Mark Spencer's PLEA Backstabs Own Members

Mark Spencer, betraying PLEA members one endorsement at a time
Mark Spencer, betraying PLEA members one endorsement at a time

What would you call law enforcement union leaders who claim to battle for their members' public benefits during tough economic times, while handing out endorsements to lawmakers hell-bent on wiping out those benefits for good?

Hypocrites? Backstabbers? Secret scabs? Something worse?

Whatever it is, it applies to Mark Spencer, president of the still powerful (despite a decline in membership) Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, and PLEA's board of trustees

Recently, PLEA posted an update on its Web site talking about how hard the union is fighting to keep cop pension benefits from being slashed by the current Legislature. The update addresses two bills, Senate Bill 1609 and House Bill 2726.

The Senate bill would reduce the amount of money the state will contribute to the retirement systems for elected employees, law enforcement, and corrections officers. The House bill offers similar "reforms," including the elimination of the Deferred Retirement Option Plan, or DROP, a plan much prized by cops.

Under DROP, firefighters and police officers can retire after 20 years, then work for five more, while pulling their pension.

That's a sweet deal no cop, fireman or DPS officer wants to lose. But it and other benefits are on the chopping block right now. The Senate bill has already been voted on and passed. The House bill has passed through two committees and awaits a vote on the House floor.

On its Web site, PLEA warns its members of the worst possible scenario:

In the next few weeks the Bills will be assigned to a conference committee (assuming both pass through both chambers). On this committee there will be representatives from both the House and Senate. They will work to come to a consensus on a "final" bill draft. The "final" Bill might look like the Senate version, the House version, a hybrid of both, or something completely different. This "committee" process does not allow for much public discussion and whatever comes out of the committee will be extremely hard if not impossible to change.

Knowing this, it is appears more and more each day that we will have to depend on the Governor to veto the items in the final Bill that are obviously illegal and unconstitutional. We've had very positive discussions with the Governor's staff on the retirement issue for several months and she undoubtedly understands our concerns.

However, if the Governor signs one of these bills into law, we must begin to prepare for a long and expensive legal challenge.   

Problem is, PLEA has consistently allied itself with the very legislators hell-bent on axing public employee benefits.

For instance, in 2010, PLEA endorsed Republican state House Speaker Kirk Adams' re-election to his House seat. Adams is the primary sponsor of HB 2726, and he's been on record as a foe of the DROP program. Yet PLEA gave him its seal of approval. 

PLEA also supported several House members who voted for the bill in committee. These include, Republican state Representatives John Kavanagh, Steve Montenegro, Andy Tobin, Jerry Weiers, and Bob Robson.

In the upper chamber, state Senate President Russell Pearce, one of Mark Spencer's bosom pals, is a sponsor of SB 1609. So much for friendship, or PLEA's wholehearted support for Pearce's "breathing-while-brown-law" Senate Bill 1070. Neither PLEA's endorsement of Pearce in 2010, or its pro-1070 stance paid off.

Similarly, numerous Senate members who scored a 2010 PLEA endorsement voted for the anti-pension bill on the Senate floor. These include Republican state Senators Lori Klein, Michele Reagan, Linda Gray, John Nelson, John McComish, Andy Biggs, Al Melvin, Frank Antenori, and of course, Russell Pearce.

Most of PLEA's 2010 endorsements were for Republicans, who are hardly known for being sympathetic to the plight of unions. Interestingly, the nine Dems in the state Senate either voted no or didn't vote. All 21 GOPers voted yes.

And so it will likely play out on the House floor. Suddenly, it becomes crystal clear how deeply Spencer and his cronies on the PLEA board have betrayed the PLEA membership. 

By transforming the police union into one focused on the political ambitions of Spencer and his obsession with demonizing Hispanics, they have allied the union with anti-union politicians, politicians who would like nothing better than to see public pensions obliterated, if they could get away with it.

BTW, in 2010 PLEA also endorsed Governor Jan Brewer, who is likely to sign these proposals into law.


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