MARYLAND

Police union fights to inform Montgomery County voter on "Question B"

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A referendum fight over police union bargaining in Montgomery County is now the subject of an investigation by the state prosecutor.

In two weeks, voters will consider "Question B." If voters approve "Question B" they will end the local police union's ability to negotiate almost every management decision made by the police chief.

"They are putting the people of Mogo against labor, against working families and that offends me," said Marc Zifcak with the Fraternal Order of Police Montgomery County Lodge 35.

County Executive Ike Leggett said the change in law would improve public safety.

Leggett added, "Because the police chief believes that it thwarts efficiency. He thinks that it undermines his management ability."

But labor leaders oppose "Question B," adding the current law gives officers a voice.

"...voting against 'Question B' preserves a good workplace for police officers. It gives the community a good police force," Zifcak explained.

Supporters are promoting the measure by advertising on the county's Ride-On buses. But the Fraternal Order of Police says they were told they could not do the same.

"It's very frustrating. How do we inform the voter about what the other side of the issue is if the government is shutting us out?," Zifcak asked.

That changed this week when the ACLU got involved.

"They may have been told that, but I corrected that and said that they could do it. So we have no problem with that," Leggett said.

Meanwhile, in a letter to the county executive and council sent Monday, State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt says he's investigating "the expenditure of county funds and the use of county employees on the job during working hours to campaign in support of 'Question B'."

Leggett added, "The prosecutor is simply publicity hunting in my opinion. In fact, if anybody needs to be investigated, he needs to be investigated for failure to go back and look at the law himself."

Legally, Leggett argues, the county can use its resources to advocate for county laws, claiming he did the same two years ago in a fight over proposed ambulance fees.

The county is not backing down.

But in his letter, the state prosecutor warns the use of public funds to campaign for a measure may violate election law and result in a $25,000 fine and up to a year in prison.

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