DESPITE REPEATED COMPLAINTS, "DICTATOR" WARDEN BALICKI A/K/A "THE CLOSER" REFUSES TO ADDRESS AND CORRECT THE POLITICAL CONFLICT OF INTEREST HIS DUAL ROLES CREATE RISKING ANOTHER VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE
Although progress has been made in the area of nepotism which we brought to the Administration's attention by way of grievance in October, the main conflict still remains with Warden Balicki holding the position of both Warden and Chairman of the Democratic Party. Balicki has conveniently placed himself in the position of "Judge, Jury and Executioner" leaving no due process rights for the members of Local #231 and the UAW.
Balicki was first appointed in 2009 to the position and recently reappointed December 23, 2014 in a 5-2 vote for another 5 years. Sauro and Sheppard opposed the appointment but were outvoted by the Millville crew of Surace & Derella. It is unknown at this time if the County solicited other candidates for the position. Balicki retired in 1998 from Bayside State Prison as a Captain and is collecting a $60k pension on top of his $100k salary at the jail. We are investigating the multiple sources of income at this time.Click to view Resolution.
EdPDLaw examined the Collective Bargaining Grievance Procedure and highlights the pertinent parts here:
D. The following constitutes the sole and exclusive method for resolving grievances between the parties covered by this Agreement, and shall be followed in its entirety unless any step is waived by mutual written consent:
The grievance shall be submitted in writing ... to the appropriate administrative official appointed by the Warden. (BALICKI)
If the grievance is not satisfactorily adjusted at Step One., the grievant ... may appeal to the Warden (BALICKI)
If the grievance is not satisfactorily adjusted as Step Two, the grievant ... may appeal to the County Personnel Grievance Committee (BALICKI wearing his other hat as Democratic Chairman & Political Friends, or his secretary who was just promoted to management and given a raise).
It appears that Balicki is clearly in violation of one if not multiple ethics violations. Usually the law enforcement officer is made to take a leave of absence if he wants to serve as a politician. I would be specifically concerned with The Hatch Act which would prohibit the dual roles. Click here to read a summary of the The Hatch Act.
I'm guessing that Balicki's going to state that he is no longer a law enforcement officer to loop hole his way out of this one, but clearly he is exercising law enforcement duties and carries the law enforcement title of Warden. We are waiting for Civil Service to report back to us his true title.
Balicki is accused of creating a position for his friend, Rich Kate as a recreation coordinator for the inmates, even though there are already 2 coordinators. Most recently 3 raises were given to civilian personnel, changing their titles to management and raising them to a position where they no longer have to report their time and attendance. The management position is referred to as a level "10". These raises were given on top of contractual raises and justified with the change in title.
Although 7 civilians put in for the raises, only 3 were granted, they would be the 3 that always hang out in Balicki's Office.
After interviewing numerous Cumberland County employees who wish to remain anonymous, one thing is clear, Balicki blatantly does as he pleases and is very vindictive and retaliates when challenged. One superior officer stated that Balicki targets officers for discipline. All agree that he pits officers against each other and then attempts to run in and save the day. EdPDLaw uses the term "arsonist" to describe this type of personality which "sets the fires", fans them and waits for them to spread, then runs in as the hero to save the day forever indebting the officer to Balicki.
Balicki is said to always place politics first and the jail second. One said that he uses the jail as an advertisement for his political party. The former Warden requested all the same improvements that Balicki did however, it took time to get them through and Balicki took credit for upgrades that Saunders started.
Last year the County touted the Shared Services Agreement with Gloucester County, the Agreement will expire in May and it does not appear that it will be renewed as Balicki purposely out priced the Contract so he would not have to worry about its renewal. He is closing the Detention Center as they only have 8 juveniles remaining and he is believed to have promised jobs to either his friends or those who can advance his political career (VP AACP).
They were taking people in from Cape May and Salem but they overpriced it so they could close it. They have also closed the County Manor, just like in Gloucester County.
Balicki repeatedly states that he is going to build a Regional Jail and a Vo-Tech Center. Rumor has it that Balicki brought in Long from Gloucester County to build the Vo-Tech Center and has him pricing it out.
All interviewed agreed that Balicki creates lots of chaos, pitting one against another, whether to determine loyalty or just out of boredom. Moral has never been so low and members feels as though they cannot go to the Freeholders for help because Balicki is the Freeholder's boss and they fear retaliation. Hearing Officer Craig Atkinson was hired by Balicki. they are always laughing and joking like they are buddies.
Balicki is running Cumberland just like Gloucester County (into the ground), closing the senior center, detention center and moving the females. Balicki has no plans with the Juvenile Justice Center. The $300,000 a month he was making from the Shared Agreement he ended up paying out in overtime when he permitted supervisors to work overtime. One supervisor was shown as making close to $200,000 in overtime in one year.
