Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker is once again walking a tightrope with one of the county's unions. This time, Mr. Ecker has chafed the Howard County Police Officers Association in a dispute over merit increases.
The county executive has trudged this way before. Last year, Mr. Ecker was embroiled in a battle with county teachers over similar pay increases that he nixed in mid-contract. While there is a difference in that police officers are at the end of their contract, the union cries are the same. "All we ask for is fairness," says Dale L. Hill, the union president.
If past experience is any guide, Mr. Ecker is unlikely to back off. An expert negotiator since his days as the county school system's chief budget officer, Mr. Ecker clearly wants to rein-in employee salaries and correct inequities in work rules and compensation.