The Montgomery County police union on Monday hired Lanny Davis, a former special counsel to President Clinton, and Michael Steele, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, as consultants for a referendum campaign on collective bargaining rights.
In an interview, Davis said the union hired him and Steele, his business partner, late Monday. Davis said his firm has been paid $25,000 for the first month.
“I’ve been hired to help the Fraternal Order of Police on legal analysis working with their attorneys on the accuracy or inaccuracy of the claims made by critics of the bargaining issue,” Davis said.
The move will give the union some muscle as it works to strike down a local law that limits its collective bargaining rights. The union, Fraternal Order of Police Local 35, is able to bargain on traditional rights such as wages and vacation time. But for decades, the police have been able to bargain on other aspects of a police officer’s job — even something as seemingly small as checking e-mail. Last year, the Montgomery County Council unanimously voted to repeal those additional rights.
County officials said that the additional rights hamstrung police managers. Union officials have said they protect police officers from arbitrary and harmful decisions by police management.
Last November, the union secured nearly 35,000 signatures to put the law on the ballot for a referendum. Although the county challenged the petition in court, the state’s Court of Appeals ruled in the union’s favor last month.
Davis said his firm has been paid $25,000 for the first month. In addition to Steele and Davis, the union has also employed another consultant, Peter Fenn of Fenn Communications. The FOP did not return a request for comment Tuesday.
Davis was hired just before a major local Democratic meeting that is expected to take place Wednesday. At the meeting, Democratic precinct officials in the county will vote whether to support or oppose the law.
County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and County Council President Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda) has sent a letter urging precinct officials to support the law. In a press conference last week, Berliner said that it will be more difficult for the county to make its case. Davis said he is expected to rebut the letter with his own, which he says he will send Tuesday.
County spokesman Patrick Lacefield said the county is “moving forward” with the campaign. He said a public education campaign is on the county Web site, but declined to provide further specifics on the county’s campaign strategy. He added that the county has not hired any outside consultants.