Lee Tyree Letter to PBA
Greetings NWFPBA family,As many of you have been made aware there will be a change to the way the PBA will be handling the representation of our members who are facing discipline at the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office. I received notice of this change after some discussion with our General Council Stephanie Webster and our Executive Director Matt Puckett. The catalyst was the recent handing of a 112 violation for our Chapter Senior Vice President Tama Barber. This violation was a difference of legal right to communicate with council during an I.A. as it is viewed by the Sheriff’s Administration and the PBA. Both the PBA and the Sheriff’s Office have written to the Attorney General’s Office and both are awaiting a ruling.
The initial letter from the PBA about this change was addressed directly to me from Matt Puckett. I did not release this letter to membership, the media, the public or even my board as a whole (although many of the upper board members knew what was going on). I’ve been asked why and I have told some directly when asked, I also explained the situation at the last General Membership meeting, but until now I’ve not released a statement as to why.
There are several reasons why I didn’t put this letter out, which of course was all for not, since it eventually made its way to the public. First, I didn’t feel like a letter which was derogatory to the administration is one that I should be putting out to the public at this time and place. I’m of the opinion that this agency, just like many agencies has its share of dirty laundry, but it is the place that I have worked for the past 22 years, the same place that both my mom and dad worked and retired from and I hate seeing our department disparaged. In recent months we as an agency have had our image tarnished in the public. You only have to think of the Manning civil case which have been making the rounds on media, the case involving Zaid or the 2 cases involving former crime scene techs from our department. I didn’t want the letter to add to our ever evolving negative image.
There is also a bit of embarrassment that came with the letter. I’ve been representing members for over 15 years and feel that the past 4 years as President, our Chapter has done a tremendous job not only in making our members better protected, but also to improving our contract and our salaries. Although Matt Puckett says in the letter that this is no reflection on the service that the Chapter Board and I provide the members, it still stings that an announcement of this type was needed at all. While I support the letter and know that it demonstrates the amount of displeasure the PBA feels over the situation involving VP Barber, I also have an opinion having worked as a rep for employees that this type of approach could create a bigger issue for some members who have discipline issues of a minor nature, where the bringing in of an attorney could make the situation more pronounced than it might need to be.
Finally, while discipline is a big part of what I deal with as President, I also need a working relationship with the administration in order to work through all types of Union situations. I need to have an open line of communication, in order to assist our members with situations that pop up all the time. This time of the year, I get many questions about promotional exam eligibility, questions about the Chapters position on interpretation of situations that are not clear in policy and even questions about simple stuff such as detachments for training and such. For all of these reasons, I felt that the letter from Tallahassee to me would be best served as a simple notification from myself to the Administration to notify them of why all of the sudden lawyers would be showing up for all discipline matters. I let all of my reps know that lawyers would handling the discipline issues until told otherwise and to have all requests go through me so I could coordinate with Tallahassee.
Do I agree with the PBA on their assessment of the 112 violation, yes, I have always said and will continue to say, what use is a rep or attorney in an I.A. if you cannot consult with them during the interview. My hope is that we will soon have an opinion which will put our agency I. A.’s back to normal. Should the AG’s office come back against us, then we will adjust and continue on assisting our members as best we can.
If you have any questions please feel free to contact me and ask away!
Northwest Chapter President