By Clint Bolick, Goldwater Institute
Judicial Watch, the Washington, D.C.-based group that describes itself as a conservative watchdog, has taken on all types of government corruption and waste.
Among them is the scandalous practice of union release-time, in which government employees are given paid time to perform union work, including lobbying and campaigning. Judicial Watch condemned Miami-Dade County, Florida Mayor Carlos Alvarez for allowing “public transit workers to be excused from their regular duties while still collecting taxpayer salaries.” Among Judicial Watch’s bill of particulars against the mayor was the “1,300 union police officers who make over $100,000 at the department Alvarez worked in and headed for years.” Outrageous, said Judicial Watch.
So imagine our shock when Judicial Watch announced it would try to intervene in the Goldwater Institute’s challenge to release time in Phoenix—to defend the practice that diverts six full-time police officers and thousands of hours of police time for “union business,” including lobbying and campaigning.
Why the sudden shift in principle?
The explanation appears to lie in Judicial Watch’s recent hire of Mark Spencer as its “Southwest Projects Coordinator.” Before joining Judicial Watch, Spencer was the Phoenix police union’s president and lobbyist, where—you guessed it—he was on release time, receiving the pay and pension benefits of a full-time police officer while riding a union desk.
Release time is widespread among Arizona municipalities (Scottsdale is a notable exception). Phoenix’s release time provisions in contracts with its seven government worker unions cost taxpayers $4 million per year, according to a Goldwater Institute investigation released last year.
Seems like just the type of scandal Judicial Watch would sniff out—if it hadn’t compromised its mission.
Clint Bolick is Vice President for Litigation at the Goldwater Institute.
Goldwater Institute: Money for Nothing: Phoenix Taxpayers Foot the Bill for Union Work
Goldwater Institute: Cheatham v. Gordon
Judicial Watch Release: Judicial Watch, Phoenix Police Officers Seek to Protect Officers’ Employment Agreement
Judicial Watch Blog: Union Workers Campaign For Mayor On Taxpayer Time