Former FOP president loses bid to get name on union ballot
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter February 12, 2014 10:24AM
Mike Shields, former president of the Fraternal Order of Police | Sun-Times file photo
Updated: March 14, 2014 8:32AM
Ousted Fraternal Order of Police President Mike Shields has been thwarted in his attempt to stop the union election for the same reason he cost his members their automatic right to a retroactive pay raise: He was late.
A Circuit Court judge this week rejected Shields’ attempt to stop the ballots for union president and other top offices from going out to 10,500 active police officers and 7,000 retirees.
The attempt to block the union election so Shields’ name could be placed on the ballot — even though he didn’t file petitions required to run for re-election — was part of a broader lawsuit scheduled to be heard after the ballots are counted next month.
The lawsuit argues that Shields was “unfairly suspended and removed” as president of FOP Lodge 7 without due process — in violation of the Illinois Whistleblower Act — after making the explosive complaint to the city’s inspector general that the last two police contracts dictated by an independent arbitrator were “fixed” in the city’s favor and that the recent sergeants contract arbitration may also have been rigged.
“Mr. Shields has paid a severe price for doing the right thing,” the lawsuit states.
“The day after he submitted his report and complaint to the inspector general, State Lodge President Ted J. Street, in conjunction with the Local Lodge, swiftly retaliated against him by immediately and peremptorily suspending Mr. Shields from his position of president…without a hearing or any semblance of due process. Mr. Shields was thrown out of his local lodge office. The locks were changed. He was barred from the premises and told he would be arrested if he returned. His email and phone were de-activated. His provided car was confiscated. And he is now working again as a patrolman.”
The lawsuit goes on to accuse the FOP of trying to keep its dirty laundry from being aired in public.
“Mr. Shields should have just kept the serious allegations secret from the inspector general and instead only referred them to the Local Lodge itself. That way, these explosive allegations of corrupt conduct could be handled privately, discretely, internally and without the involvement of anyone on the `outside,’” the complaint states.
“In other words, Mr. Shields should have withheld the information…in violation of his affirmative duty under [a mayoral executive order] to make that report and complaint. To say the least, such a course of conduct would have been inconsistent with the sworn duties of law enforcement officers [who are] bound to uphold the laws and the Constitution.”
The judge ruled that Shields had ample time to file the lawsuit after his Dec. 18 ouster by the State FOP and Lodge 7, that he failed to file petitions to run for re-election by a mid-December deadline and that it was too late to stop the ballots from going out. They were mailed Tuesday and will be counted on March 7.
Shields did not return repeated phone calls or text messages. He spent much of the time since his ouster in refresher courses at the police academy before being assigned to the 18th District.
Sources said Shields may now file a request for a preliminary injunction asking that the votes not be counted until the judge can rule on his candidacy, but that is considered a legal longshot.
It’s not the first time Shields has found himself in hot water for being late.
Last year, he apologized to his members for paperwork mistakes that denied rank-and-file Chicago Police officers their automatic right to a retroactive pay raise.
Shields’ oversight was in failing to notify the city between Feb. 1 and March 1, 2012, that he intended to terminate the police contract and commence negotiations on a new agreement. If that notice is not given within the one-month window, the contract automatically rolls over for another year.
The mistake gave Mayor Rahm Emanuel an opening to declare that if the FOP wanted a pay raise retroactive to June 30, 2012, they would have to give up something to get it. It would no longer be automatic.
The move was widely viewed as the mayor’s attempt to get even with Shields for working to torpedo a four-year contract with police sergeants — tied to pension and retiree health-care reform — that Emanuel had hoped to use as a road map to solve the city’s pension crisis.
Shields then missed a second deadline to file an unfair labor practices complaint against the city over the issue. Because of that mistake, the executive director of the Illinois Labor Relations Board dismissed the FOP’s complaint.
Unfair labor practices complaints must be filed within six months of the alleged unlawful conduct. Like the contract termination letter, the complaint was filed too late.
Those mistakes threaten to cost the average police officer anywhere from $1,400 if the retroactive pay raise was 2 percent to $2,100 if it’s 3 percent.
Last year, Shields angrily accused Emanuel of unfairly punishing rank-and-file police officers in an effort to silence their feisty union president.
“It’s personal against me because I’m one of two people in the city of Chicago who has spoken out against Mayor Emanuel and his administration,” Shields said then, identifying Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis as the other mayoral critic.
Shields said the same oversight was made by CTA ironworkers, but Emanuel “did not stick it to them.”
He added, “This is a very vicious and vindictive move by the mayor and it comes at a time when police officers are being faced with greater challenges on the streets of Chicago and they think the mayor is gonna screw them.”
Substantive negotiations on pay and benefits between City Hall and the FOP are now on hold until rank-and-file police officers elect Shields’ successor.
In December, State FOP President Ted Street cited the mistakes as the final straw against Shields.
“We’re all aware of his late filing for the demand to bargain and his late filing of an unfair labor practices complaint. We have in jeopardy a year’s wage increase. The mayor’s office has said that’s in jeopardy. We have allegations that reflect upon the sergeants and the last [union] administration. There’s been no factual basis forthcoming to justify his allegations,” Street said at the time.
“There comes a point where, enough’s enough. We serve the members and not ourselves. It’s a culmination of the judgment he’s exercised, his leadership style, how he has not acted in the best interest of the Chicago FOP membership. I’ve attended meetings. I’ve watched how he runs them, with no parliamentarian. He’s operating as a dictator. He’s needs to understand that it’s not his way and only his way. Everyone answers to someone.”
Neither Street nor acting FOP President Bill Dougherty could be reached for comment on the lawsuit Wednesday. Lodge 7 spokesman Pat Camden had no immediate comment.