Seven nonunion police sergeants and lieutenants are suing the North Las Vegas Police Supervisors Association over a union fee they say isn’t legal.
They filed civil racketeering charges against the association and its president last week, bringing a long-simmering spat over their share of a recent legal settlement to District Court.
The legal action against the union — which represents four dozen member and nonmember police commanders in collective bargaining negotiations — comes three months after union leaders helped police supervisors win a seven-figure legal dispute over pay raises and benefits suspended under a city-declared “fiscal emergency” in June 2012.
It comes only weeks after city officials handed over command staffers’ share of that settlement to the police supervisors’ union, which deducted more than $1,000 in “legal fees” off the top of settlement checks made out to each of the city’s seven nonunion police sergeants and lieutenants.
Association President Leonard Cardinale, the union boss who approved the move, faces charges of intentional misconduct and embezzlement as part of last week’s 12-page legal complaint.
Cardinale said he opted to pull cash out of nonunion supervisors’ settlement checks only after the effort was approved by union board members and only in an attempt to help defray legal costs otherwise paid for through union dues.
He and his bargaining group could be forced to pay more than $10,000 in damages and court costs as a consequence of the decision, according to court documents.
“I think they’re going to have a tough time getting (the case) heard in District Court,” Cardinale said Wednesday. “I’m not sure exactly what they’re thinking, but I think they’re trying to make it personal to me.
“You have to convert money to your own use for it to be embezzlement. … So what I’ll say is I don’t think they understand the statute.”
Court documents indicate nonunion command staffers decided to pick up their settlement checks a month before taking Cardinale and the PSA to court.
Plaintiffs’ attorney, former North Las Vegas City Attorney Jeff Barr, declined to comment on the decision to pick up those checks ahead of filing suit against the union.
The better question, he said, is why the city decided not to make settlement checks payable to nonunion members in the first place.
“They’re being punished for being nonmembers of the union,” Barr said of his clients. “The bottom line is my client didn’t receive what was owed to them.
“Sure, they received some of the money they were owed, but it was at the (union’s) insistence that those (settlement funds) were paid out in a lump sum.”
Police Sgt. Tim Bedwell, one of the nonunion plaintiffs listed on the Aug. 14 lawsuit filed by Barr, declined to comment on the filing.
Union attorney and state Sen. Richard “Tick” Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, also declined to comment.
Contact James DeHaven at email@example.com or 702-477-3839. Find him on Twitter: @JamesDeHaven.