The city of Shawnee has filed an unfair labor practice charge against the local police union after the union bypassed the city manager and sent a letter to city commissioners regarding “issues of concern with the leadership” of the police chief.

The city of Shawnee has filed an unfair labor practice charge against the local police union after the union bypassed the city manager and sent a letter to city commissioners regarding “issues of concern with the leadership” of the police chief.
The charge was filed with the Oklahoma Public Employees Relations Board against the International Union of Police Associations, Local No. 3 and includes four counts — bypass/direct dealing, bad faith, interference with or coercion in the selection by the city of its representatives for the purposes of collective bargaining or adjustment of grievances and bad faith attempt to lure elected officials into violating their oath of office. The charge asks that OPERB issue an order for the union to “cease and desist from continuing to engage in such practices,” which City Manager Brian McDougal said is “just putting the union on notice.”
“Ultimately, if the union doesn’t cease and desist when ordered, the city will explore its legal options,” he said.
City commissioners approved filing the charge during their last regular meeting, following an executive session regarding the Oct. 1 letter sent from the union to commissioners.
“The charge was filed as a result of actions by the local’s president, Mike Ken King, which attempted to involve city commissioners in internal personnel matters,” McDougal said in a statement released Tuesday. “Mr. King directly contacted the commissioners and submitted allegations which, in many cases, had never been brought to the attention of the city manager or the chief of police by the local.”
The letter was entitled “Issues of concern with the leadership of Chief [Russell] Frantz,” the filing shows. The letter itself has not been released by the city or the union, although excerpts from it are included in the filing.
Shawnee Police Chief Russell Frantz said there is a very specific reason why the letter has not been released to the public and why it shouldn’t have been sent to commissioners.
“First, let me say we’ve got good police officers and there have been personnel issues — some that are very old — but those issues have been addressed,” the chief said. “The union president is not privy to that information, nor is the public, because it pertains to private personnel issues and the employees have rights too.”
McDougal said Shawnee citizens adopted a charter specifying commissioners cannot involve themselves in personnel matters unless they pertain to the city treasurer, the city attorney or the city manager. The city manager is the only one who may deal with personnel matters involving employees other than those three, such as the police chief, McDougal said.
King, who has testified in prior grievance arbitrations and who has served as the union president for about 15 years, “is well aware of the scope of the authority of the commissioners and the city manager,” McDougal said.
“There are procedures in place for the union to grieve and they need to follow those procedures,” he said. “The grievances weren’t brought to me in any but one of the cases.”
King said there were issues brought to both Frantz and McDougal prior to the letter sent from the union to commissioners. However, he agreed there are some issues addressed in the letter that hadn’t been brought before the police chief or city manager.
“When you’ve tried to bring the issues up before and nothing happens, if you take it to the same people again, obviously they won’t respond,” King said. “Then, you take it to the next level.”
King said he believed that next level was city commissioners, although the filing states the commissioners are not to be included in the procedures.
“Pursuant to the grievance procedure, the city commission is not involved at any step of the grievance adjustment process,” the filing shows. Instead, if a resolution cannot be reached by the police chief or city manager, grievance arbitration becomes the next step in the process.
King said he disagrees his actions went against procedural guidelines.
“We don’t agree that we don’t have the right to contact the commissioners,” he said, adding he believes the issues are “serious” and concern the “health and safety of the officers and the public.”
Still, the filing suggests in the third count the Oct. 1 letter, as well as a subsequent letter sent Oct. 13, “were an attempt to undermine the credibility of the chief of police and to pressure the city manager to separate the employment of the chief by raising issues relating to the management of the police department by the chief of police.”
King said the union “never stated in any correspondence” a desire to have the chief removed from his position.
“We were very specific with our concerns,” he said. “If they really believe the information in the letter is that inflammatory and serious, why are they concerned about procedural issues. Why are they more concerned with the messenger and under-concerned with the issues.”
Sources from both sides estimated it could take between six months and a couple of years before a final decision is made regarding the charge filed with OPERB.
Watch for updates.