- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 20, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - A slate of challengers is working to unseat longtime New York police union leader Patrick Lynch - including two officers under indictment in a ticket fixing scandal - in an election that comes amid a rancorous public battle with the mayor.

The group is led by the Brooklyn South trustee at the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, Brian Fusco, who said Tuesday union leaders have been “grandstanding” instead of improving officers’ “disgraceful and dangerous” work environment.

“Police officers are bearing the burden of a deep failure of leadership on all sides,” Fusco said.

Lynch, who is seeking a fifth term as head of 24,000-member union, is usually outspoken, but the rhetoric has been ramped up since the Dec. 3 grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the death of Eric Garner.

Lynch said Mayor Bill de Blasio threw officers under the bus by supporting anti-police protesters, and he later said the mayor had “blood on his hands” after two officers were shot to death.

Fusco says the decision to run is not about the fight with the mayor. “We’ve been planning this for a long time,” he said.

Lynch said he would welcome “fresh voices with new ideas” to the process, but that the challengers had been on the board for years.

“They have brought nothing productive or innovative to the table,” he said. “They offer criticism and dissent but nothing productive.”

The challengers’ announcement came after an argument broke out at a recent union event in Queens. The union is also embroiled in a bitter contract dispute that has been ongoing since their contract expired in 2010.

Lynch was criticized before his last re-election for his handling of the ticket fixing scandal, which ensnared more than a dozen officers, but no challenger materialized then.

Among the group of officers seeking to replace Lynch and other union leadership are Joseph Anthony and Michael Hernandez, who both pleaded not guilty to tampering with public records in the ticket fixing probe, first announced in 2011. An internal affairs lieutenant was the first to be tried, and she was convicted and sentenced to community service for divulging an eavesdropping warrant.

The investigation sparked a debate over the informal practice of police squashing tickets or minor summonses as favors.

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