Chief’s Questions And Statements During Roll Call Amount To Illegal “Direct Dealing”

This article appears in the May 2021 issue of our monthly newsletter, Public Safety Labor News.

Ibrahim Michael Baycora is Paterson, New Jersey Police Department’s Chief of Police. The City has bargaining agreements with the Paterson PBA Local 1 (PBA) and Paterson PBA Local 1 Superior Officers Association (SOA). Baycora attended the October 27, 2020 joint negotiations session with the PBA and SOA as a member of the City’s negotiating team.

Baycora was fairly outspoken about his concerns with the labor agreements. He accused the Unions’ attorney of misconduct, stated that the flexible work hours of the PBA and SOA presidents placed them in the position of being in “dereliction of duty,” and expressed his desire to eliminate “past practice” from the labor agreements because he could not unilaterally change the work hours of any division of the Department. He also complained the labor agreements were too liberal in providing for unlimited sick time and that sick leave should be granted at the discretion of the Chief of Police.

The PBA and the SOA had a joint membership meeting on November 9, 2020. Following the meeting, Baycora believed that his statements at the negotiation session were being misrepresented. Baycora went to a roll call the morning after the joint meeting, asked all the superior officers to leave, and spoke to the ten rank-and-file police officers remaining in attendance. Baycora told the officers that, despite what they may have heard, their benefits and schedules were safe and that he was not touching them. Baycora stated that officers were all “eating well” under him; that there were more “PBA jobs,” including more off-duty jobs involving security at construction sites, because he was allowing those programs to continue and grow.

Baycora also commented about disciplinary matters, stating that there were some officers who should be fired, forced to leave, or subjected to heavy discipline, but he had not pushed for such actions to be taken. He particularly mentioned by name a female police officer who “should have paid a heavy price,” but due to his own good graces, her job was safe.

The next roll call attended by Baycora occurred the following day. Baycora asked the rank-and-file and superior officers in attendance if they had also attended the joint PBA and SOA meeting held on November 9. Baycora stated that the PBA was lying about him, and that he was not seeking to change the work shifts of officers. Baycora then complained of “past practices,” and stated to the officers in attendance that past practices were improperly hindering his ability to effectively manage the Department, to the detriment of the City and the officers under his command.

When Baycora attended roll call for a third consecutive day to speak to officers about bargaining issues, the PBA and the SBA filed a prohibited practice charge with New Jersey’s Public Employment Relations Commission and sought interim relief equivalent to an injunction prohibiting Baycora from “direct dealing.” A hearing officer granted the requested relief, by stating, “The Commission has held that direct dealing by employers with employees that are represented by a majority representative can constitute a violation of the bargaining law.

“The Act permits public employers to express opinions about labor relations provided such statements are not coercive. An employer has the right to advise employees of the status of contract negotiations as long as the communication does not contain a threat of reprisal or promise of benefits. The total context in which the written/verbal statements were made must be taken into consideration.

“The undisputed facts in this matter show that Baycora was a member of the City’s negotiating team at the October 27th meeting and made statements at that meeting, he held three meetings at roll calls with police officers (on November 10, 11 and 12, 2020); the meetings were not voluntary for the police officers and PBA/SOA Union officials were not in attendance; he required the superior officers to leave the November 10th meeting while he spoke to the rank-and-file police officers; at the November 11th meeting, Baycora asked the rank-and-file and superior police officers if they had attended the PBA/SOA joint meeting; additionally Baycora does not dispute that he made statements, including but not limited to, that ‘everyone is eating well’ and there are more PBA off-duty jobs and overtime as set forth above in the certifications.

“I find that Baycora’s undisputed statements at the non-voluntary meetings had the effect of making a promise of benefits from him and the City to the police officers and this undermined the authority of the PBA and SOA as the majority representatives. Baycora’s conduct had a potential chilling effect on employee rights guaranteed by the Act during negotiations, undermined labor stability and, as a result, this constitutes irreparable harm.”

City of Paterson, 47 NJPER ¶ 70 (NJ PERC 2021).

Also in the May 2021 issue:

  • City Can Be Liable For ADA Violations Of Third-Party Evaluators
  • Walking To Car After Testifying Not ‘Act Of Duty’ For Pension Purposes
  • Videos Do Not Prove That Officer Had Recovered
  • Constitution Protects Against ‘Compelled Speech’
  • Employer Can Be Liable For Discriminatory Bad Job Reference
  • Lawsuit Filed Challenging Mandatory Vaccination Of Corrections Employees
  • Mandatory Retirement Not ‘Involuntary’
  • Deputy Fired After Supporting Husband’s Losing Campaign For Sheriff
  • Suspensions, Not Demotion, Appropriate Punishment For Harassing Conduct
  • In Some States, PTSD Not Compensable Injury Without Physical Injury
  • Q & A
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