This week the President of Pueblo Sheriff’s Employees’ Lodge 7 was fired by the Pueblo County Sheriff. This comes on the heels of selective discipline and subtle harassment of other elected officers of that Lodge. The outrageous treatment and the abhorrent actions taken by the Sheriff and certain members of his staff against Lodge President Tommie McLallen is a clear case of retaliation for his involvement in the FOP. This contemptible treatment of the FOP Lodge 7 President is clearly an act designed to destroy the Lodge, its elected leadership, and with that the representative voice of the members in their fight to improve working conditions. These contemptuous actions are among the most blatant clear cut form of retaliation against a Lodge and its leadership that the FOP has witnessed in many years.
These events did not happen overnight. They are a culmination of events that have built to this point over a well documented 20 month struggle to obtain collective bargaining, recognition, and gain those members the right to have a legitimate voice in the workplace. This has been a struggle that the Sheriff, and certain members of his staff, have fought every step of the way. Throughout this effort the Lodge 7 leadership treated the Sheriff with the respect due his position. They kept him informed of the steps being taken in this process, and tried on several occasions to meet with him and involve him in the process. They were met with rejection at every turn.
Instead last September the Sheriff wrote a letter to the FOP making demands and outlining conditions that were illegal and unconstitutional causing the State FOP to respond with intent to sue if he persisted. That letter set the foundation for what has now become a causative action. Since September the FOP worked to avoid taking the originating issue into court. Over several months the State FOP Labor Council’s attorney wrote letters to both the Sheriff and the Pueblo County Attorney seeking an explanation and eventually offering resolution and compromise. Those letters and the offer were met with silence. The Sheriff chose not to work with the FOP to resolve this. Instead he set a direction that has brought us to this point which has culminated in retaliation. That is both sad and unfortunate. It did not have to be this way, but that was out of our hands and his choice.
For obvious legal reasons we cannot discuss the details of the internal investigation against Sgt McLallen. Nor can we offer the details of our investigation into this matter. What we can tell you is both sides of this action know the truth. Both sides know exactly what happened. Yet in the face of the truth the Sheriff and members of his staff made the decision to pursue an obviously contrived case against the Lodge President. Before they even began their official investigation they were on local television condemning this employee as being unprofessional. It is our opinion that their media event in regards to this, before the facts were known and before the investigation was complete, brought embarrassment and discredit to the Department by declaring Sgt McLallen guilty of unprofessional behavior when he was not. It was obvious they already had made the decision they were going to rid themselves of the FOP and its Lodge President and this was their opening shot.
They have painted a false picture and will continue to play that out as this being an action against a bad employee who is an embarrassment to the Department. Anyone who knows Sgt McLallen knows this is false. Certainly anyone who is close to the actual facts of this case knows this to be a fabrication of events designed with one purpose in mind. In fact Sgt McLallen’s past disciplinary history is minimal for his years of service and contains no major actions. His work history and performance ratings have consistently been outstanding. He is an admired and respected sergeant in his department. He is looked on by his peers as being a leader. So in fact what we really have is a picture of a bad administration that has set out to destroy the Lodge President and with it the Lodge. The extremes that they have gone to fabricating charges based on false testimony, fantasy, distortion of fact, and selective use of history speaks volumes to the shameful manner in which this was done, and shocks the conscience of any reasonable person reviewing the way in which this was prosecuted.
The administration has acted boldly and without regard to the consequences because they apparently believe the Colorado FOP will do nothing but make noise over this action. Well they have misread the resolve of the FOP and the resolve of the Lodge President in this matter. The manner in which they have plowed ahead with this can only be explained by the fact that they don’t believe the FOP has the time, resources, or will, to see this through. They apparently don’t believe the Lodge President has the patience or wherewithal to see this to its logical conclusion. They are wrong! They have also misread the strength and unity of the Lodge membership on this matter. They believe in the face of this the members will cower and retreat. Again they are wrong. Although intimidated from showing open support in a hostile work environment that signals retaliation for doing so, that does not mean the support and resolve is not there. The manner, in which the membership has expressed its disgust for what the administration has done, and the membership’s support for Sgt McLallen through venues not monitored or accessible to the Sheriff, has been heard loud and clear by the State FOP and the local Lodge 7 leadership.
The Colorado Fraternal Order of Police takes pride in the fact that it strives to establish positive relationships with the Chief Law Enforcement Officers in all jurisdictions where we represent their employees. We understand that those are beneficial and necessary relationships. We understand that is a proper and preferred relationship, and so do those Chiefs and Sheriffs. Normally we are successful in establishing those relationships. Rarely does it go in a different direction. Unfortunately Pueblo County Sheriff has been the rare exception. As hard as we tried to foster a positive relationship he chose to go in a different direction.
Suffice it to say that any time anyone attacks this organization, its various lodges, or members, and in doing so violates the law, contractual obligations, protected speech or constitutional rights that act will not go unchallenged. The Colorado FOP will not stand idly by when retaliation for promoting the rights of law enforcement officers is imposed against any Lodge or member of a Lodge for doing so. We are the voice of law enforcement across this state and we will not be silenced or damaged simply because it does not fit someone’s agenda. Nor will we stand for such treatment of the elected leaders of our Lodges. We are a representative labor organization with responsibilities to our members. As such we will take appropriate and reasonable action to defend our organization and our membership. That action is not limited solely to the courts.
This undeniable act of union busting through retaliation, promulgated by the Sheriff and certain members of his closest circle, will eventually find its way into Federal or State court. It is in that venue that the truth will come out, and those who gave false testimony or manufactured an incident that did not happen will have to repeat that under oath in the face of the truth. There are too many loose ends that cannot be gathered in, and too many individuals that can sink their ship who will testify. How those who fabricated this event and how anyone who offered false testimony in this case will respond under oath may well seal their fate. Do they want to face that? Only time will tell.
The Lodge 7 membership’s continued unity and support in the face of such adversity is admirable to say the least. They have withstood all attempts to discourage the direction they set for their organization and its leadership. In return those who seek to deny them their goal have responded by firing the Lodge President in retaliation for carrying forth the mandate of the membership. They believe that in doing so they will drive the membership into fear and put them back in their place. Throughout all this the membership numbers continue to grow. Sgt McLallen knew the risks involved. But he is a man of strong morale character and a belief in his profession and in fighting for the basic rights of those who work in it. He did not shy away from what is right. As a result he has been attacked, but he has not been beaten.
Management that rules by fear can only preserve itself through ironhanded measures that continue a downward spiral. Management that must demand the respect of its workforce through fear does so because it cannot earn it. In the face of all that, the membership has held the line. Morale in the Pueblo Sheriff’s Office is at rock bottom. It is the lowest it has been in many years. Yet the employees come to work everyday and have not lost sight of the people they really serve; the citizens of Pueblo County. Why? Because they are dedicated professionals and they understand elected officials come and go, but their job is to serve and protect. Politicians can and will be replaced; but what keeps the ship afloat are the true professionals.
The membership and its elected leadership knew this road would not be easy. What has happened to the Lodge 7 President is a testimony to that, but in the long run they will persevere, and someday in the not too distant future they will gain that which they so desperately seek. The citizens of Pueblo County have a long and admirable labor history and they traditionally do not look kindly on acts that would deny employees a voice in their workplace. Something that has been ignored by the Sheriff and those involved in this action. At some point the community will have the opportunity to weigh in on what has been done there.