Two unions that represent Oro Valley police officers have begun a campaign against Town Manager David Andrews.
The unions make numerous claims against Andrews, accusing him of endangering public safety, not following town council direction, violating open meeting laws and retaliating against police.
"Our collective responsibility to serve this community is being jeopardized by David Andrew's (sic) actions related to not only the police department, but we believe the entire Town," Kevin Mattocks wrote the town council in a letter dated Aug. 20. Mattocks is an officer and president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 53.
The letter, and a second written by Oro Valley Police Officers Association president Chris Palic, followed an Aug. 13 staff meeting that Andrews called with police to discuss the recent employee buyout plan and the overall town budget situation.
The meeting was intended to follow a similar format as previous sessions with other departments. What Andrews walked into, however, turned into an impromptu police union negotiation with a contingent from both police groups and numerous officers.
That act has drawn the ire of some on the town council.
"The main objective of that was to get rid of the town manager," Councilman K.C. Carter said.
Carter also took issue with police recording the meeting without telling Andrews.
"I believe that this was far beyond the intent and purpose of our manager in working with this group, and that their method of doing that deed was a disgrace to the town officials, and shows the police including the chief of police, have the intent of removing our manager from his position." Carter said.
Police Chief Danny Sharp said that he was not involved in union activities, and stressed that state law precludes him from reprimanding or punishing officers for statements or action made on behalf of the unions.
"I'm trying to make sure that we provide good public safety," Sharp said Tuesday.
Police union leaders say they aren't after Andrews' job, they just want some longstanding issues resolved. That meeting, and a second on Aug. 24, did little to accomplish that.
"The result of that meeting left us with the same concerns," Mattocks said. "Our biggest issue is to make sure these things get addressed."
An Aug. 31 e-mail Palic sent and signed by both police organizations, suggests the unions assume Andrews would be fired when his contract comes up for council review on Sept. 16.
"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," according to the e-mail.
The e-mail also says the unions have initiated a no-confidence vote against Andrews.
Law-enforcement staffing levels arise as the issue of greatest concern for the unions.
Last November, the town council instituted a hiring freeze in an effort to save money. When budget discussions began earlier this year, Andrews and department bosses wrote a reduction-in-force recommendation for council consideration, which included six police officer positions among the more than 30 jobs recommended for layoff or not to fill if already vacant.
Union officials, however, suggested that Andrews forced department bosses to eliminate positions.
"Every single one of them put bodies down," Mattocks said. "You don't have that occur without direction from the town manager."
Andrews said during the budget process that eliminating jobs to save money would almost certainly be necessary because salaries and benefits make up the vast majority of town expenses. Andrews declined to be interviewed for this story.
The council twice rejected the reduction-in-force plans. When the town later offered a severance package for town workers, one police officer was among the 20 takers. Since then, the police department has wanted the town manager to fill that position.
A transcript union leaders had made from audio recordings of the Aug. 13 meeting with Andrews shows that filling the vacant position was a principal concern.
Over and over at the Aug. 13 meeting, officers questioned the town manager about filling the vacancy. In response to a question from Mattocks, Andrews stated that he did not intend to fill the position.
"Well, it's my decision to keep that position open," Andrews said, adding "that's based on the overall financial condition of the town."
Union leaders took issue with law enforcement being tied to budget concerns.
"His concern was about saving dollars, we're saying it's not about saving dollars when it's public safety at stake," Palic said.
For the unions, filling the open office position quickly was imperative because another police academy isn't scheduled until 2011.
Through continued talks with Chief Sharp, the manager agreed to move the reserve officer to full-time status. The decision was also predicated on the fact that another officer plans to retire early next year, making the hiring a cost-neutral proposition.
Police also questioned Andrews about an open dispatcher position they wanted filled.
According to town documents, Andrews had already intended to fill that position. An Aug. 7 memo Andrews sent to the town council discusses the savings reaped from the buyout plan, and identifies six positions deemed critical to fill, including planning and zoning director and the police dispatcher.
The union's issues with Andrews went beyond staffing levels, as seen through the letter sent to council members.
Union officials also suggest Andrews may have violated open-meeting rules, and said he bases his actions on private consultation with council members and not the direction given publicly at council meetings.
"From reviewing public meetings and a variety of documentation it appears that individual relationships with council members have a greater affect on the direction given by the Town Manager than the direction of council from public meetings or that the Town Manager simply acts without regard to majority council direction from the public meetings," Mattocks wrote in an Aug. 20 letter to council members.
The unions seized upon a statement Andrews made during the Aug. 13 meeting, which police recorded without Andrews' knowledge, alleging it constitutes either insubordination or a violation of open meetings law.
"I'll be honest with you," Andrews said at the Aug. 13 meeting, "I mean all seven of them are my bosses, you know, but (what) they tell me privately and what they say in public are sometimes totally opposite of one another."
The groups also claim Andrews retaliated against the department, in part, by allowing a graduate student intern working in his office to conduct an analysis of staffing levels in police dispatch.
"His justification for staffing dispatch positions based on information gathered and reported by a summer intern was seen as indefensible," Mattocks wrote in his Aug. 20 letter.
Andrews told police during the Aug. 13 meeting that the intern made no recommendations for staffing of the position.
"All he did was a quantitative analysis about how many hours and what you have to do to staff it 24-seven," Andrews said.
The union actions regarding Andrews have caused at least one council member to question the leadership in the police department.
"I think there seems to be some organizational issues over there that need to be dealt with," Councilman Bill Garner said. Garner called the letters and transcript a "hit piece."
Palic said the union has tried to make peace with Andrews.
"We've extended the olive branch several times," Palic said. "We're not getting a lot of feedback."
In May 2004, OVPOA parent organization The Arizona Conference of Police and Sheriffs posted the following statement on its Web site under the heading "Clean Sweep in Oro Valley":
"Realizing that we could be litigating against the Town for years, AZCOPS and the Oro Valley POA decided to replace the city council in the next election. This is a fundamental AZCOPS principle, we first try to work with you, if you refuse, we will take you out. Now that we have cleaned house in the Oro Valley town council, the next victims of the AZCOPS 'broom' will be the Town Manager, and City Attorney," wrote Martin Bihn, AZCOPS lawyer.
Andrews was hired as town manager in 2006.
"We've got to get to the bottom of why we keep having these old wounds reopened," Garner said.