No union in sight for Bethany Beach police

It literally could not have been a closer vote when Bethany Beach Police Department officers cast their ballots in a unionization decision on Feb. 8.

With 51 percent or more of the eight non-administrative full-time officers needing to vote in favor of the union to make unionization efforts successful, the pro-union vote need to get at least a 5-3 split. But they came up one vote shy, with a 4-4 tie vote that defeated the unionization effort.

“It was closer than I anticipated it being,” said BBPD Chief Michael Redmon following the vote. Redmon had opposed the effort, saying he felt the department provided good salaries and benefits, and that officers should feel secure in a department where benefits had never been taken away.

Still, it was a surprise to him that half of the voting officers had voted in favor of the union — if a pleasant surprise overall.

“I’m more than delighted that the town won,” Redmon said. “I’m happy with the total outcome.”

“It’s put to rest now, and, hopefully, we can get back to day-to-day police business,” the police chief added, clearly ready to put the tense situation behind his department.

Though he said he’d made it clear to all the officers that unionization wasn’t something he supported, as it would interfere with the administrative end of things, he said he wasn’t planning to hold any grudges over the narrow vote. “I hold no animosity,” he said.

Redmon said he considers the BBPD a good place to work for his officers. “Bethany Beach has always been very good to its employees,” he said.

But given the close vote, there is the question of how he will handle problems and concerns that may remain unresolved for at least some of the department’s officers.

Redmon said he was always ready to tackle any problems they might have.

“I have an open-door policy,” he said. “I’ve made it clear that I’m happy to talk with them.”

Officers seeking the unionization vote were unable to specify prior to the vote what changes they would seek in negotiations with the department if unionization was successful.

But some of the assumptions made by the administration on that front were inaccurate, according to Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 2 Vice President Eric Campbell, who spoke on their behalf. (FOP Lodge 2 would have represented the unionized officers if the effort had been a success.)

“From what I have been told, it was never about salaries or benefits,” Campbell clarified this week.

“The chief is correct,” Campbell said in response to earlier published comments from Redmon. “As far as I am aware of, they’ve never had any medical benefits or any other retiring type of benefits taken away from them. What their main concerns were, were the integrity and the ethics of the administration there at Bethany Beach.

“That was their main concern, along with the one benefit that everybody does want, which is retirement — they want a better retirement pension plan,” Campbell stressed.

Campbell said he was unaware whether the narrow defeat of the unionization attempt, with a tie vote, might mean more attempts at unionization in the BBPD in the future. However, he said there were real concerns among a significant number of officers in the department — a fact that is testified to in the close vote.

“That should be an eye-opener for both Chief Redmon and Capt. Mitchell, and for Mr. Graviet [town manager and former police chief], because they’ve commented in the papers saying, ‘We just have a couple disgruntled officers.’ By the sheer number of the vote, it has a little more than just to do with a couple disgruntled employees,” Campbell emphasized.

But he was also quick to say that the Bethany Beach department had not been exclusively targeted as far as unionization efforts or FOP concern.

“The Fraternal Order of Police has been made aware of many issues with the police departments in the county, and Bethany Beach is not the only department that the FOP has been observing,” Campbell stated.