Posted by Jeremy Shulkin
In a document posted on the New England Police Benevolent Association Local 911‘s website (dated back to December 24, 2010 but updated this morning), Stephen Gunnerson, president of the local that represents nearly 330 patrolman, announced that the NEPBA’s executive board “voted unanimously…to file an Unfair Labor Practice on behalf of Local 911.”
In a letter to union members Gunnerson writes that after NEPBA executive director Jerry Flynn wrote a scathing press release regarding the City’s appeal of a ruling overturning the termination of officer David Rawlston and a “confrontational Chief’s meeting” the next day, he received notice that his position as full-time union head would be scaled back and he would need written permission from a deputy chief to leave 9-11 Lincoln Sq. for any business pertaining to NEPBA.
Do you believe for one second, as the City has suggested, that it is merely a coincidence that this change occurred two days after the press release? Is it a coincidence that this change occurred only one day after a meeting in which the Chief, upset by the press release, told me that “all bets are off?” Of course it isn’t a coincidence – it is retribution for the union exercising its right to speak out in support of its members. As of my 350th day as union President, my current full time assignment is the Cell Room.
Gunnerson continues, rehashing each benchmark in the three year old Rawlston investigation and explaining he is the first president in 18 years to not have a full-time union assignment.
None of us want an adversarial relationship with the current administration; however, it is the administration’s actions, not ours, that have precipitated this situation. Consider that up until the union spoke out in favor of Rawlston, the administration expressed no concern with my conducting Union business full time, as the previous four Union Presidents had done for the past 18 years. This includes two former Union Presidents during the Chief’s tenure, and my first 349 days as Local President.
It was only following my Public Records request, my statements to the media regarding known issues with our radio system, and finally Executive Director Flynn’s press release that this administration suddenly reassigned me.
This isn’t a new allegation; a sampling of this fight appeared in a December 19, 2010 Telegram article:
Adding to the friction was another allegation last week by the union that Chief Gemme retaliated against Officer Stephen Gunnerson, the president of New England Police Benevolent Association Local 911, because Officer Gunnerson supports Officer Rawlston. At issue is the union’s contention that the city is making Officer Gunnerson the first patrolmen’s union president in 18 years to have to report for duty and ask permission any time he wants to perform union duties instead of police work.
In that same article, WPD Chief Gary Gemme denied that was the case, instead suggesting that Gunnerson wasn’t showing up for police work:
“I had a situation where the union president wasn’t coming to work, wasn’t reporting for his assignment, no one would know where he is,” said Chief Gemme, who served briefly as the patrolmen’s union president.
The chief made the order even stronger after “it kind of became a joke. He’d call in, he still never came in.”
In that Telegram article, and again in his letter to union members, Gunnerson pushes back at the accusations, writing that he complied with all that was asked of him: arriving on time to police HQ before going to the union office on Park Ave., and that there’s documentation showing it. “Anyone who says differently is simply wrong,” he charges.
In any case, this means it was a bad time to print this passage in this morning’s Telegram:
But the chief plays down the level of dissension in the ranks by noting that, outside of the Rawlston case, most of the disciplinary actions — from reprimands to terminations — sustained over his tenure have been done with the cooperation of the police union.
“We have not had one unfair labor practice complaint, and very few grievances from the union,” he noted.