WAMU 88.5 : Morning Edition

Montgomery Voters Will Decide On Police Bargaining Initiative

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In this July 2011 file photo, Montgomery County police officers hold up signs during the Montgomery County Council's vote on the bill that removed effects bargaining from their collective bargaining agreement. That bill will come up for countywide referendum in November. 
 
Matt Bush
  In this July 2011 file photo, Montgomery County police officers hold up signs during the Montgomery County Council's vote on the bill that removed effects bargaining from their collective bargaining agreement. That bill will come up for countywide referendum in November.   

Voters in Montgomery County will have several ballot referenda to decide on in November. The fight over one — regarding the county's police union — is beginning to heat up.

Voters will decide whether to uphold a law passed last year ending "effects bargaining" for the police union, which gives the group representing the county's officers the ability to negotiate on management decisions affecting them.

County and police leaders argue effects bargaining slows simple management directives, such as requiring officers check email every day, from being implemented. The union argues that without effects bargaining, the police chief and other top brass can order arbitrary and punitive changes.

The police union is the only union in Montgomery County that has the effects bargaining stipulation in its contract. 

The issue is now moving to a whole new level, with union lawyers asking for an investigation into whether a county-produced website urging voters to uphold the law is a "misuse" of public funds. 

County Executive Isiah Leggett denied that charge in an interview with WAMU 88.5 last week.

"This is an initiative that is now a county law. We're defending a county law, and I can use county resources to defend county law," Leggett said. "This is not something we would do lightly, but basically what we are doing is informing people why we passed the law."

The county public information office had a similar website two years ago regarding the referendum over ambulance user fees. Opponents of the fees made arguments against that site similar to the ones the police union is making now, but the site remained online.

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