Pittsburgh police union president attempted to back out of moonlighting rules

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In the three days after the president of the Pittsburgh police union signed an agreement allowing new rules on police officer moonlighting, he attempted twice to back out of it.

Sgt. Michael LaPorte said he was "preoccupied" and might have "mistakenly" read a portion of an agreement tightening restrictions on police officer moonlighting but later realized the deal did not benefit some officers who made a profit from scheduling other officers' off-duty work.

The sergeant spoke Monday amid rumors that some officers in the department hope to impeach him, possibly raising the topic at a union meeting later this week.

The agreement, which he signed Nov. 21, gave approval to a new policy that prohibited officers from receiving cash for their off-duty work or for receiving money for scheduling other officers' off-duty work.

Sgt. LaPorte also said he might have "mistakenly" read a line that rendered "null and void" a section of the collective bargaining agreement governing officer moonlighting.

The police union filed a grievance Nov. 24 saying the new policy would cause "irreparable harm" to some officers who had been scheduling off-duty work for others and collecting a fee.

Asked why he signed an agreement accepting the new policy and then authorized the filing of a union-wide grievance against it, Sgt. LaPorte said he thought the policy would benefit more officers than it would hurt and would help fix a credibility problem that came about amid a federal investigation that showed that former police chief Nate Harper and others in the bureau diverted about $70,000 in checks that paid for officer moonlighting from the bureau into off-the-books accounts.

Sgt. LaPorte said Monday that Pittsburgh public safety director Mike Huss' secretary asked him to sign the agreement during a meeting at police headquarters Nov. 21 with Sgt. LaPorte, Mr. Huss and officers who previously worked to schedule other officer moonlighting.

"I will be pretty honest with you, I was preoccupied," Sgt. LaPorte said. He said things between him and Mr. Huss "got heated with the officers" and his focus was on keeping the meeting on point.

Sgt. LaPorte said the initial parts of the agreement appeared to him to deal only with policy changes and that when he left work that night, "One of the things I did was re-read the document and on that second reading, I was like 'Oh hey, they tried to sneak one on here, or I misread it.' "

The sergeant said he contacted Mr. Huss' secretary the next morning because Mr. Huss was on vacation and followed up again when the public safety director returned.

"I had 100 percent believed that the document was being redrafted," Sgt. LaPorte said. "I am so deeply hurt and I have such a feeling of betrayal because it's such a 180-degree turn from what my perception was."

Mr. Huss said he and representatives from the police union "spent months working together on the secondary employment policy."

"They had adequate input. I listened to their concerns over many months," he said. "We needed to ensure that the city's interests were protected and in fact that this policy could be implemented without further actions."

"I believe he's their representative," Mr. Huss said of Sgt. LaPorte. "That's who I look to as their representative."

The police union has a membership meeting scheduled Thursday night.

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