Six Akron police captains have asked the Ohio Supreme Court to remove newly appointed Assistant Chief Charles Brown.
The captains say the mayor’s hiring of Brown is illegal and in violation of the city’s charter and labor agreement.
The action was filed in Columbus by attorneys for the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 on behalf of Capts. Paul Calvaruso, Elizabeth Daugherty, Michael Prebonick, Martha Sullivan, Sylvia Trundle and Daniel Zampelli.
They contend Brown’s hiring circumvents the police union’s collective bargaining agreement, and they’re asking the court to oust the new assistant chief.
Mayor Don Plusquellic, who tabbed Brown from the police department and placed him second in command to Chief James Nice, said in a statement Thursday that he has the power to make such a move.
“Their argument is preposterous and contrary to every system of government at every level in the United States,” Mayor Don Plusquellic said in a statement released Thursday.
“As mayor and safety director, I am in charge of the police division. All members of the police division ultimately report to me. I have the right to designate an assistant to facilitate this duty.”
Brown, a 27-year veteran, resigned as a lieutenant and FOP member on Jan. 13 to accept the newly created job of assistant to the mayor, assistant chief of police.
In the position, Brown was placed above the six captains in the chain of command, one notch behind Nice.
The lawsuit asks the court to find Brown’s position unlawful, remove him from acting as a deputy chief and allow the six captains to fulfill those duties.
FOP President Paul Hlynsky was quick to reply to Plusquellic, saying the months of tranquility between City Hall and the police union — the two sides recently agreed on a labor deal with little of the past bickering — are over.
“The mayor always thinks of ways to ruin a relationship,” Hlynsky said.
“Now, it’s war and we’re not going to tolerate it. The mayor expects everyone to follow the charter, everyone to follow Civil Service, but when it comes to him, he gives himself a pass.”
The police force, Hlynsky said, has been in turmoil since Brown’s hiring, and the captains feel betrayed. He said the six captains waited nearly four years to be promoted to the vacant deputy chiefs positions. Instead, he said, Plusquellic “did an end around” and hired a lieutenant.
“The department’s in chaos,” Hlynsky said. “No one knows what [Brown] does. And frankly, the mayor has no idea how to run a police department. He does what he does out of bitterness because we always win.”
Hlynsky said the mayor is trampling the city charter and the FOP’s labor agreement by creating the new position and putting Brown second in command. The union contends that Brown, since his resignation in January, is essentially a civilian fulfilling a classified position.
Brown has retained reserve officer status to maintain his certification. Plusquellic said Brown remains a sworn officer and is not, as the union contends, a civilian.
Nonetheless, the FOP contends Brown’s hiring is a violation one way or another.
“If he’s a civilian, then he is performing collective bargaining work. If he’s a sworn officer, then they have violated the promotion process,” Hlynsky said.