MPA attorney threatens legal action against City of Memphis - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

MPA attorney threatens legal action against City of Memphis

Posted: Updated:
On Thursday, the Memphis Police Department told MPA president Mike Williams, vice president Essica Littlejohn, and secretary/treasurer Jeff Herbison to return to their regular tours of duty. On Thursday, the Memphis Police Department told MPA president Mike Williams, vice president Essica Littlejohn, and secretary/treasurer Jeff Herbison to return to their regular tours of duty.
MPD Director Toney Armstrong (left), MPA President Mike Williams (right) MPD Director Toney Armstrong (left), MPA President Mike Williams (right)

(WMC-TV) - An attorney for the Memphis Police Association threatened to take legal action against the City of Memphis after elected MPA officials were asked to go back to police posts and leave their full-time work representing the association.

On Thursday, the Memphis Police Services Division reassigned MPA president Mike Williams, vice president Essica Littlejohn, and secretary/treasurer Jeff Herbison.

According to MPD, this means that there is still a union, but the leaders had to return to their precinct. They can only conduct union business during off time or approved leave.

"[Friday] they are still the union leadership, and within a prescribed set of rules they can still carry out union business," said Memphis CAO George Little.

Three elected union officers of the Labor Management Committee have been assigned to the association hall since the first Memorandum of Understanding in 1973, according to the firm representing the MPA.

In a letter to a City of Memphis attorney, the firm said the MPD's action was taken in retaliation for union activities, which, according to the letter, is in violation the of memorandum and understanding.

Similar action was attempted by the police administration in 2008 in the case MPA v. The City of Memphis; an injunction was granted. According to the letter from the MPA's attorney, the action of removing the full-time MPA leaders will result in the same legal action as the aforementioned case.

MPA's letter called Armstrong's move a heavy-handed attempt to chill the first amendment rights of MPA's leadership. Little says he, along with the mayor, stand behind the director in his decision. Little says Armstrong was within his authority.

All of this follows Armstrong's announcement of his intention to file a formal statement of verbal misconduct charge against Williams.

The bitter battle began when Williams interviewed with Action News 5's Kontji Anthony Wednesday regarding a new report that says crime in Memphis dropped 5.7 percent in 2013.

"There were 19 shootings in less than 72 hours in this city," Williams said. "You can make numbers say anything you want them to say to make yourself look good."

When Kontji asked Director Armstrong for reaction, the next few hours were eventful, to say the least.

Director Armstrong asked Anthony to speak with her one-on-one about the interview. He then told her he was calling Williams to his 12th floor office to have a face-to-face round table discussion about Williams' statements.

Anthony was there with other union reps and police administrators, but the camera was not allowed inside.

Armstrong and Williams went back and forth about the crime stats.

Armstrong says he does not cook books; crime is down and he stands by his numbers. He then grilled Williams, asking if he had his own data to prove otherwise.

Williams said he did not, but said there is community perception that crime is up and he had a First Amendment right to say so.

"You cannot make reckless statements and hide behind First Amendment rights," said Armstrong.

Armstrong says officers can be charged for reckless statements, which he said was the case in this matter. Read more about the call for Williams' verbal misconduct charge here.

Ray Maples was MPA president from January 1983 until 1994. He helped draft the agreement between the city and the police union before he retired in 1994.

"When you sit down with the city and you negotiate a contract, both parties have to be honorable and live up to the contract that they agreed to," he said. "If you're in opposition to what the ordinance says then you're violating the ordinance and you can't hold office if you're found guilty."

Read the full letter from the MPA's attorney here.

Get the latest from Action News 5 anytime: iPhone | iPad | Android | SMS Alerts | Email Alerts | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Copyright 2014 WMC-TV. All rights reserved. 
Powered by WorldNow