Lawyers formally ask Columbia leader to drop call for Roberts job
COLUMBIA - Lawyers for the Columbia Police Officers Association addressed a letter Wednesday to Columbia City Manager Mike Matthes, asking him to rescind his call for Dale Roberts, executive director of the association, to resign.
The letter, which was written by lawyers at Schuchat, Cook & Werner, came after Matthes called for Roberts' resignation over a controversial Facebook post written on the anniversary of the death of Michael Brown. The post supported former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson and labeled August 9th, the day Wilson shot and killed Brown, "Darren Wilson day".
The letter said in part, "You have the right to publicly disagree with the post. However, it is clear that you went much further and attempted to unlawfully interfere with your police officers' choice of a collective bargaining representative."
Roberts said he would not step down. He told KOMU 8 News Tuesday, "When you give into a bully, you just encourage the bully to continue that kind of activity."
Matthes called the CPOA board members to city hall for an emergency discussion hours after the post was made and urged them to fire Roberts. Roberts said the board members of the CPOA told Matthes they support Roberts completely and would not ask him to leave.
However, Matthes said he was not satisfied with the board members' response. He wrote an email to the city council and police department saying, until Roberts is fired, he will not ask voters for more money to hire additional police officers.
The letter written Wednesday said, "Your email admits that you summoned police officers who serve on the association's executive board during the work day (and one who was out of state by telephone) to a captive audience meeting and prohibited the presence of the association's executive director, Dale Roberts, who you knew at the time had authored the post. You proceeded to interrogate the officers without complying with their request for representation and demanded that they terminate Mr. Roberts. When they lawfully refused to discuss with you their choice of bargaining representative, you responded angrily and then disseminated your unlawful demand to all the members of the bargaining unit represented by the association and the city council."
"We have a fantastic police department, and they are the butt of most jokes because of Dale's behavior," Matthes said. "Our officers are getting ridiculously bad advice, and certainly an embarrassing representation."
Roberts said, "He has said to one of the unions, if you don't fire your leader, then I will punish the community. I just don't know how you explain that."
The letter said Matthes had a first amendment right to oppose the post, but the right meant nothing if Roberts didn't have that same right to his comments on Facebook.