Records: Union head filed grievance against police chief

Advocate File photos -- Chief Dewayne White, left, Mayor Kip Holden, right.
Advocate File photos -- Chief Dewayne White, left, Mayor Kip Holden, right.

Local police union President Chris Stewart lodged a collective bargaining grievance against fired Police Chief Dewayne White after he was transferred late last year, requesting his complaint “proceed directly” to Mayor-President Kip Holden, according to internal police records.

Stewart objected to White transferring him from the professional standards section to community policing Dec. 10, complaining the transfer was “disguised discipline” and in violation of the union’s collective bargaining agreement, records show.

White’s attorney, Jill Craft, has described the transfer as a shift from “a position with essentially nonexistent duties to a position that required work.” Craft has said White’s efforts to transfer Stewart prompted a “downhill spiral” that ended in White being forbidden from making any personnel decisions.

Stewart wrote in his grievance that White never asked him whether he wanted to be transferred.

“He told me that I needed to be a ‘team player’ and ‘step up to the plate,’ ” Stewart wrote.

The grievance, included in a stack of exhibits submitted during White’s pre-termination hearing last week, offers new details about the chief’s strained relationship with Stewart.

White has said his attempts to transfer Stewart prompted Holden to further “micromanage” his department.

Holden, who has maintained that no politics entered his decision to fire White, alleged in a 14-point letter that the chief abused his discretion by “inappropriately transferring persons from sensitive positions” and violating the collective bargaining agreement between the city and the police union. White also was accused of insubordination, shredding documents, showing favoritism to a hire and failing to discipline an officer who allegedly lied under oath.

Before he was fired last week, White had expressed concern that no one in the Police Department “could verify that Mr. Stewart was doing any work.”

“In fact, the problem had become so significant that his supervising officers were reluctant to sign his time sheets because they did not want to get in trouble for certifying Mr. Stewart was working when they didn’t know whether he was or not,” White said.

Stewart, who did not respond to requests for comment Monday, has denied White’s claims, saying his record shows he has been an “exemplary officer.”

Stewart said in his grievance that White called him Dec. 10 and told him the promotion of Cpl. Darryl Honoré was creating an opening in the community services division, and that he would be transferred the following day.

The transfer violated the collective bargaining agreement, Stewart claimed, because all job openings must be posted and employees must be given eight days’ notice before a transfer.

That notice is designed in part to allow officers the chance to adjust their extra duty schedules before starting a new assignment.

“The Chief’s lack of concern for the collective bargaining agreement is discouraging,” Stewart said in the grievance, adding that the chief had provided no explanation for the transfer. “He shows no remorse and evidently no intention to change his practices of ignoring basic work rules and laws governing his authority.”

Stewart said in his grievance that Holden’s chief administrative officer, William Daniel, told him that White transferred him because of a complaint by former Lt. Richard Sobers relating to Stewart’s support of Holden and the union head’s actions following the recent mayoral election.

Daniel disputed Stewart’s account Monday and said he had asked Stewart to retract that statement from his grievance.

“I told Chris the Chief showed me a complaint he received from Richard Sobers,” Daniel wrote in an email response to questions from The Advocate. “Chris unfortunately connected the two items.”

Daniel added that the Mayor’s Office did not intervene on Stewart’s behalf.

Stewart objected to White presiding over his grievance because of “disparaging comments” the chief had made about the union.

“It is quite clear he has no regard in following the collective bargaining agreement, state law or departmental policy,” Stewart said in his grievance. “His treatment of me is a direct example of his management style and lack of leadership.”

Internal emails and personnel files show White ultimately agreed to rescind Stewart’s transfer in exchange for Stewart withdrawing his grievance.

But the chief on Jan. 15 moved Stewart again, assigning him to the pistol range, where he remains.