The Mayor’s CAO Says The Reassignment Of Union Leaders Isn’t Union Busting

(Memphis) There’s a war of words between Toney Armstrong, the city’s top cop, and Michael Williams, the man in charge of the Memphis Police Association.

This week, those words led to Williams and two other union leaders being reassigned to active police duty.

Now George Little, the chief administrative officer for Mayor A C Wharton’s administration, is weighing in on the dispute.

“The mayor and myself stand behind the director in this decision,” Little said.

Armstrong is accusing Williams of putting out false information about how bad crime is in Memphis. This comes at the same time the police department and city hall say crime is going down.

Little said the police director acted within his scope of authority.

“I think when faced with statements he(Armstrong) felt could not be substantiated and provoked fear on the part of the public and called into question his integrity and his officers, he felt compelled to take action,” Little said.

But a police department source tells WREG this all started when Mike Williams claimed Mayor Wharton was running the police department.

The source said this was when Armstrong pulled the Tact team and replaced the leadership with the mayor’s old bodyguard.

Wharton allegedly wanted Williams disciplined then, but Armstrong wouldn’t do it.

The relationship has been strained, and when Williams publicly questioned the crime stats earlier this week, Armstrong had enough and pulled him and the other union leaders, the source said.

WREG asked if the reassignment violates or weakens a binding agreement between the union and the city.

Little contends this isn’t union busting.

“Today there is still the union leadership and within a prescribed set of rules they can continue to carry out union business, just not as usual. When they’re off duty or after hours or with approved union leave, there are provisions made for that, but it won’t be on the city’s dime,” Little said.

But Memphis City Councilman Harold Collins says not so fast. He wants to make sure a Memorandum of Understanding isn’t being violated.

“We’ve been told these employees and what they do is part of the Memorandum of Understanding. For the (Wharton)administration to pull back into this, I think it’s troubling,” Collins said.

Thomas Malone is head of the Memphis Firefighters Association. He told WREG by phone he’s watching this matter very closely and its impact on other unions.

“I’m keeping a close eye on our fire union. That’s my job, but the bottom line I can say if this were happening to the Fire(association) I would certainly be very, very concerned,” Malone said.

WREG spoke with Mike Williams about the dispute yesterday. We reached out to Director Armstrong today, but he wasn’t available for comment.

10 comments

  • Cole

    This is concerning. Armstrong is a weak leader and AC needs to replace him. Williams has the right to voice his concern. I believe that is what America is all about. I am embarrassed for Memphis.

    Change Leadership… Put Williams back – his heart is Memphis. Replace Armstrong-seek new leadership that is truthful and honest….

    • dhale

      if they are on the city payroll they are still police officers. If they think crime is so bad on the city streets, then the city needs all their police officers on the streets, not pushing paper in some plush union job griping about the crime in the city.

  • mark w. morrison

    my question is why are the union reps on the MPA , payroll, i worked in a union grocery store, our rep was on the store payroll. of course he worked in the produce dept. IF the union reps want to represent the union in which they get paid a nice salary. then they should give up the mpa salary, IF the city of memphis was rolling in $ then that is another story. as for the revamp of the TACT unit. there has been several police involved shootings officers deaths, and officers injured. it would be mr armstrong’s negligence NOT to review policies to protect officers and improve training. given the recent history. IF he had done nothing and more officers were killed or injured the media/union/ public would be screaming for his scalp.
    a concerned citizen/taxpayer.

  • Kevin Lewis

    Just like George Little wouldn’t publicly challenge Mayor Wharton in public, nor would a Major challenge the Director in public, or a Fedex Exec challenge Fred Smith in public about a report the senior put out. I guess Williams found out that his power is in negotiating with…and not challenging the Director. I think the Memphis Police Assoc. members may have to give some serious thought to the idea, they may need a new Pres. because this Pres has crossed the line if he thought he was more than another Uniformed Officer of the MPD. I have worked in management for many years in the Navy and as a civilian and I support the Director’s decision to Reassign him back to his regular duties. He is still the Pres. of the union…let’s see how dedicated he really is to his members having to support them on his own time. Mr. Williams… an apology goes a long way and I think you owe your boss a great big one…and I think in time he will reassign the 3 of you back to your prior duty. Don’t let your ego get in the way of progress.

    • Jerry Whitman

      Mr. Tasmanian Devil,

      Having been in the Navy you should know that most policemen have type A personalities. All Mr. Williams did was call BS on the crime stats. That is his right and duty as MPA president. Management needs to be called out more just like the politicians that we elect. I am sorry that you are a coward and are content with going with the status quo. But since you are management, I’m sure you don’t like to be questioned. Maybe if your employee’s would call you out more, you would change your attitude. Until you decide to grow a set and and do the job of a police officer, sit behind your cushy desk and let the big boys worry about the criminals!

  • smith

    Why are we paying william 59, ooo.oo a year to be a police office and he not doing his job, he also get 23,000.00 from the union , put his a** back on ther street he can still be the head of the MPD union.

  • IwishUwould

    People, people,people.!!! Do you not see what’s going on, Armstrong only did that as a way of retaliation for William standing up to the lies there telling the citizens of Memphis. Only person ego I see got hurt was Armstrong. Hey Mr. Little where is the 57 million dollars for the schools, that the crook Wharton said was in the bank Mr. COA. I’ll bet a dollar to a dime they couldn’t explain that. Wharton administration lying crooks & they done punked Armstrong into going alone with the BS.

  • tasmanian devil

    ok which one of you wants to be a mpa president elected by the police and work for 23k dollars a year at a full time job that requires you to be called out in the middle of the night on a regular basis. You are always on call in positions like that. Of course he is an officer he supposed to be an officer. Mr grocery store union guy I really think your job in the union is probably a great deal different. I am not belittling your job, I don’t know about it but that is a two way street. Who responds to emergencies in the middle of the night and go go city council meetings and vigils where young men are killed.MPA presidents. Stick to what you know people. The reason the positions are there is because it was designed that way. An officer obviously needs to be the leader because he has intimate knowledge of the job. I noticed the news is never bothers to mention city administration pay and the number of appointees making 6 figure salaries. They work 8 hrs a day. There apparently is a contract that requires these positions to protect officers from getting steamrolled in situations just like this one. This is a perfect example. I know I wouldn’t want to be MPA president, your constantly under attack by the city administration and by people who don’t know what they are talking about. They are fortunate to have someone willing to stand up for the truth and the little guys and to not back down. Several people commenting couldn’t be more in the dark on what really happened. Some appear to believe the tv is the gospel, not reality.

  • Kevin Lewis

    I don’t understand some of your points of view…if the Director had said crime is up because his Officers are not doing their job and Williams spoke up for them, I would support Williams for doing what he did. The Director asked Williams if he had any data to dispute the crime figures he put out, and he said no…I have read the Memorandum of Understanding, and it doesn’t say the Union President or V-President is a full time tax payer paid position that requires him to have an office and not have to be on active duty as a Police Officer. That’s why the Union only pays the President 23K, it’s a part time elected position. The President of the Union is not required to get up in the middle of the night if an Officer is shot or hurt in the line of duty unless he wants to, but the Director is. Mr. Williams big mouth has screwed him and 2 others out of a good thing. Now the city is going to change how the Union Leadership is suppose to operate. The Union President has negotiating power, but he doesn’t have decision making power, but the Director does.

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