The chief acknowledges he doesn't get along with the mayor and safety director.
HUBBARD -- Police Sgt. Kenneth P. Oyler has filed an unfair labor practice charge against Hubbard Police Chief Martin Kanetsky.
On Oyler's behalf, the Fraternal Order of Police, Ohio Labor Council filed the complaint with the State Employment Relations Board in Columbus. It asserts that Oyler was assigned to the midnight shift to punish him for criticizing the chief to Mayor Art U. Magee and Law Director Gary Gilmartin.
Kanetsky says the charge was filed as "sour grapes from a guy who didn't get to be chief."
Documents in their personnel files indicate Oyler and Kanetsky took the chief of police promotional examination Jan. 23, 2003, and Kanetsky's higher score gave him the chief's position by law.
The unfair practice charge brings the SERB into what appears to be a continuing feud between Kanetsky and the city's other political leaders. Kanetsky acknowledges he doesn't get along well with Magee, nor does he have respect for William Jugenheimer, the city's safety director.
"They are both older generation," Kanetsky said, "and they don't know how things go around here anymore."
He said he's been "buttin' heads" with them for a long time.
Magee says the problems between his administration and Kanetsky have nothing to do with a generation gap.
"He doesn't know what's legal and not legal," Magee said.
Efforts to reach Oyler to comment were unsuccessful, but FOP attorney Mike Piotrowski said the shift change was indeed punishment and said it's a violation of the state's collective bargaining law.
Documents in his personnel file say Oyler became a full-time police officer in Hubbard in 1980, back when Art Magee was mayor the first time, and has been a sergeant for almost 14 years. His choice of shift due to seniority is one of the issues in the complaint.
"He'd been on the day shift for five years," Piotrowski said. "The chief is retaliating."
An attachment to the charge, spelling out the details of the complaint, says that when Oyler was approached by Magee and Law Director Gary Gilmartin in July 2004 and asked to discuss Kanetsky's job performance, Kanetsky was "eavesdropping" on the conversation.
Later that day, the attachment says, Kanetsky and Detective Robert J. Altier met with Oyler, and Kanetsky accused him of disloyalty. The complaint claims Kanetsky said, "If I was vindictive, I'd put you on night turn and forget about you."
At the beginning of the next month, the attachment says, Oyler was assigned to work the midnight shift indefinitely.
Kanetsky says he made this change, not to punish Oyler, but because he wasn't happy with the amount of work done during the day. He said Oyler went home during the day when he shouldn't have.
Oyler filed a grievance and the chief denied it, so he took his gripe to Jugenheimer, who promptly ordered Oyler back to his "preferred" shift.
Oyler then went on six weeks' medical leave for surgery and when he returned in November 2004, he was assigned once again to the midnight shift. He filed another grievance, denied once again by Kanetsky and upheld once again by Jugenheimer.
On Nov. 22, Oyler returned to the day shift.
At that point, Kanetsky says, he had no choice.
"I received that last order from them [Jugenheimer and Magee], and it painted me into a corner," he said.
Kanetsky's personnel file contains letters from the mayor and safety director, ordering him to give Oyler his favorite shift back, but Kanetsky claims Jugenheimer does not have the right to tell him how to assign the people in his department.
"The chief can schedule according to the Ohio Revised Code," he said.
Making a change
In early December, Kanetsky posted an entirely new, rotating schedule for all three of his sergeants. Each one works 12 weeks on one shift and then switches to the next for 12 weeks, then the next. Each sergeant works the day shift every 24 weeks.
Kanetsky says he did this to prepare the department for pending retirement of Altier, who will be leaving in about a year and a half.
The FOP complaint says this scheduling, too, is meant to punish Oyler "for his filing of grievances and his exercise of his rights."
"In addition," the complaint says, "the chief is attempting to prevent the city of Hubbard, particularly its safety director, from honoring its commitments under the CBA [collective bargaining agreement]."
Pat Snyder, executive director of the SERB, said the case will be assigned to an investigator, who will eventually make a recommendation to the board at a public meeting. The process could take about six months, she said.