We'd expect better - The Explorer: Editorials

We'd expect better

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Posted: Tuesday, September 15, 2009 11:00 pm | Updated: 1:24 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

Police officers are held in high regard by this newspaper, this community and this nation. Those who walk the beat face danger every day. Along with the work of correctional officers, police work is some of the most difficult labor in our communities and our nation. We respect the men and women in blue.

That said, some of the actions taken by a fraternal organization and a union representing Oro Valley police officers raise eyebrows, at the very least.

It appears the Fraternal Order of Police and the Oro Valley Police Officers Association are unhappy with Town Manager David Andrews. They have initiated a no-confidence vote on the town manager, who goes before the town council for his annual review on Wednesday night. Some timing, all of this.

According to an e-mail, police organizations presume Andrews is going to be removed from his position. "Due to the egregious amount of money a severance package would cost the town, we believe it would be prudent of the council to discuss this matter with the OVPOA and the FOP prior to his contract renewal," an e-mail suggests.

Excuse us? The town council should go to the union and fraternal organization to discuss the town manager's continued service, and apparently the size of a severance package, before renewing his contract? No. That's not appropriate. Egregious? Town managers across America have big severance packages, because they can be removed in a heartbeat for no good reason. That's how it is.

In an Aug. 20 letter to the town council, FOP officials argue Andrews is jeopardizing their ability to protect and serve the people. As evidence, they cite comments and transcripts from an Aug. 13 meeting they had with Andrews … and recorded, without him knowing.

Dozens of times in the newspaper business, reporters have secretly taped meetings with sources, and with people. When it is revealed, the practice is assailed. It's unfair play.

The same is true of anyone else, we would suggest. If you're going to record a meeting, or a conversation, it is fair and right that all in the room know that's happening. To do otherwise is bush league.

Oro Valley's in a financial bind. Cuts have been made. Department managers, including Chief of Police Danny Sharp, have put positions on the table. There's little choice – when an organization's overwhelmingly largest cost is people, and you don't have as much money as you used to have, you have to look at cutting jobs. Period.

Unfortunately, police jobs have to be among those scrutinized. They were. And, in the end, some reductions were made, through attrition.

Funny thing, though. By and large, the police department has been protected. Positions have subsequently been filled, and that's fine. Other departments can't say the same.

Councilman K.C. Carter has put some of the blame for union and fraternal order behavior on the shoulders of Chief Danny Sharp. Is that criticism deserved? We think not. Arizona law makes it clear that a chief shall not interfere, nor intervene, in union activities. Sharp must be hands-off in that arena. It certainly must make him squeamish to watch, yes, but can he do anything about it? Likely not.

Andrews has a very difficult job as town manager, and you can bet it's been particularly tough with diminishing resources. Any review of his performance, and any decision to retain his services, should be made independently by the town council and mayor.

In May 2004, a long time ago we'll admit, an attorney for the union AZCOPS bragged about cleaning house in the Oro Valley Town Council, vowing to make the town manager and city attorney "the next victims of the AZCOPS' 'broom'." Well, then, that's a chest-puffed pronouncement if ever there was one.

We're grateful to Oro Valley Police Department officers for the excellent work they do in serving and protecting the community. As for the fraternal organization, and the union, we'd expect better.

— DPP

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