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Published: Tuesday, 1/12/2010

Labor-practice pact reached in Erie Township


ERIE — Erie Township officials have reached an agreement with Brian Menge to settle the unfair labor practice complaint the police officer filed against the township over his dismissal.

The settlement rescinded action taken last June by the township to terminate Mr. Menge from the department and instead place him on “permanent” layoff status, he told The Blade.

The vote to approve the settlement was taken after a closed session of the township board at the Dec. 8 meeting. The settlement was approved 4-1, with trustee David Cousino voting against it.

Mr. Menge was fired in June after the personnel committee accused him of conduct unbecoming of an officer and failing to show up in court.

The committee, which consists of Mr. Cousino and Trustee Mike Grodi, fired Mr. Menge, who was a member of the department's union and represented by the Michigan Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council.

Bill Hines, who retired as police chief in July, was not told by the personnel committee that the charges were levied against the officer.

The township, in a 4-1 vote, denied the appeal in July made by Mr. Menge for reinstatement to the department. Superintendent Bill Frey was the only board member to vote in favor of the appeal.

Mr. Menge said the conduct unbecoming of an officer charge stems from a board meeting in May when he addressed board action involving Chief Hines.

Off duty at the time of his comments, Mr. Menge said he spoke out against some board members who wanted to suspend the chief for failing to meet a deadline imposed by the personnel committee to sign an employee contract.

“I did nothing wrong. I spoke in defense of Chief Hines. I was in civilian clothing,” Mr. Menge said.

After the township board rejected his appeal, Mr. Menge filed an unfair labor practice with the state Labor Relations Board to challenge the dismissal.

Mr. Menge said that while the settlement doesn't get his job back it does avoid court litigation that could last up to two years.

“I am glad to put this behind me. It clears my personnel file and shows that I wasn't fired,” he said, adding that the settlement also calls for the township to pay health care benefits for him and his family for nine months.

Clerk Jolene Upchurch said she couldn't provide a copy of the settlement because the document wasn't available.

Mr. Cousino declined to talk about why he voted against the settlement. He referred questions to Mrs. Upchurch.

Mr. Menge worked on the department for seven years and was instrumental in organizing the department to unionize.

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