Union leader to fight for job

Roussey suspension has left the city's FOP in turmoil

February 13, 2006|By GUS G. SENTEMENTES | GUS G. SENTEMENTES,SUN REPORTER

To his detractors, Frederick V. Roussey has run one of the city's most high-profile unions with all the grace of a bull in a china shop, chased by allegations of misconduct.

To his supporters, the blunt-spoken police lieutenant "bleeds blue" and is being victimized for upsetting the comfortable status quo of the powerful union that represents more than 4,800 active and retired city officers.

Tonight, Roussey will be fighting for his job in a closed-door union meeting in hopes of regaining his post as president of the city's Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 3, a month after the group's board of directors suspended him in an unusual move that has thrown the labor union into turmoil.

It is a high-stakes drama laden with political intrigue.

Roussey says his detractors broke into the union office in Hampden and stole documents that were used - and misinterpreted - to oust him from office.

Facing off against a cadre of board members whom he refers to as "the good ol' boys," he is demanding an internal audit after having discovered what he calls "financial irregularities," and he is challenging a law firm the union has retained for years - Schlachman, Belsky & Weiner - saying the attorneys have amassed too much power within the labor organization.

Last month, Roussey disclosed that the FBI is investigating a union vendor. He likens himself to Frank Serpico, a New York police officer made famous for outing systemic corruption in New York in the 1970s and the basis for a hit book and movie.

Roussey has a Web site and a loyal group of supporters, some of whom followed him into Circuit Court last week as he made an unsuccessful plea for a judge to give him his job back until tonight's hearing.

"I can accept criticism, if it's legitimate," Roussey said in an interview. "I'm a right-and-wrong guy. That's what gets me in trouble sometimes. I don't sugarcoat it and get politically correct. The only reason I got involved with the FOP was because I got tired of everything being given away and got tired of the `good ol' boys' network. They're too entrenched."

Roussey added: "I have no expectation of getting a fair hearing."

FOP board members won't comment about the administrative charges they have lodged against Roussey, a 27-year veteran, citing confidentiality concerns and a desire to give him a fair hearing over what they consider internal matters. The board of directors voted 22-3 to oust Roussey last month from the union, which includes active officers, retirees and surviving spouses of officers.

The Sun has obtained a copy of six of the charges. They include allegations that he received a donation for his re-election campaign from a City Council member while the FOP's "political action fund" contributed money to the same elected official and that he used his office for personal gain, failing to follow protocol in running general membership meetings and "degrading" several union officials.

Paul Blair, the first vice president who assumed the top spot upon Roussey's removal, said he thought the situation was a "very private matter that ... should've been handled in-house.

"It's very hard for us to be accused of these accusations, and we can't speak, but there's rules of conduct for people who've been voted to lead the FOP, and we're following them," he said.

Attorney Henry L. Belsky of Schlachman, Belsky & Weiner, said "it would be inappropriate for us to discuss union business in a newspaper. We may have a comment after the hearing. At this point, anything we would say would show bias. We don't have any bias."

Blair said the union was continuing to work well to protect the interests of city police officers.

"The lodge is still functioning," Blair said. "The membership is alive and well and moving. It's not the end of the world. [Members] still get all the services you pay for. It's not like the phones are ringing off the hook and the place is falling apart."

The turmoil within the union's leadership ranks comes during a tumultuous time for officers in the city's police force. The department has been the target of intense public criticism in recent months over its arrest policies and high-profile allegations of misconduct in the Southwestern District.

Rank-and-file FOP members have complained on Web sites, including one that Roussey started, that they've been left in the dark about why the board voted to oust Roussey. Some have used the forum to also ask critical questions of him.

The site, www.teamroussey.org, features a collection of Roussey's weekly updates to FOP members, which he calls "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" - a series of bluntly worded missives that occasionally chronicle some of the internal dissent from his perspective.

Upon his suspension last month, Roussey began posting a daily update of his doings, referring to himself as being in exile and hunkering down in a figurative "bunker" to defend himself.

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