Ex-Police Chief Sues South Florida Union

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Ex-Hollywood, Fla. Police Chief Rick Stone, who was forced out of his job after a bitter union campaign against him, filed a lawsuit on Apr. 13 against the Broward County Police Benevolent Ass'n and two union bosses. The suit accuses PBA president and ex-Sgt. Dick Brickman and Sgt. Jeff Marano of racketeering, defamation, infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy and interference with Stone's ability to do his job.   Stone seeks unspecified damages for loss of past and future earnings and benefits, emotional distress and damage to his reputation.

The lawsuit was filed as Stone publishes his novel Behind the Gold Star with an online vanity publishing press. Union leaders laughed off the lawsuit on Friday and suggested it was part of a publicity stunt by Stone. A promotional leaflet distributed around City Hall said Stone's book details seven days in the life of a police chief "struggling against bureaucratic stupidity, personal conflicts and his department's collection of screw-ups, lunatics and peculiar happenings." Brickman said that any actions the union and its officers took were in the role of labor advocates for their membership. "Every time I called him an incompetent chief, I was talking for the rank and file I represent and what they said in our survey," Brickman said.

Stone was brought in to try to reform the troubled and scandal-plagued department in 1996. Two years later, on Oct. 21, 1998, Stone was forced to resign or be fired. At the time, City Manager Sam Finz said Stone did nothing wrong but it was impossible for Stone to do his job given the entire force's lack of support for him. City commissioners, tired of the ongoing crisis in the department, and Finz came under pressure to resolve it. As part of his severance deal, Stone agreed not to sue the city.

"The problem with the PBA is they don't concentrate on labor issues," Stone's attorney  Scott Rothstein said. "If management doesn't bow to their whims -- as Rick Stone wouldn't -- they retaliate." Rothstein, who has been representing police officers for 10 years, said this is the first lawsuit he's filed on behalf of a police manager. He said he was appalled by the evidence Stone gave him about what happened in Hollywood. Rothstein said he also polled his police clients before agreeing to represent Stone, and they overwhelmingly supported the chief. More than the money, Stone wants an agreement from the union leadership that it will not use the same tactics on anyone else, Rothstein said.

Shortly after Stone took over, the lawsuit says Brickman, who retired from his Hollywood police job last year, and Marano visited him and told him it was "payback time" for members of the department's command staff who had offended them. When Stone refused, he said they turned their attention to harassing and intimidating him.

Stone's lawsuit states that the union and its top officers controlled lucrative off-duty security work that was worth about $2 million a year to Hollywood officers. The union used its power to assign the off-duty details to intimidate and influence its members, Stone alleged.  Union officers also demanded personnel transfers, demotions of command staff and a reorganization of the department, Stone said.

Shortly before Stone's wife of 28 years, Rose Mary, died after a long battle with brain cancer, someone called Stone's former colleagues in Wichita and told them she had died. Stone and his teenage daughter received wreaths and sympathy cards, while Mrs. Stone was still alive, from friends who believed the hoax. Rothstein said on Friday that he now knows who was responsible for making the phone call to Wichita. He refused to name the individual.

Stone also accuses the union of: Telling its members not to perform certain public-safety duties. Hiring an airplane to fly over Hollywood and a Miami Dolphins game with a banner that called for Stone to be fired. Wearing T-shirts with a caricature of Stone that commemorated an incident where union members said he cursed at them during roll call. Printing false and defamatory fliers about Stone and distributing them around the community.  [Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale) 4/15/00]

 

QUOTABLE QUOTE
NOVAK: Now, James Hoffa, who's the president of the Teamsters Union -- and he is your brother, isn't he...
TRUMKA: He is indeed.
NOVAK: ... in the labor movement?
TRUMKA: He is indeed.
NOVAK: Even though you people tried to screw him, but that's another story.
We won't get into that tonight.

- CNN's Robert Novak interviewing AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer Richard L. Trumka (who has pled the Fifth Amendment to avoid questions on the Teamsters money-laundering scandal) on "Crossfire," Apr. 12, 2000.