Tony Montoya will hold on to his seat as president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association after defeating a serious challenger in a runoff election last week.
Montoya pulled off the victory with 848 votes compared to 762 for his opponent Rich Cibotti, according to election results released shortly after midnight Sunday.
The SFPOA held the runoff election after none of the candidates for president emerged with a majority of the votes in an initial election last month. At the time, Montoya had a razor-thin lead of 15 votes over Cibotti.
During the race, Montoya positioned himself as the more experienced of the two candidates. He is a police sergeant and longtime member of the SFPOA executive board.
Cibotti is a newly promoted sergeant at Tenderloin Station in addition to being an attorney who defends officers facing discipline.
“We had a good run,” Cibotti said Sunday. “A split vote shows the POA is looking for change. I hope the board continues to work with the vigor shown of late, and listens to the voice of the members.”
Montoya could not immediately be reached for comment.
Both Montoya and Cibotti have stressed the need to increase wages for officers and repair relationships between the union and City Hall.
Once powerful, the union has lost political capital in recent years by strongly opposing police reforms.
Since 2015, the union has sued over a new policy that banned officers from shooting at moving cars, provided legal defense for officers embroiled in a racist-text messaging scandal and suffered a major defeat at the polls over a ballot measure aimed at arming officers with stun guns.
Montoya came to power in the midst of the battle over Tasers in May 2018. Soon after, he pledged to bring a new style to the SFPOA.
“Our bombastic style doesn’t work anymore. It turns people off,” Montoya told the San Francisco Examiner at the time. “I’ll be more thoughtful. I have an easy disposition and active listening skills.”
Indeed, Montoya has since met with city officials personally including progressive Supervisor Hillary Ronen.
But under Montoya, the union spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads to unsuccessfully oppose then-district attorney candidate Chesa Boudin last November.
That decision culminated in Supervisor Sandra Fewer leading the crowd in a chant of “F— the POA” at an election night party for Boudin.
At a recorded debate Tuesday evening ahead of the election, both Montoya and Cibotti talked about fixing the union’s image.
“When I took over as POA president, there were many doors shut and many bridges burnt down because of our tactics from the past,” Montoya said. “We’ve had to learn that those don’t work anymore, we need to change with the times and we’ve done that in the last 20 months.”
Montoya said he has reached out to every elected official and department head in The City.
“I showed them I can be a reasonable person,” Montoya said. “I will oppose you when I have to, but my first response is not to insult you, threaten you or grab you by the throat.”
During the campaign, Montoya fended off criticism from one of his brash predecessors, former SFPOA President Gary Delagnes.
Delagnes previously told the Examiner that Montoya’s “kinder, gentler” style was not working.
The two were at odds after Montoya fired Delagnes from his role as a consultant for the SFPOA when Delagnes insulted the late Public Defender Jeff Adachi on Facebook soon after his death.
Delagnes endorsed Cibotti in the race. But his endorsement apparently dogged Cibotti during his bid for the presidency.
“It keeps coming up everywhere I’ve gone, everywhere I talk, it keeps coming up,” Cibotti said at the debate. Delagnes “is not my puppet master, I am not his puppet. Gary does whatever Gary wants to do.”
Cibotti said Delagnes gave him ideas for winning when he first entered the contest.
“We didn’t really use any of them,” Cibotti said. “Gary has a style that doesn’t really work. It’s not my style. It’s not my character.”
Cibotti also criticized the decision by Montoya last Monday to call for the federal prosecution of a man shot by police in the Mission.
Montoya made the push after Boudin withdrew the complaint charging Jamaica Hampton with assault. But it is unclear what federal crime Hampton could be charged with.
“If we don’t like Chesa and want to move it up to the state [attorney general] that’s something, but we can’t go move it up to the feds if we don’t have a federal crime,” Cibotti said.
At the debate, Montoya said that the SFPOA has many challenges ahead.
“We have contract negotiations coming up, we have heavy discipline being handed down, we have a new DA, we have a department that is not supporting its members,” Montoya said. “We need to continue to move forward.”