Phoenix Law Enforcement Association

Thoughts from a Pension Spiker

The following article was submitted by retired Phoenix Police officer Jim Maish #R1139 who now continues to proudly serve as a reserve officer.

I am a conservative. I support organizations representing my worldview with my money and time. The Goldwater Institute, Sal DiCiccio and I probably vote for the same political candidates and embrace similar beliefs.

I am a retired Phoenix police officer, a Reserve officer and a PLEA member for 31 years. I receive a pension that Sal and the lawyers at the Goldwater Institute claim was negotiated illegally by “union bosses…working in secret negotiations.” They claim the union representing me is “…dangerous to the taxpayer.” These clever conservatives say I “stuck it to the taxpayers” by “illegally spiking” my pension.

My scorn for liberals diminishes in my contempt for the phony conservatives in the Goldwater Institute, Councilman Sal DiCiccio and Craig Harris from the Arizona Republic. These counterfeits use the same shrill rhetoric of the liberals they despise.

I was seventeen years old when I left home three days after my high school graduation to enlist in the Army. With the exception of the years I was a full-time student to earn my college degree I have been a “public servant” thirty-four years or what the Goldwater Institute and Councilman Sal DiCiccio refer to as “living off the public dime.” Sal and his lawyer pals at the Goldwater Institute consider me a thief of the public treasury because I “spiked” my pension by calling in sick only three days in twenty-six years. My desire to retire rich caused me to miss five days of work after one knee operation and miss eight days after a second knee operation. Obviously, this was because I was hoping I would get a “fat pension” as a reward for not using the funds and time available for work-related injuries. I was thinking “big retirement dollars” when I came back to work the morning after dislocating my shoulder. My lower legs were burned after an accident and I came back to work with the oozing remnants of cadaver skin, water blisters and staples in my legs. I apparently deceived my supervisors and doctors when I returned to full duty without a medical release because I was thinking about how much cash I could steal from the wallets of “hardworking taxpayers” and conservative lawyers at the “Goldwater Institute.”

I never worked a desk. My entire career was working South Phoenix patrol and almost twenty-five years on SAU (SWAT). I never had the desire to promote. I loved my job. I had no idea in 2005, when I was working twelve hour shifts, sometimes seven days a week for months to find the “Baseline Killer” responsible for nine murders, and the “Serial Shooters” who wounded eighteen people and who were convicted of six murders, that my motives were to “spike” my pension. I wish the good lawyers at the Institute could have counseled me or held workshops so I could have refused to work overtime and save the citizen’s money. In my ignorance I didn’t “put the taxpayer first” by working overtime to arrest serial murderers.

I was in over twenty situations where people shot at me or were shot and killed by me or someone else within a ten-yard radius. I thought those were dangerous circumstances. However it takes a lawyer to redefine the word “dangerous.” One of the Goldwater Institute’s “Boss Lawyers,” Nick Dranias said public safety unions are “dangerous.”

Maybe “Boss Lawyer” Nick and the attorneys could have volunteered to be police reserves to help with manpower shortages and save taxpayer cash. I’m sure many of them considered it but changed their minds knowing a background check and polygraph would scrutinize their truthfulness. Maybe after a tough day of suing cops and firemen they could have volunteered for a Neighborhood Watch program but since there’s no money in it they found other commitments like helping Sal make good real estate deals.

I never met one officer who said he became an officer to retire rich. We are not eligible for Social Security and those that are have greatly reduced benefits because of a pension.

Councilman Sal and his cheerleaders at the Institute never tell you what they think a “fair” pension is. They also never define what a “fair wage” is. How much do they think we are worth? How should pensions be calculated?Who should represent officers regarding pay and benefits before City government? The Chief hired by them?Yeah, right! They never say because their job is not to look for a solution. Their job is to sue on behalf of a client and destroy public safety unions.

The title “Goldwater Institute” hides the motives of an organization representing clients they call “donors.” Many of these donors hate labor unions and with the help of Goldwater Institute lawyers they attempt to portray Phoenix Police and Fire Unions as the equivalent of crooked east coast unions led by obese, cigar smoking boss thugs of the Teamsters and SEIU. In order to keep donor money coming in from concerned conservatives they make public safety unions look like another obnoxious tentacle of the liberal Democratic Party. These donors pool their money and collectively hide in the skirts of lawyers claiming to “stand on principle, not politics.”

The lawyers from the Goldwater Institute have found a sympathetic Judge, newspaper reporter and politician. They argued PLEA and the City of Phoenix are “endangering public safety” and that to allowing officers to perform union work on city time “is an unconstitutional subsidy.” Their rhetoric of stereotyping unions with a language of thievery is typical of a profession that has transitioned from an institution of justice to a business of legal technicians. These hypocritical attorneys have used the playbook of the liberal ACLU hoping for new laws and interpretations being created by a judge and abrogating the decades long agreements between the City of Phoenix and its employees. These technicians are expert at blurring the lines when interpreting law and fall in line with liberals applying legisprudence instead of jurisprudence by failing to focus on what should be foremost in in their calling: doing what’s right and pursuing justice.

