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Judge Halts Union Release Time

October 30, 2014

Phoenix — Maricopa County Superior Court Katherine Cooper ruled in favor of the Goldwater Institute Tuesday to enjoin provisions of a contract between the City of Phoenix and the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association allowing officers to perform union work on police time.

The contract grants approximately $1 million in release time dedicated to union business, including to six police officers who perform exclusively union work and collect automatic overtime.  The current contract expires on June 30.  A new contract continuing release time was approved last month by a 4-4-1 vote by the Phoenix City Council, with the abstaining vote counting as a yes.  The injunction applies only to the current contract, so additional legal efforts will be necessary to extend the ruling to the new contract that takes effect July 1.

According to the ruling, release time constitutes a subsidy because the contract “does not obligate PLEA to perform any specific service or give anything in return for the receipt of $1 million for release time.”

“Union release time is blatantly unconstitutional,” said Clint Bolick, Vice President of Litigation at the Goldwater Institute.

A 2011 Goldwater Institute exposé discovered that Phoenix spends nearly $4 million dollars annually to pay for 73,000 hours of release time for city workers to conduct union business at taxpayers’ expense. These union payments are standard in the city’s contracts.

The Goldwater Institute’s legal challenge contends that release time violates the gift clause of the Arizona state constitution. The gift clause prohibits gifts of public money to private individuals or corporations, requiring the government to prove it receives direct, tangible benefits from a subsidy it gives to a private entity.

“Release time is especially egregious in this context because it diverts police resources from the core law-enforcement mission,” said Bolick.

The Institute represents two Phoenix taxpayers, William Cheatham and Marcus Huey, who object to the unconstitutional use of their tax money.

The Goldwater Institute protects America’s greatest inheritance – the liberty and economic freedom of the individual – by holding government accountable and standing up for regular taxpayers just like you.

Read more about our work to end the practice of release time here.

​Contact: Michael Kelley, (602) 633-8985



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