Conservative Think Tank Sues Phoenix Police Union

PHOENIX, AZ &#8211 The Goldwater Institute is suing Phoenix and its biggest police union on behalf of two residents in an attempt to bar some Phoenix police officers from collecting a city salary for time spent doing work for the union, according to records filed Wednesday at Maricopa County Superior Court.

Goldwater Institute representatives said they hope the lawsuit, if it succeeds, goes one step further and bars any government employee from working for a union while earning a government paycheck.

Officials with the union, the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, did not returned calls seeking comment.

The city has not received the complaint yet, said Phoenix spokeswoman Toni Maccarone.

When it does, “we will review it carefully and respond accordingly,” she said.

Greg Brooks, a spokesman for the conservative think tank, said the lawsuit was filed on behalf of Phoenix residents William Cheatham and Marcus Huey.

Within the past couple of years, Cheatham has been associated with the Maricopa County Republican Party while Huey has been associated with the Arizona “tea party,” an Internet search shows.

“They aren’t plaintiffs because they’re with the ‘tea party,'” Brooks said. “They’re plaintiffs because they’re taxpayers living in Phoenix.”

Brooks said the institute worked with the two men because “we went out and found our plaintiffs, which we have done in the past.”

“Our criteria were: We need people who are paying taxes in the city of Phoenix that have standing with the court,” Brooks said.

This fall, the institute reviewed a 2010 agreement between PLEA and Phoenix, and declared the city is giving benefits to police officers working for the union that violate the Arizona constitution’s restrictions on gifts and subsidies to organizations or private individuals.

“The benefits to PLEA under the (agreement) serve to promote the union’s purposes, and do not serve a public purpose,” the institute’s attorneys wrote in the lawsuit.

The city’s agreement with PLEA, which expires next year, states that six full-time police officers are on release positions with the union while they are paid by the city. The city allows for 1,583 hours of “paid-association” leave time to conduct business for the union. A lobbyist appointed for the union can get 500 hours of release time.

Also under the two-year agreement that took effect last year, the city pays the full-time PLEA executive positions for 160 hours of overtime for each year of the agreement for the additional hours worked beyond the usual 40-hour work week. Overtime pay is time and a half.

PLEA agreed to put two of the officers working for the union on continuous paid stand-by “to respond to critical incidents as needed.”

The union is called if an officer needs a consultation or representative in disciplinary issues.

A court date has not been set.

From The Arizona Republic.

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