Union accuses Callahan of meddling


Annapolis mayoral candidate Dennis Callahan, who received the endorsement of every city employee union yesterday except the police, has been meddling in the city's contract negotiations with its 90 officers, a police union official complained.

Mr. Callahan, a former mayor who is running as an independent, is pressing members of the police union not to settle the 3-month-old contract dispute until after the Nov. 2 election, said C. James Lowthers, secretary-treasurer of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 400, which represents the police.

Mr. Callahan apparently believes that the impasse will hurt incumbent Mayor Alfred Hopkins at the polls, said Mr. Lowthers. He has recommended that the membership accept a new contract proposal that includes a 2 percent raise and a disability pension similar to one offered to county police.

Mr. Lowthers presented the city's offer to two of the three police shifts Tuesday night at the Ramada Inn off Jennifer Road. Shop stewards were to review the proposal with the third shift yesterday before the final vote is announced. Voting was reported to be light.

Union members are frustrated at being offered only a 2 percent raise while their health coverage has been reduced. They also are upset that Mr. Hopkins' administration has tin

kered with the current three-shift work schedule and the disability pension plan, Mr. Lowthers said.

To make matters worse, he complained, officers have been pitted against one another.

He singled out Mr. Callahan, saying, "Some of the officers who have been promised things by the mayoral candidates are thinking about their own self-interests rather than the whole group's."

Mr. Callahan denied yesterday that he had interfered, though he said he did offer his opinion of the proposal when several officers asked.

"The only thing the administration has done is give them back what it took away three months ago," Mr. Callahan said, referring to the disability pension included in the latest package.

A member of the police union who asked not to be identified said he opposed the contract proposal not because Mr. Callahan asked him to, but because "the union betrayed the officers" by conceding too much to the administration.

The disagreement among the rank and file over their contract kept the police union from joining yesterday's endorsement of Mr. Callahan by the Annapolis Public Employees Council, which includes the city's fire, blue-collar and clerical unions. Those employees have been working without a contract since July 1.

Lt. Bo Morgan of the Annapolis Professional Firefighters Union said city employees support Mr. Callahan because he treated them well during his previous term, from 1985 to 1989.

"He's the type of person, when he tells you something, you can go to the bank with it," Lieutenant Morgan said.

The police union participated in the endorsement process last month but withdrew at the last minute.

Mr. Callahan said the workers' endorsement "is one I'm really proud of. Right before the election, a few [elected officials] will announce that they support this Democrat or that Republican. But for the city employees to step out and endorse someone other than the incumbent takes a lot of courage."

"I believe they endorsed him last time too," said Mayor Hopkins, who defeated Mr. Callahan in the 1989 Democratic primary. "I said then and I'll say now, 'It's a free country.' "

GOP candidate Laurence Vincent could not be reached for comment.

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