NEW HAVEN, CT – In an unprecedented move and after weeks of internal turmoil, the executive board of police union Local 530 suspended its president and barred him acting on behalf of the union.
The board Friday presented Officer Arpad Tolnay with the suspension notice weeks after the rank-and-file overwhelmingly ousted him as president amid dissatisfaction about his perceived inaccessibility and questions about his use of a union credit card.
In an interview Monday, Tolnay pushed back.
He said he already planned to step down as president and had stopped acting on the union’s behalf in negotiations with the city. The executive board was well aware of that, he said, but drafted the letter, which he called “unnecessary and ridiculous,” nonetheless.
While he said he had planned to voluntarily step down as president in August, “now I’m going to make them fight to justify what they’re doing.”
Officer Louis Cavaliere Jr., who was voted by the executive board to succeed Tolnay, confirmed that he presented the letter.
“It’s official. He’s been suspended from his duties as president,” Cavaliere said. “It wasn’t easy, but someone had to do it.”
He declined to discuss further comment about the encounter.
“It was a personal conversation,” he said.
The letter was the latest chapter in a tumultuous month with the police union. The infighting comes at a difficult time since officers have been working without a contract for more than a year and the city is seeking major concessions.
In recent months, internal discontent has festered over Tolnay’s leadership and more pointedly over as his alleged use of the union credit card for personal expenses. Tolnay said he had permission from the union treasurer to use the card for non-union expenses with an understanding that he would pay back the money.
He accused the board of holding a “secret meeting” last week in which they decided to suspend him.
Tolnay blasted the executive board for taking the action when, for his year in office, “let the entire running of the union fall on my shoulders,” he said.
“I’m not going to let them destroy my credibility with the games that they’re playing. I don’t know what the motivating factor is but now they’re going to have to justify what they did.”
The letter puts the union in uncharted territory. If Tolnay does not voluntarily step down, which he has signaled he won’t, a process similar to an impeachment would begin.
Cavaliere said no one is entirely certain of the process. He was told that the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the parent union for Local 530, would send a representative from Washington to conduct a hearing in which all sides would have the ability to present evidence.
In the meantime, the union vice president, Sgt. Rich Miller, will take over daily responsibilities. That leaves Cavaliere’s status in limbo. A member of the executive board, he was elected by the panel to replace Tolnay but would not assume the position spot until to the matter is resolved, he said.
How the process will proceed is unclear since the suspension of a union president is “unprecedented,” Cavaliere said.
Cavaliere’s father, Sgt. Louis Cavaliere Sr., served as union chief for 30 years before he retired in 2011, making Tolnay the first new leader of Local 530 in two generations.
From The New Haven Register.