‘Release Time’ Practice Grants Full-Time Pay, Benefits to Officers For Union Work
PHOENIX — Calling it an unconstitutional giveaway that harms taxpayers and takes police resources off the streets, two Phoenix residents today filed suit against the City of Phoenix and the city’s largest police union, seeking to end the widespread practice of allowing public-sector employees to do union work while on the city payroll.
Working with the Goldwater Institute, William R. Cheatham and Marcus Huey filed suit in Maricopa County Superior Court.
“Taxpayer money should be used exclusively for public purposes,” said Clint Bolick, director of the Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation at the Goldwater Institute. “The practice of shoveling millions of taxpayer dollars into union coffers must be stopped.”
Bolick said that the union work includes lobbying, advertising, and generally pursuing the unions’ missions and organizational success. He added that, each year, the city of Phoenix and other Arizona cities spend millions of taxpayer dollars sending city employees to work exclusively for labor unions.
“The most generous deal is with the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (“PLEA”), he said. “The city authorizes the transfer of six police officers from their ordinary duties to work for PLEA on a full-time basis, plus overtime and 35 officers on a part-time basis. In total, the city has granted PLEA at least 31,000 hours of paid release time in the past two years.”
The Phoenix City Council is at fault for authorizing an illegal subsidy to a private company, according to the suit.
Bolick said that, beyond the constitutional problems, the agreement is bad for the city. Phoenix residents pay an estimated $900,000 a year to fund the union, which endangers public safety by taking police officers off the street. Officers themselves are harmed too – PLEA’s past president confirmed that if the city did not give paid release time to union leaders, more money could go to police officer wages and benefits.
If the challenge is successful, it will bring an end to what has become a statewide tradition of granting millions of dollars in union release time with no demands in return.
· Goldwater Institute case page: http://goldwaterinstitute.org/article/cheatham-v-gordon
· “Money for nothing: taxpayers foot union bill” investigative report by reporter Mark Flatten: http://www.goldwaterinstitute.org/article/money-nothing-taxpayers-foot-union-bill