Mayor Andre Sayegh’s administration allegedly retaliated against police union presidents Alex Cruz and Mason Maher for engaging in union activities, according to a complaint filed with the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission.
Cruz, president of the rank and file police union, and Maher, president of the superior officers’ union, alleged Baycora ordered an Internal Affairs investigation targeting them. He ordered them to report to work and engage in their union activities outside of it.
Cruz and Maher argue in their complaint the police contract allows them to hold positions in the department, but engage in full-time union activities. Cruz is assigned to a non-duty position in the Warrant Division while Maher is assigned to a non-duty post in the Records Division. Both argue that has been the case for decades.
“I want everyone to report to work and do their fair share of work,” said Baycora last week. “Everyone has to come to work and do their fair share of their job. They’re getting paid via taxpayer dollars, and they’re expected to work.”
Maher last week said the Public Employment Relations Commission granted the unions temporary restraint against Baycora’s directives. A lawsuit filed by the unions on Tuesday alleges Baycora never recognized the order issued by the commission. The lawsuit states the chief “claimed ignorance” of the order.
Hostilities between the unions and the chief began when the new chief changed the tour hours for the emergency response team and the patrol division. The unions filed grievances that forced Baycora to rescind his directives. The unions filed six grievances against Baycora since he was appointed by Sayegh in February.
The lawsuit also alleges Baycora accused Cruz and Maher of alleged “criminality.” He allegedly sent the allegations to the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office. The lawsuit does not mention the specific allegations.
Baycora ordered an investigation into Cruz’s work hours during the time the union chief ran for mayor.
The lawsuit, which uses the labor complaint as the basis, lists a litany of grievances against the Sayegh administration. Sayegh and his administration are accused of violating the police contracts by switching to the state health plan. The unions also take aim at Sayegh for trying to release 20 years’ worth of police disciplinary records.
Public safety director Jerry Speziale, who has been trying to mediate between the hostile parties, declined to comment last week.
The lawsuit states Baycora and Sayegh are attempting to weaken the unions and humiliate Cruz and Maher. Both sides are currently negotiating a new labor contract.
“It undermines our ability to negotiate in good faith with the city,” said Maher last week.
Sayegh did not respond to a call for comment.
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