deal with Ms. Brown,” according to a Feb. 15 letter to Ms. Brown, Mr. Crawley and his fellow board members.
Insisting that “management has no interest in interfering in the [union’s] internal business,” Ms. Campbell stated that “[s]ince Ms. Brown’s position as a union officer is in disputemanagement will no longer recognize [her] as the chairperson. All rights afforded to her as an authorized representative of the [union] will cease immediately.”
On Feb. 19, Ms. Campbell wrote to the Public Employee Relations Board seeking support for her decision. On Feb. 20, Executive Director Ondray T. Harris summarily ordered that “until the FOP elects a new Chairperson or the current dispute is resolved,” city officials “will bargain with the FOP Executive Board or its legal representatives.”
In a statement on Wednesday, Ms. Brown accused the office of labor relations of “taking sides in union politics in an effort to displace the union’s president.” She pledged to continue to represent her members who elected her and announced the filing of two lawsuits: one asks the court to overturn the PERB order; another seeks a temporary restraining order and alleges that the office of labor relations has unlawfully interfered with union leadership.
In addition, she has filed a complaint with the Board of Elections and Ethics in which she describes Mr. Crawley’s job and salary as that of a non-union management employee, and accuses Ms. Campbell of directing labor-management communications to executive board members who “do not have authority to represent the membership.”
Also on Wednesday, Marcello Muzzatti, president of FOP District of Columbia Lodge #1, which includes numerous bargaining units such as Ms. Brown’s, lashed out at Ms. Campbell.
“I am livid,” he said. “She is management. I don’t know how they got to her,” he said, referring to Mr. Crawley and his colleagues, “but she decided to jump into it. She has no right to tell me who the chairperson is. I know it’s wrong.”
Neither Ms. Campbell, Mr. Crawley nor DYRS Director Neil Stanley responded to requests for comment. A spokesman for Mayor Vincent C. Gray cited pending legal action and said the office had no comment.