Nicknamed "The Closer" jail employees believe his ultimate goal is to close the jail as in Gloucester County. He will claim that the jail is not cost effective although he out priced the Shared Services Agreements. Balicki can frequently be heard saying that he will be the next Director of Corrections (State and County) because of his relationship with Sweeney, past Gloucester Freeholder, who will name him to the post.
Gloucester County had the same problems which only became worse. In 2008 they had enough of his shenanigans and had a VOTE of NO CONFIDENCE against him by all 3 Unions, which he lost by a large majority A source who was involved in organizing the Union stated they had numerous problems with Balicki that he refused to address as he felt he was untouchable with Sweeney's backing who was then a Freeholder in Gloucester County. Some of the problems included dating the rank and file officers, showing them favoritism and doing favors for them. Here is an excerpt from the law suit Capanna v. Gloucester County, GLO-L-957-14.
b. Filing Complaints in and or about 2008 alleging the Director of Corrections, Robert Balicki, had inappropriate personal relationship with corrections officers, including romantic relationships.
c. Making several complaints with Chad Bruner, Freholder Liason DeMarco, and Freholder Director Sweeney during October 2008, regarding Jail Director's Balicki's violaions of the nepotism policy, how his relationship with rank and file officers, and how the subject of Balicki's "pillow talk" were making the department staff uncomfortable.
d. Leading an initiative in October 2008, for a vote of no confidence in Balicki and asking the County to terminate Balicki's employment.
Union Business was somehow being fed back to Balicki who would then retaliate against the union members. Balicki would overprice the Shared Service Agreement until the Freeholders stepped in and made the Agreement more competitive. Gloucester agreed that Bailicki was more concerned with his political career than with the jail. As with Cumberland, he closed the Juvenile Justice Center, attempted to move the females and close the Senior Center. The 3 Unions, rank & file, Sergeants and Lieutenants had tried every way possible to deal with the issue but Balicki would not budge. In 2008 they had the "VOTE of NO CONFIDENCE" and forced him to move on. Unfortunately, he has now become Cumberland's problem.
Chief's Role In Productive Labor-Management Relations
Throughout the labor-relations process, the role of the police executive is a crucial one that needs to be thoroughly understood if a fruitful labor-management relationship is be achieved and maintained. Once the organization has recognized the union, the chief must be prepared to devote more time and attention to labor relations in general, and the union in particular. He or she must become educated about what is undoubtedly a difficult arena and be willing to work toward rapport with employees representing the union.
The chief who understands his or her role in the labor-relations process is likely to be one who deals open-handedly and recognizes fully the union's right to exist and to represent its members' wishes. Such a chief is also willing to commit to a harmonious relationship--bearing in mind that the union members are still employees.
Indeed, failure of a police executive to participate fully in the labor relations process and to recognize and communicate the need for an open, harmonious relationship with the union may itself be the root of the no-confidence vote, often even triggering it.
In line with their growing political shrewdness, unions have found the no-confidence vote to be one of the most popular, powerful, effective political tools at their disposal, using this means increasingly to apply political pressure to influence: 1) wages and the negotiation process; 2) policy and decision making; and 3) removal of the police chief.
This problem has been grieved on numerous occasions to no avail. The closest they came to rectifying the problem was to take his County Car away from him and make him use his personal vehicle while at the Democratic Headquarters. Since they are unable to rectify the problem internally, and Balicki is unable to remove himself completely from the disciplinary and raise process, we are putting together an ethics Complaint to file with several outside agencies who are not concerned with the politics in Cumberland County. A 2nd Vote of No Confidence is also on the table.
Removal of the Chief
The no-confidence vote is the ultimate vehicle, after all other attempts have failed, to communicate to the community and the city management that the union perceives the police chief as incompetent, disinterested, non-communicative and/or uncaring. Unions have often taken no-confidence votes for the specific purpose of requesting that the chief be removed from office because of his or her perceived lack of leadership. When a no-confidence vote occurs, the chief should determine immediately why the vote was taken. Is the vote a political ploy to influence negotiations or decision making or is the union actually attempting to oust him or her?
Causes of the Vote of No Confidence
In most cases, a vote of no confidence is saying more than, "We want the chief replaced." It is more than likely saying,
We, the union members, would like you, the chief, to take a more responsive posture on certain issues; and we feel this is the only way that we can communicate, both publicly and internally, our displeasure over the policy decisions and other forms of action that have been taken.
While there are probably as many causes for as there are votes of no confidence, most reasons cited for these actions can be grouped into three broad categories: lack ofleadership, lack ofcommunicationand lack ofsupport--or caring for employees.
