The staffer, Gabriel Acevero, 29, doubles as a member of Maryland’s House of Delegates, having represented District 39 in Montgomery County since January 2019. Mr. Acevero, who is black, has been outspoken against police abuses and is sponsoring a bill to provide greater transparency on misconduct cases: A key provision gives complainants access to previous documented allegations against accused officers. Mr. Acevero calls his bill Anton’s Law, after a 19-year-old African American from Caroline County, Anton Black, who died in policy custody in September 2018 under still-unclear circumstances.
In December, Local 1994 president Gino Renne, whose union also includes Montgomery County deputy sheriffs, summoned Mr. Acevero to meet with him, as well as deputies and an official of the county’s Fraternal Order of Police unit. The topic, according to an email from Mr. Renne: Mr. Acevero’s “support of legislation that interferes with our members’ employment rights” and “is in direct conflict with [the union’s] representational obligations and responsibilities.”
Mr. Acevero reiterated his position and said he considered the meeting inappropriate — whereupon Mr. Renne fired him. “I can’t have someone on my payroll who is slandering the very people who pay his salary,” Mr. Renne told us in an interview. Mr. Renne offered Mr. Acevero $35,000 severance if he would promise in writing not to discuss his firing publicly. Mr. Acevero refused, and instead filed a formal complaint against Mr. Renne’s union at the National Labor Relations Board last month.
At a minimum, this episode illustrates the conflicts of interest that can arise when one of Maryland’s part-time legislators is subject to an employer reprisal for disagreements related to public policy. To be sure, the risk may be especially acute when the employer is someone such as Mr. Renne, who has earned a reputation for political hardball during his nearly quarter-century tenure as chief of the 8,000-member Local 1994.
It’s nothing new that Mr. Renne would lean on a lawmaker. What is refreshing is that one of them stood up for what he considered overriding principle. More elected officials should follow Mr. Acevero’s example. And the Montgomery County Council has an opportunity to do just that by supporting the Police Accountability Act, which members Hans Riemer and Craig Rice plan to introduce on Tuesday. The bill would insulate change in policies on the use of force and other matters from collective bargaining, and give civilians more influence in the process of adjudicating alleged misconduct. As an assertion of power by actual elected representatives, as opposed to political insiders, it would bolster democracy, too.