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Challenging Union Release Time

Cheatham v. DiCiccio

Case Status

Date Filed

April 24, 2014

Last Step

Arizona Supreme Court upholds release time.

Next Step

Evaluate Other Policy and Litigation Solutions.

Case Overview

In September 2011, Goldwater Institute investigative reporter Mark Flatten released an investigative report showing that Phoenix and other Arizona cities spend millions of dollars every year to pay employees to perform union work on city time. It’s called “release time.” The Goldwater Institute is taking on the city’s contract with the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA). By executing this deal with PLEA, the members of the Phoenix City Council have violated the Arizona Constitution and their duty of loyalty to the taxpayers.

The contract provides an estimated $900,000 in annual release time for police union work, including lobbying. Six officers are released from city work on a full-time basis (each receiving 160 hours of overtime at 1.5x their regular salary). PLEA also uses 35 representatives. These representatives are not given a set amount of release time. Instead, they are authorized to use an unspecified amount of release time to accompany fellow officers to grievance meetings, use of force hearings, etc. For example, two representatives (or three if one is in training) are authorized to leave their post and accompany officers to grievance meetings (which is an alleged violation of the city’s agreement with PLEA). PLEA receives 500 release time hours annually for a lobbyist.

Release time harms police officers. PLEA’s past president confirmed that if the city did not give paid release time to union leaders, more money could go to police officer wages and benefits.

Case Logistics

The clients are Phoenix taxpayers William R. Cheatham and Marcus Huey.

The judge is the Honorable Katherine Cooper.

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