Bullies Will Be Bullies
Decoding Jimmy Flannigan and Ken Casaday’s most recent tiff
Last Thursday's blowup between City Council Member Jimmy Flannigan and Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday over the expired police contract wasn't rich in new material. Casaday's comments, delivered during Citizen Communication, were prompted by what he described as 300 angry officers confronting him at the union hall over the impasse. Enter the APA prez into City Hall, where he said, "It's been nothing but foot dragging and wasted time by this Council."
Wouldn't you know, Flannigan responded as he has since the contract expired last December, by recalling how Council offered to extend pay and benefits as part of an interim deal while the Office of the Police Monitor conceived a new oversight system. That drew quite the ire from Casaday, who jumped back to the lectern to straight-up shout at Flannigan, saying his logic was "bullshit" and eliciting a few "Ken, please" pleas from Mayor Steve Adler. Flannigan told me that afternoon that he wanted to remind Casaday about the rejected interim deal "because I won't be bullied" by a union that has known the schedule for a while.
Flannigan isn't the only one talking about "bullying" during this saga; other public safety employees have used the word to describe the CM's style of dealing with the unions. But while the Austin Firefighters Association and Austin-Travis County EMS Association have experience getting pushed around by previous councils, the APA just came off of 20 years of largely getting their way, and being among the highest paid in the state because of the bargaining chips state law made of transparency and discipline. They're out of practice getting strong-armed.
Though Flannigan has been the most vocal of his colleagues, several CMs have grown so concerned with the fiscal implications of the working contract that they've refused to bend to the union's desired timeline. City Manager Spencer Cronk has reflected that tough attitude in negotiations (which are stalled pending the oversight report, which was reportedly completed this month), rejecting a similar demand this summer. APA negotiators told the city's Labor Relations team that the ongoing delay was "silly" and proposed eliminating oversight from the contract completely in order to pave the way for a quick deal. Labor Relations Officer Deven Desai said in no uncertain terms that he'd been given directions by Cronk and oversight had to be incorporated. One city staffer expressed doubt that the city team even called Cronk on that, suggesting that city commitment to oversight is a given.