I know I’m a bit late on Officer Bob Fitzgerald retiring from the Police Department and as president of the Police Benevolent Association.
I knew about it, and also got a copy of the letter he sent calling for Councilman Bob Doherty, D-District 4, resignation the day he sent it but I chose not to do anything with it right away for two reasons:
-One, because that is exactly the type of media manipulation Fitzgerald used throughout his tenure as PBA president. He released that the day before he retired just to deflect the media from writing about his destructive record as president.
-And two, because it the letter wasn’t news. (And no, I'm not including it in this post.) It might have been news months ago, around the time Doherty held the questionable public hearings about the Kokopellis melee, but to release it when Fitzgerald was all but out the door, the call for a councilman’s head doesn’t mean anything at all. If nothing else it was a weak attempt at salvaging an unsalvageable legacy as president.
First, let me say, I like Fitzgerald. When he wasn’t talking union shop or pitching a story that you could tell he was into being a cop. He was an evidence technician before becoming PBA president and was, as far as I could tell, good at meticulous handling proof that could make or break a prosecutor’s case. But, the presidency was a 40-hour-a-week gig, and every time you saw Fitzgerald in uniform over the past 11-plus years he was on OT.
Fitzgerald did fight hard for his members during contract negotiations, when they found themselves in trouble and when the administration or the command staff tried to alter the terms of the contract as it related to bidding assignments, staffing issues and even the different divisions within the department.
All that is expected of a strong union leader, but Fitzgerald often crossed the lines from professional to personal, from advocate to activist, from union president to political operative.
Overtime, pension costs, bidding jobs based on seniority rather than merit and other contractual obligations are favorite targets of columnists and politicians with enough guts to go against the politically powerful PBA union. But, they are obligations and the people elected to run the city signed off on them at some time so it’s not the PBA’s fault for getting what they could and then not wanting to give any of it up.
That said, Fitzgerald, just took it too far. I’m really not sure where to start.
I think the first time I was truly offended by Fitzgerald’s actions was the day then Mayor Harry Tutunjian was set to introduce John Tedesco as the new police chief. Fitzgerald didn’t want Tedesco to get the job because he knew as chief he would shake up the department, eliminate some inefficient programs to cut back on overtime and was a staunch disciplinarian. So, Fitzgerald concocted this bizarre story about Tedesco getting the job because he agreed to squash an investigation into drug use and/or sale by members of Tutunjian’s adminstration. I’m not saying it was a complete fabrication because, as far as I could find out, it was a laborer in DPW who got jammed up so technically it was in Tutunjian’s adminstration. It’s just that the guy worked out of a pickup truck and probably never stepped foot in City Hall.
Then he propped up two on the Council – Kevin McGrath and Nina Nichols – with promises of who knows what if they supported a police commissioner. They convinced Mayor Lou Rosamilia to appoint Anthony Magnetto to oversee Tedesco and that experiment threw the department into turmoil. Magnetto went back into retirement after a year and Tedesco is now back in charge of the department.
And then he sued the city. It’s a pretty sordid story, really. A fellow officer, Steve Seney, was making a stink about residency and promotions – specifically, officers not living in the city were getting promoted ahead of those who did. Fitzgerald wasn’t happy about that and allegedly threatened to tell his wife about an affair Seney was having. There was threats of violence and Tutunjian suspended Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald sued and the city settled for $84,000.
Battles between the PBA and the administration – of whatever party – are legendary. But Fitzgerald took it to a new level. Rather than work within the existing hierarchy, he thought the PBA should run the department and used every tactic of manipulation in futile attempts to achieve that goal.
Sgt. Tom Hoffman is the new PBA president. I don’t know the guy, but he can’t be any more divisive as Fitzgerald.