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Leader of police union refuses to sign contract

In the strongest criticism yet of Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark, the city's police union president and his negotiating team refused yesterday to sign a one-year labor contract, saying the commissioner "is disingenuous and lacks integrity."

The signing of the contract, which was ratified by the union's membership last month, is usually a formality. But the union president, Officer Dan Fickus, said he could not sign the agreement after Clark transferred a fellow officer and negotiator to another unit. Union officials contend that the move violated a key clause in the new contract and have filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the city's labor commissioner about the department's actions, Fickus said.

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"This just goes to show a lack of good faith on their part," said Fickus, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3. "We truly have a lack of integrity with Clark. This just shows how uncooperative and disingenuous Clark's administration has become."

The refusal to sign the contract is most likely a symbolic gesture of displeasure aimed at Clark's management style and occurs a week before the commissioner's boss, Mayor Martin O'Malley, goes before voters in the Democratic primary.

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The city will submit the contract to the Board of Estimates for approval, said Matt Jablow, a city police spokesman.

The board is expected to vote for the contract, leaving the police union the choice of challenging the agreement in court.

Jablow called Fickus' comments "irresponsible" and said "they will not in any way affect the commissioner's professional relationship with any member of the union."

"Inflammatory rhetoric serves nobody's best interests, not the city's officers nor the city's residents," Jablow said.

It is not the first criticism lodged against Clark, who took over the force in February. Officers, commanders, union officials and the Vanguard Justice Society, a group that advocates for black officers, have complained about poor morale and a lack of guidance from Clark.

In this case, union officials were irked by what they say was Clark's violation of a key provision in a contract that provided no raises and increased health care premiums paid by officers.

In the newly negotiated contract, union officials won a clause that required commanders to give an officer seven days' notice in writing of an involuntary transfer from a specialized unit. The clause also allows the officer to appeal the transfer to a board of two commanders and one officer.

Last month, after the union ratified the contract, commanders transferred Officer James L. Harlee from the Organized Crime Division to a patrol district with one day's notice, FOP officials said. Though the contract had not been signed, Fickus said the department should have followed the provisions of the new deal, which he says is retroactive to July 1.

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Harlee, a member of Fickus' negotiating team, and union officials asked the department to put him back into the drug unit pending a hearing. Police officials refused.

"Basically, they felt that the department was dishonoring the contract or one of the key provisions in it right from the get go," said Herbert R. Weiner, the union's lawyer.

Police officials contend that Harlee requested the transfer.


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