June 13, 2020, marked my first anniversary as president of PPOA. Anyone familiar with the term “dog years”? You just do not know what you are getting into until you sit in the seat.
Even with the information I had as a Board member, the complexities and demands were completely underestimated. They say 90% of an iceberg is underwater. Here are a few things that lie beneath the PPOA president’s “tip of the iceberg”: day-to-day operations of a $4M corporation; members’ needs; writing articles regarding subjects from A to Z; coalition meetings; conference calls; charitable events; members’ needs; writing/editing the Week in Review; meeting with elected officials; unit visits; reviewing policy changes; PPOA Board meetings; members’ needs; strategic planning for PPOA’s future; writing/editing email communications; elections; lobbying and advocacy trips to Sacramento and other neighboring locales such as Riverside, San Bernardino and not forgetting Indio; and, oh yeah, did I mention members’ needs?
As I started my tenure as the first new president in more than 10 years, I had hoped to have a little time to acclimate, observe and learn. Nope! Within weeks of my swearing-in, the California Association of Professional Employees (CAPE), a member of the County Coalition of Unions (CCU), negotiated to set new requirements for individuals wishing to continue to participate in its medical plan. Seeing as I had never heard of the CAPE medical plan, I figured it really would not impact the PPOA membership. Oops! Turns out that approximately 780 PPOA members utilize the CAPE medical plan and would be cut off if PPOA did not adhere to the new requirements of joining the CCU … by July 31, 2019.
Off we ran. To join the CCU, PPOA would immediately need to become an affiliate of the AFL-CIO. Time for a meeting with Ron Hernandez, president of ALADS, which is an affiliate of the AFL-CIO through MEBA and a member of the CCU. Ron and I were able to present to our respective boards of directors a plan and agreement for PPOA to join the CCU and to work collaboratively in the future. Approval of both boards allowed for PPOA to become a MEBA, AFL-CIO affiliate on July 25, 2019, and many happy PPOA members were able to continue utilizing the CAPE medical plan without disruption.
Speaking of members’ needs, at this time, PPOA began progressive conversations with the Sheriff’s Department about the “transparent” process of promoting under Sheriff Villanueva’s administration. The Dual-Track promotional process in Custody seemed to be the place to start, as the minimum requirements for promotion to all ranks are based on the foundation of sergeants. The abridged version of this experience is: informational meetings were initiated, conversations had (even though some were not listening), promotional exams scheduled, lawsuits filed, member meetings held, a survey completed, meetings with the Department reinitiated and a settlement agreement executed. Whew! That only took 10 months.
Another responsibility I needed to familiarize myself with was our membership at the Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner (DME). Not wanting to be left behind in their need for PPOA assistance, some DME members decided to compare pay stubs and identified that some were being paid more than others. After a little poking and prodding of their Department’s administrative staff, it has been discovered that some members have been overpaid and others underpaid, oh … for years … and in one case by as much as $29,000. This eight-month process has been frustrating at the least and painful to some, and has brought happiness to others. Thank you to the dedication of PPOA Board Member Joyce Kato, Executive Director Wayne Quint Jr., PPOA Labor Representatives Venise Wallace and Teresa O’Neill, and Intake Representative Kevin Thompson for their efforts in addressing these concerns.
Enter the COVID-19 pandemic. If you don’t already know what PPOA has been doing since the beginning of this historic event, here is the short list of efforts put forth on behalf of our members:
- Ensuring members’ health and safety
- Monitoring the direction provided to members by the Sheriff’s Department (LASD)/District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation (DABOI)/Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office (DME)
- Continuing to assist members with health concerns, grievances, administrative investigations and payroll issues
- Advocating with other labor organizations to establish benefits and protections during this crisis
- Holding the County agencies accountable for clear directions, communications and actions related to our members during the crisis
For brevity, for further COVID-19-related information I must refer you to my article in the June 2020 Star & Shield magazine.
If you are not aware, PPOA also has members over at the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation. Lieutenant Rogelio Maldonado, longtime treasurer of PPOA, promoted to captain within months of my becoming president, with his seat at the Board table being taken by Lieutenant Bob Maus. Bob, now the sitting treasurer of PPOA, has utilized his influence with the command staff at the Bureau to continue our favorable relationship. District Attorney Jackie Lacey, whom we have endorsed and from whom we will not waver in our support of her candidacy, along with her Bureau Chief John Neu and Assistant Chief Kris Carter, should all be commended for their leadership and collaborative nature with PPOA, which minimizes demand for our resources.
For those of you living in a cave with no news, social media access or internet services, here is a flash: The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the economy of the nation, the state and local communities. While all County departments are facing budget cuts going into Fiscal Year 2020–21, due to the cooperative relationship between the Sheriff and Board of Supervisors (sarcasm applied), the Sheriff’s Department will be facing some of its steepest cuts that I can remember in my 32 years of experience. MegaFlex employees have already been forced to give up their matching County 4% contributions to their 457 and 401(k) plans for the next year. Already. the County has requested the CCU and SEIU to reopen their respective fringe contracts to infuse $93M into the budget shortfall, with negotiations pending. The Sheriff’s Department is formulating various plans for additional CARPing, the implementation of TORA and even layoffs. Additionally, all interested parties are currently awaiting news from the CEO’s Office regarding final budget recommendations, as well as word from the federal government on any COVID-19 reimbursement to the state, counties and cities. Only time will tell how drastic the cuts will be and any consequences attached.
And lest we not forget, there is the nationwide response to the tragic and unnecessary death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Not a single person I have spoken to either professionally or personally condones the actions of the police officers seen in the video. As tragic as this incident is, the utilization of the event to vilify police unions and as a political platform by opportunistic activists and politicians, as well as criminals in causing violent civil unrest, is creating further distrust of law enforcement nationwide. While some call for defunding and abolishment of police departments, PPOA has asked our elected officials not to pander to the inflammatory stereotypes and comments being presented in the various forms of media, but instead to lead constructive, collaborative efforts in discussion of reforms that will improve our society for all.
Through all of this, I would not change a thing. It has been an honor, test, learning experience and privilege to do my best for the PPOA family during this last year. I look forward to the upcoming challenges, always with my eye on improving this organization for the future of our members. And did I mention the satisfaction of assisting members with their needs?