Montgomery County voters on Tuesday approved the County Council's move to strip the Fraternal Order of Police of some of its bargaining rights.
Unofficial election results showed voters easily upholding the measure, which backs the Democratic County Council's 9-0 vote to strip away the Fraternal Order of Police's "effects bargaining" rights. Those rights allow the union to bargain over every management decision, including requiring officers to check their email daily and clothing allowances for undercover officers -- the only police union in the state to have such rights.
"What the voters are saying is, 'Let's make a good police department even better,' " said Patrick Lacefield, director of the Montgomery County Public Information Office. "People looked at the merits of the issue and decided that the reform that the County Council passed made sense."
The issue has created friction between the union and the county, after county officials spent taxpayer money to campaign for the referendum. Union officials said that was illegal, though Maryland State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt closed a criminal investigation on the matter last month, saying county officials acted in good faith.
Union leaders filed a lawsuit against County Executive Ike Leggett and Lacefield for illegal expenditure of taxpayer money for campaigning.
"The county executive and the County Council should be embarrassed and ashamed of using hundreds of thousands of dollars of county taxpayer funds," said Lanny Davis, an attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police. "The executive and council barely won with only a little more than half the vote."
Many voters said they were confused by the referendum's wording on the ballot.
Geraldine Jennings, 58, of Kensington, said she voted in favor of the question, though she wasn't as confident on that measure as others. She said she researched before voting, but like many others, it wasn't one of the issues she was most passionate about.
Others, like Mac McDaniel, 52, of Silver Spring, were very much in favor of Question B. As a longtime conservative, McDaniel said he favored limited union power.
"They have too much power in this county," he said.