Cumberland County Corrections Address the Shared Services Plan, Political Conflict of Interest, Overtime, Nepotism and More
“This is the problem when you have a county employee who is also a county (political) chair. I feel that to be a conflict of interest.” Freeholder Samuel Fiocchi
SHARED SERVICES AGREEMENT
EdPDLaw welcomes PBA Local #231, Cumberland County Corrections and will work with them to address a myriad of issues including the Shared Services Agreement with Gloucester County and the impact it has had on the officers. On March 13, 2013 Cumberland and Gloucester Counties entered into a Shared Services Agreement with Cumberland County to house a minimum of 100 inmates to a maximum of 350 inmates at a cost of $100 per inmate. The Agreement is for a minimum of 100 inmates and Gloucester County has agreed to pay Cumberland $3,650,000 per year even if the number of inmates housed in Cumberland falls below the 100 minimum. View Shared Services Agreement.
The gist of the Agreement is that Gloucester County will still be responsible for transporting the prisoners to Court, medical appointments and other usual non-emergency appointments. Gloucester County will be responsible for the cost of prescriptions and medical treatment outside of the jail. The Agreement was designed to retain the Gloucester County Corrections Officers and have them absorbed by the Sheriffs' Department and surrounding correctional facilities. It is unknown at this time if that is what occurred as we are waiting to hear from Gloucester County. We are aware that Gloucester County Superiors Officers did file suit against both Counties. Click here to view lawsuit.
UPDATE FROM GLOUCESTER COUNTY
Gloucester advises that the officers, Sgt.'s and Superior Officers (Lt.s) united in the law suit, which would be FOP's 97, 199 & 165.
The Gloucester County DOC is still in tact, only 2 officers that were slated for layoff transferred to the Sheriff's Department.
12 - 15 Officers transferred to Salem DOC.
19 - 20 Officers qualified for early retirement.
The rest of the officers slated for layoff were offered to be placed in other County positions.
Gloucester also points out that technically the Counties entered into a "Direct Contract" and not a "Shared Contract".
In 2012, the Board of Chosen Freeholders commissioned a study by an outside vendor to address the approximately $3 million in overtime generated by the County. The vendor, The Parselay Associates, Inc. only has 2 years of experience as an interim warden running the Hudson County Correctional Facility over 10 years ago. Click to read his Resume. Moreover, the County refuses to release an unredacted copy of the report (rumored to have cost $50,000) to the Union as they do not want the Union to see the recommended staffing levels.
The Asbury Park Press reported on the decision to commission the study on April 8, 2012. In that report, they interviewed Warden Robert Balicki, who is also the co-chairman of the Democratic Party. Here is what he and the other Freeholders said:
Despite the unanimous board vote, the decision comes with some qualms from the board’s Democratic minority and over the objection of jail Warden Robert Balicki.
After the vote, Balicki said the board’s Republican majority wanted the study mainly to find issues to use against Democrats in the 2012 freeholder campaign. Balicki is co-chairman of the county Democratic Party.
Freeholder Samuel Fiocchi, a Republican, said that the jail’s overtime costs are about $3 million a year. That’s enough reason to seek an outside opinion and it’s why the board vote was unanimous, he said.
As for a political angle, Fiocchi responded: “This is the problem when you have a county employee who is also a county (political) chair. I feel that to be a conflict of interest.”
The Union agrees that Balicki's political affiliation is a conflict of interest and hampers his ability to make decisions in the best interest of the jail and allegedly there was a class held on May 1, 2014 where officers were informed that the jail has a "Zero Tolerance Policy" in reference to political favors and affiliations?
Among other things, the Union is questioning the disproportional assignment of overtime details to the superior officers for escorting engineers and contractors at a new construction site.
While both Counties boast substantial savings and substantial income, in the millions of dollars, the proceeds in Cumberland have not made their way to the officers and they want the County to be accountable for where the money is being spent.
Besides the political impropriety with Warden Balicki, the Internal Affairs Supervisor is a Board member in the FOP Union.
Apparently, the $50,000 Jail Study came to the same conclusion. Persaley recommends:
We have discussed with the Warden the recommendation for the replacement of the Sergeant position in the Internal Affairs Office. We believe that the position should be civilianized, and should if possible be filled with a retired senior police or correction official living in the County. The position should report directly to the Warden, and should not be a uniformed officer, in the FOP Union, in order to fully comply with the Attorney General's Guidelines on Internal Affairs Offices. While Internal Affairs Offices in County Correctional Departments are not specifically covered under these guidelines, we recommend that the the jail move to fully comply in order to meet a specific standard and, at the same time, remove an obvious conflict of interest.
Lastly, there appears to be some nepotism which is causing a problem in the Transportation Unit that needs to be addressed and rectified.
EdPDLaw welcomes the opportunity to work with PBA Local #231 and assist them in their vow to protect and improve the working conditions for its members.
* EdPDLaw does have the redacted Jail Study, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a copy.