Thursday, April 29, 2010

Police Union Accuses Gazette of Irresponsible Journalism

Following is a letter sent to the Gazette by Walt Bader, Executive Director of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35, concerning a recent article published by the newspaper on the budget and a reader's response to it. When the Gazette addresses this, we will link to their comment.

The Gazette
9030 Comprint Court Gaithersburg, MD 20877

Since the Gazette has, on April 28, published a reader's letter about a story it ran on March 17, I think it appropriate that I respond. [Letter by George Stierle, "Police union has no reason to complain," April 28.]

The Story: The March story claimed that "[s]ome Montgomery County union leaders are lashing out at County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) because his $4.3 billion budget proposal for fiscal 2011 includes layoffs, furloughs and wage freezes." In the following paragraph, it was reported that I "say[] Leggett illegally denied police officers the pay raises they were to receive in their negotiated contracts."

"'He's required to put in what's in the contract,' Bader said of Leggett. 'He's required to do that. If he doesn't then he is in violation of the law.'"

The Facts: I never spoke with any Gazette reporter about Leggett‟s actual budget. All of my comments were made on March 12 – three days before the budget was released and more than three days before I first saw the budget. The story certainly misleads a reasonable reader to believe that my comments were made after release of the recommended budget.

I did not lash out at anyone or anything. While the Gazette does not specifically say that I did, Mr. Stierle drew that conclusion and premised most of his letter on the apparent mistaken belief that I had responded to Leggett‟s budget.

The conversation with the reporter was about the law and an arbitration award. There was never a discussion about what Leggett did or did not do.

In a March 12 follow-up e-mail to your reporter, transmitting a copy of the actual arbitration award, I wrote: "Since I haven't seen the county executive's recommended budget, my comments are conditional, hence my use of 'if,' 'could,' 'potentially,' etc"

I further wrote, "By law, the county is required to include the arbitrator's award in his recommended budget. By law, the county executive may not directly or indirectly oppose appropriation of funds in a collective bargaining agreement."

Moreover, I sent to your reporter a chart showing that about $700,000 was spent by the county on tuition that was not authorized under our contract.

Significantly, both the arbitration award and my e-mail to your reporter point out that the FOP proposed giving up a scheduled 4.25% pay increase for the second consecutive year. Had that been reported, perhaps Mr. Stierle would have known that we made significant concessions.

This is not responsible journalism.

Walter E. Bader
Fraternal Order of Police
Montgomery County Lodge 35