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Union votes no confidence in chief
By William Henderson/ [email protected]
Thursday, November 18, 2004

During a union meeting last Thursday, the 44-member Danvers Police Benevolent Association unanimously agreed that they have "no confidence" in Police Chief Stuart Chase, union President Dana "Mike" Hagan said Tuesday morning.

The vote took place two days after the state's Labor Relations Commission ruled that the police department was not doing anything "unlawful" in the way they issue tickets.

Town Manager Wayne Marquis said Tuesday night that he had not yet seen the no confidence vote, but he had full and complete confidence in Chase.

"Stu Chase is highly respected, with a 35-year career, who has earned a well-deserved reputation," Marquis said. "He has my full support and admiration, and I look forward to working with him for the duration of his time here."

Former Police Chief Christ Bouras, who led the department for 20 years until 1999, said Tuesday afternoon that such votes of no confidence are little more than a union's way of taking a "cheap shot at the chief."

"They're trying to belittle him into embarrassment in the eyes of the public," Bouras said. "The perception is that the average guy on the street will read that and believe the chief is not doing a very good job."

Bouras spoke from experience, he said. During his tenure, the union voted no confidence in him three times, including once in 1985 after he reprimanded a number officers for failing to write traffic tickets during stalled contract negotiations.

One of the officers Bouras reprimanded included Hagan.

"They were reprimanded for doing what they have been doing here for the last few months," Bouras said.

Marquis also said votes of no confidence are not uncommon, that similar votes have been taken in Danvers and in other Massachusetts communities. He would not speculate on whether recent union proceedings fueled last week's vote.

In a complaint filed by the town last month, and signed by both Police Chief Stuart Chase and Police Captain Neil Ouellette, union members were alleged to have avoided writing traffic fines, effectively "striking," during ongoing but stalled contract negotiations. The town believes this has cost around $173,000 in lost traffic ticket revenue.

Town Manager Wayne Marquis believes this the result of the unsuccessful contract negotiations which began in May 2003, prior to the June 30, 2003 expiration of the three-year contract, and the talks continue.

Though union officers initially asked for a 3.75 percent base wage increase for each of the years included in the contract, the town, predicting the onset of a fiscally difficult year, countered with a zero percent base wage increase for fiscal 2004. It said it would negotiate for increases in limited items, including the private and town detail rate and for longevity, according to the petition the town filed with the state Labor Relations Commission.

With no written town policy stipulating the number of tickets officers are required to write as part of their job, the LRC ruled in favor of the police union, which had denied the town's allegations.

Union President Hagan did not return phone calls or make more information about the no confidence vote available after an interview Tuesday night.

Chase also declined to comment on the union's no confidence vote because of the ongoing negotiations.

Bouras said Chase has always had an "excellent reputation."

"He's always been a very capable guy," Bouras said.

Bouras believes no confidence votes, while meant to "embarrass" the chief, can sometimes do the exact opposite.

"Once the facts are known and are made public, it shows that a chief has done what he should have done, what he could have done," Bouras said. "It's not easy being the chief sometimes."

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Re: Danvers Police union votes "No confidence" in

Protest is latest turn in Danvers police contract dispute
By Michael Puffer
Staff writer

DANVERS - Gary Leston and Peter Cullen stood in yesterday's early morning chill in Danvers Square holding signs reading, "Contract Deserved! Danvers loves our police!"

Both are Danvers natives and both have friends on the police force, but neither is a police officer. Cullen is a regional sales manager for a heating equipment company. Leston owns Hawk Oil Co. But for two hours they stood in front of the towering Christmas tree in Danvers Square in a sympathy protest. They'd had 1,000 bumper-sticker magnets printed to hand out to passers-by.

"These guys put themselves between us and harm's way every day," Cullen said. "They should get a contract."

Yesterday's protest was the latest sign of the increasingly contentious dispute between the town and its 44-member police union, which has been without a contract since June 2003.

On Monday, the state Labor Relations Commission began mediation sessions requested by the union.

The union leadership was cloistered in one room in Town Hall and town management in another, and the mediator went back and forth between them. Town Manager Wayne Marquis called it "a good first meeting."

"I thought the initial meeting was productive, that's the best I can characterize it," Marquis said.

But the union's leadership was not so optimistic.

"Am I hopeful? No," union president Dana "Mike" Hagan said as he left Town Hall.

Mediation will continue this week. If mediation fails, the state Labor Relations Commission could begin hearings that would lead to a statement as to what it believes to be a fair contract, Marquis said. That recommendation would then go before Town Meeting, which would decide whether to fund the contract or reject it.

The impasse between the union and the town grew out of a disagreement over a raise for the fiscal year that ended July 1. The union wanted 3 percent, but the town insisted there was no money available because of state aid cuts and other fiscal problems.

Police union members' stance hardened, however, after they learned the town had negotiated a nearly 3 percent increase for the town's electric linemen. Police were particularly incensed by the town negotiators' explanation that the linemen were highly trained and technical employees in high demand.

The year has been marked by police picketing and a dispute over whether police were trying to pressure the town by failing to write traffic tickets - costing the town nearly $1,750,000 in lost revenue from fines. The town filed a labor protest, but the Labor Relations Commission sided with the union.

The police union may not have had anything to do with Cullen and Leston's protest, but Hagan did stop down to thank the two men yesterday morning.

"These guys have nothing to do with us - well, we might have arrested them a few times anyway," Hagan joked. Then in a more serious tone, he said, "We really do appreciate what they are doing for us out here."
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