The internal politics of the Police Protective Association, usually locked away in the police union’s backroom, is spilling into the public with the battle over the ouster of Executive Director Chris Collins.
And it’s getting uglier by the day. The union’s executive board, led by its director Scott Nicholas, on Saturday voted unanimously to ask Collins to step down after more than seven years as the PPA’s leader and most visible personality. According to a widely circulated memo to the membership, Collins attempted to prevent the executive board from “communicating with the membership about pending legislation and the future of the Executive Board” in an apparent attempt to prevent his ouster. He also threatened to remove individual executive board members if they defied him, according to the memo, and in doing so violated the union’s bylaws.
Nicholas filed a complaint with the PPA against Collins alleging a variety of actions that constitute “misconduct, malfeasance, or nonfeasance” in office.
The complaint alleges that Collins in 2014 spent an additional $150,000 for a mailer late in the campaign to assist sheriff’s office candidate Larry Burns when he “had good reason to believe Burns could not win, regardless of spending more money.” It also alleges Collins failed to disclose the contents of a poll that showed Burns was 12 points behind and couldn’t catch eventual winner Joe Lombardo.
According to the Nicholas complaint, Collins is alleged to have replied, “I knew he couldn’t win, but I spent the money anyway. … If anybody finds out about this, you’re f——- outta here.”
The Nicholas complaint states, “Your actions clearly reflect you willfully failed to exercise your fiducial responsibility, were less than truthful by withholding vital information, misappropriated LVPPA funds, and threatened my position as the CFO/Treasurer of this Association.”
The complaint accuses Collins of other violations of the bylaws, including circumventing the union’s political action committee in making some official endorsements. He’s also accused of failing to correct a conflict of interest because he has supervisory status over his wife, longtime police union general counsel Kathy Collins, who held the attorney’s position before their 2007 marriage.
“I’ve got 13 years in that building,” Collins said in an interview Sunday. He previously served as the union’s assistant executive director. “I did nothing inappropriate.”
He called a news conference for Thursday morning at the downtown law office of Alan Buttell.
Assistant Executive Director Mark Chaparian is filling in for Collins, accord to a PPA memo. The union’s government affairs director Mike Ramirez will replace Collins during the ongoing legislative session in Carson City. A 31-year Metro veteran who spent more than 12 years in S.W.A.T., Collins is also a longtime union lobbyist.
The timing of the allegations is perhaps the most remarkable aspect of he erupting issue. The PPA and other unions face threats at the Legislature not seen in many years and the disunity can’t help their cause.
One bill of specific interest to the union’s executives, Collins said, is AB182, a GOP-backed bill that calls for substantial changes in the state’s collective bargaining law, including limiting a union’s taxpayer-funded executive positions. One of the bill’s key sponsors, Assemblyman Randy Kirner, R-Reno, recently had his 2014 endorsement by the DA State Law Enforcement Officers’ Association withdrawn.
“I’m proud of the work I’ve done for the union,” Collins said. “I’ve done nothing wrong and have nothing to hide.”
He expressed concern about the timing of the increasingly public feud. But he also said he was inclined to fight any effort for force him to leave during the Legislature.
It appears that fight has officially begun.
John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Email him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. Follow him on Twitter @jlnevadasmith