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Union for youth officers piles up woes for leader

Mugshot

Cedric Crawley, who is on the executive board of the FOP unit representing youth corrections officers, has challenged the chairwoman, Takisha Brown. He is seen here with his wife, Denise Crawley, and Ms. Brown’s predecessor, Tasha Williams.

Takisha Brown had barely gotten her feet wet as elected chairwoman of the Fraternal Order of Police union representing 200 youth-corrections officers when she sensed trouble.

The first problem: A member at the D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) claimed in writing that her predecessor had accepted $200 to file a workplace grievance — a breach of union bylaws, if not a matter for the police.

From what Ms. Brown could tell, the union’s finances were in disarray. It had lost its tax-exempt status. She perceived a conflict with the union’s attorney, who employed the wife of a union official Ms. Brown suspected of interfering with her ability to serve her members. A large percentage of those members expressed concerns that the attorney, Ardra O’Neal, was nonresponsive and her fees were too high.

To complicate matters, union officials remained loyal to the previous chairman, and Ms. Brown’s housecleaning efforts, including calling for a forensic financial audit, were greeted with hostility.

The situation boiled over when Ms. Brown fired Ms. O’Neal, prompting the official whom she suspected of interference, DYRS employee Cedric Crawley, to orchestrate an executive board vote to unseat Ms. Brown and hold a special election to replace her.

But there was a problem with Mr. Crawley’s coup. He held what appeared to be a DYRS managerial position and, according to Ms. Brown, shouldn’t have been in the union in the first place. So when Mr. Crawley went to Wells Fargo Bank and had union funds deposited into an account he controlled, Ms. Brown filed a fraud complaint, according to documents obtained by The Washington Times.

She took her broader concerns about “money and leadership” to the D.C. Office of Inspector General and filed a complaint against Mr. Crawley and his cohorts with the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB), which certifies union membership eligibility and adjudicates labor disputes.

Documents obtained by The Times suggest DYRS and labor-relations officials caused the confusion underlying Mr. Crawley’s takeover attempt. Ms. Brown says DYRS officials are content to allow the situation to fester.

“It’s holding me back from negotiating and representing my members,” she said.

Stressful job

DYRS corrections officers have a stressful job dealing with troubled and often violent youths. During a recent two-month period, 68 assaults took place inside New Beginnings Youth Development Center, DYRS’ locked facility in Laurel, according to D.C. Council records. Many of those assaults were on officers, some of whom were hospitalized.

Ms. Brown accuses DYRS Director Neil A. Stanley of taking a do-nothing stance and exploiting the Crawley matter as a source of divisiveness within the union.

“He keeps saying he can’t do anything about it,” she told The Times.

DYRS representative LaShon Beamon insisted that the matter be resolved within the union or by the D.C. Office of Labor Relations and Collective Bargaining.

Natasha Campbell, director of the labor relations office, deferred questions to PERB.

Mr. Crawley did not respond to requests for comment. Ms. O’Neal, the fired FOP attorney who now represents Mr. Crawley, said in an email: “We will allow the administrative and judiciary process of [PERB] and the court system to resolve this matter without undue influence from the media.”

Mr. Crawley’s wife, Danielle, a law clerk in Ms. O’Neal’s office, declined to comment.

Officials at PERB, which will hold a hearing on the matter at the end of the month, also declined to comment.

In January, just after her election and swearing-in, Ms. Brown noticed that union finances had decreased precipitously over the past several years and were down to $50,000.

Three days later, she received a handwritten letter from a union member who described trying to get Ms. Brown’s predecessor, Tasha Williams, to file a grievance on the member’s behalf. According to the letter, Ms. Williams resisted and the member offered to pay her to do it. The letter states that Ms. Williams told the member to meet her at the union office, where she left instructions on how to turn over $200.

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