Two months after the union representing Haines police officers filed a grievance with the borough, the matter has not been fully resolved.
The grievance accused Haines Assemblyman Tom Morphet of violating the borough employee contract. Morphet publicized civilian accounts of negative interactions with Haines police officers. Morphet said the accounts raised questions about the “intimidating tactics” officers used when dealing with the public.
The complaints included the names of two officers. Morphet later said he should have redacted the officers’ names before releasing the accusations.
Police Chief Heath Scott called Morphet’s actions “disturbingly inappropriate.” Then, the union got involved.
The Local 71 Union said Morphet improperly disclosed complaints that were in “various stages of investigation.” The union said this violated borough code and the employee contract, which protects the confidentiality of personnel records.
Union representative Tom Brice asked for an apology from Morphet, a formal reprimand, or censure, of his actions from the full assembly and possible additional training.
“The questions that we have that are remaining are how the assembly’s being trained to deal with personnel issues, what’s the proper protocol for the assembly when it comes to dealing with personnel issues?” Brice said.
Morphet has apologized to the officers whose names were included in the complaints.
“I don’t regret releasing the information,” Morphet said. “I apologized and I did regret naming the two officers. The behavior was the issue.”
But Morphet has not been censured by the assembly.
As specified in the employee contract, the union first met with the borough manager to try to resolve the grievance. In the time since the grievance was filed, there have been two managers, Brad Ryan and now Debra Schnabel.
Schnabel says she had not yet met with the union about the grievance.
“There’s one outstanding issue remaining that the union has asked for on this,” Brice said. “And that is whether or not the assembly will censure Assemblyman Morphet for the action taken.”
That’s why they’re moving to the next step in the resolution process: a meeting with the assembly personnel committee and Mayor Jan Hill.
“This meeting at the personnel committee is to discuss what had happened, why it happened and how we’re going to resolve this controversy,” Brice said.
Morphet says if his fellow assembly members want to formally express their disapproval, that’s their prerogative.
“I’m not gonna feel bad either way,” Morphet said. “I feel like I’ve come clean with the public, I’ve come clean with the police department. I apologized for releasing those two names. I didn’t apologize for letting the public know what was going on with the police department because I think the public needs to have that information. So for me this is a trivial matter. If I’m censured or not doesn’t really matter to me.”
The meeting is scheduled for Thursday at 1:30 p.m. It will be closed to the public. The personnel committee is made up of assembly members Stephanie Scott and Ron Jackson and borough manager Schnabel.
If these groups fail to come to a resolution, the grievance may move to arbitration. That would involve bringing in a third party who specializes in resolving disputes between unions and employers.