The conservative legal techs at Goldwater and their allies at the Arizona Republic use the tactics of liberal leftists when they parade 153 retirees out of 2,400 who make “more than $88,000 – more than two times the average income in Arizona.” Most of these retirees are upper management personnel who retired with more than 32 years of service. Since when does a conservative cry, “that’s not fair” instead of fighting for what’s right? They need to tell us what a “fair pension” is for these 153 retirees. Should a Phoenix Chief with 37 years of service receive a pension equal to a retired Chief from another city or a pension equal to a Sergeant or Officer? The legal techs are not concerned with what is right – they want to use grammatical nuances rather than the higher purpose of law to define not what is right but what is legal.

Police and Fire Unions are alone in preventing supervisors from abusing their power and governments who want to use management to enforce their culture on Public Safety. The Goldwater Institute is either naïve or stupid in their pursuit to consolidate power in fallible elected officials and their appointed Public Safety Chiefs. Phoenix public safety unions ensure accountability in chiefs and elected officials. Respect and accountability benefit everyone including the lawyers at the Goldwater Institute.

If Goldwater legal techs need some work to prove to their donor/clients they can make headlines, I know they could find some city employees who can point them towards some bigger fish to fry. Maybe they can go after real economic waste such as how the city pays for repairs on vehicles and facilities or the bidding process on everything from oil filters to dog food.

It seems these lawyers could not pay their bills chasing ambulances so they found a niche suing cops and firefighters. These self-righteous legal techs refuse to see their hypocrisy when their favorite cheerleader, the self-proclaimed “fiscal watchdog and hawk,” Councilman Sal voted for a $78,000 per year pay raise for the City Manager and raises for over 300 city officials at a time when city employees are working with pay cuts and reduced benefits. These pay raises “spike” those pensions but Goldwater law techs are silent because they don’t want to wake their pimps.

When I joined the Phoenix Police Department there were nine line of duty deaths in the previous 57 years. The next 31 years I would see 27 more line of duty deaths. Those deaths are memorialized in funerals and monuments but there are no memorials for countless others seriously injured in the line of duty; the flesh burned off of Officer Jason Schechterle’s face as a result of a horrific on duty vehicle collision or the leg lost by Officer Jeff Dauer after being shot by a suspect with a rifle. How many remember Dave Logan taking a bullet in the neck or Tommy Jansen surviving a bullet in his head? What were Sal and his lawyers doing when Robert Sitek and others were recovering from bullet wounds and car crashes that left them with missing body parts, brain damaged or in wheelchairs? Sal and his Goldwater buddies don’t care about taxpayer waste when cops who are wrongfully fired have to go through a lengthy legal process costing taxpayers thousands of dollars to get their jobs back. What is a fair pension or wage for someone whose health was left in an alley or street? Sal and his lawyer Komrades are silent because those tragedies don’t buy votes or keep the money flowing into Goldwater Institute coffers.

Sal and the lawyers stay silent in the shadows when cops and firemen are buried but once the flowers wilt on the graves they want to make sure the public knows it’s “not fair” cops get huge pensions and they get it via “Union Bosses” stealing from taxpayers and circumventing state law.

I don’t see integrity in city leaders who talk fiscal responsibility while taking pay raises. I don’t see integrity in reporters or lawyers looking for a fight in places where they have nothing to lose and I don’t see integrity in Sal playing politics while standing on the necks of retired cops and firemen while his bank accounts spike from peddling political influence.

We didn’t get into public safety expecting a big check at the end of 20 years. We entered public safety knowing we were offering ourselves as a blank check to the City of Phoenix. Police work is a deeply satisfying profession. It had its risks and there were some bad days. I knew there were intangible assets I needed to keep no matter how much I faltered. A paycheck or pension will not compensate for lost honor, respect, courage and integrity.

Integrity, truth and trust are not spelled out in state or local law but we expect these qualities because they are implicit parts of law. These qualities make a police and fire department. Our virtue creates public trust. These are incomprehensible qualities to Sal, the Goldwater Institute and the Arizona Republic. Their bottom line has nothing to do with character but with votes and cash while whipping up discontent amongst the citizens of Phoenix.

These shameless hypocrites seek to nullify promises that are older than me and made by past and current taxpayer/citizen elected City officials. Sal has been in City Hall since 1994 and only recently discovered the City was breaking state law while claiming intimidation by “Union Bosses”? Why am I a villain for having a pension?I never asked for something I was not eligible for when I was hired. These guys claim I obtained my retirement illegally. What invigorated Sal and the amoral legal techs to abruptly appear and find a judge to beat up retirees and attack the unions? Why won’t Sal and his pals tell us what they get out of this? I don’t think they are working for free.

I hope Sal and the Goldwater Institute look for some real dragons to slay. Those dragons exist but to fight in a real battle means taking a risk and going where the battle rages the hottest. They won’t do it. They use the courts in the same manner as their liberal counterparts because they are hollow conservatives. You can tell what these people are made of. Their fight doesn’t require honor, risk, integrity or courage. They know they could never cut it as a cop or firefighter yet they will continue to attack the very men and women who willingly risk it all daily for the honor of serving and protecting their fellow man.