This story was updated at 2:55 p.m. Oct. 25, 2012. An explanation follows.
The lawyer representing the Montgomery County police union is calling for County Executive Isiah Leggett to remove his chief spokesman over his actions surrounding the county’s campaign on Question B, a referendum on a law that changes the way the union can bargain the effects of management decisions.
Lanny Davis, who is representing Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35, asked Leggett (D) to ask for Patrick Lacefield’s resignation. Lacefield is the county director of the Office of Public Information.
The FOP has complained to the State Prosecutor’s Office and the American Civil Liberties Union about the county’s campaign to support Question B. State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt said Monday he was launching an investigation. Also Monday, the ACLU faulted the county’s refusal to allow FOP ads on county-owned buses.
In defending the county’s actions, Lacefield said the county was following a similar plan from 2010, when a proposed fee for ambulance services was being debated. The county, with an OK from the Attorney General’s Office, advocated for the ambulance fee, spending about $12,000 in county funds.
Lacefield said former FOP president Mark Zifcak supported the county’s actions in 2010.
While Zifcak supported the fee, he never supported spending county money on a referendum campaign, Davis said. That Zifcak supported spending public money, Davis said, is a lie. That the county truly advocated support of the question is a lie, he said.
Lacefield said Zifcak and the FOP not only supported the ambulance fee in 2010 and the county’s position on the fee, but that banners advocating the fee hung on police buildings.
“The stuff that went up on our buildings said ‘vote’ for the fee,” Lacefield said.
Those banners, while on county buildings, were paid for by a private committee formed in favor of the fee, he said.
Zifcak said Wednesday he does not know who paid for the banners and that to his knowledge the county never advocated “for” the fee, but rather provided information only.
During a Wednesday press conference, Davis and Zifcak said the ambulance campaign and Question B are vastly different. The information provided by the county on the ambulance fee was balanced, whereas on Question B, the county has been partisan, Davis said.
Initially the information on the fee was more informative than persuasive, but by the end, its materials were clear and asked for votes “for” the ambulance fee, Lacefield said.
Gino Renne, president of United Food and Commercial Workers/Municipal and County Government Employees Organization Local 1994 said during the 2010 election the county did not use its resources to advocate for the fee, but that a separate campaign fund was established to which all participating organizations contributed.
Lacefield said the county did spend about $12,000 its own money advocating for the fee.
And while a private committee called Neighbors for Question B was established for the effects bargaining question, Lacefield said the county has paid for the posters, ads, and other materials.
When asked his reaction to Davis’ call for his resignation, Lacefield said, “Just doing my job” — a job he called an “honor.”
Question B asks voters if they want a bill, passed in 2011 by the Montgomery County Council, to become law and eliminate the current way police bargain the effects of management decisions.
FOP is encouraging voters to vote “against” question B and keep things the way they have been for the last 30 years, saying that a vote “against” question B is a vote for police and their families. Voting “for” question B would allow the bill to become law and eliminate the FOP’s effects bargaining process.
Editor’s note: This version expands the description of Lacefield statements that Davis disagrees with.