Labor Relations examiner rules in favor of city police officer

A state Department of Labor Relations examiner has ruled that the City of Williamsport committed an unfair labor practice against a high-ranking police officer.

Lt. Steven Helm had been transferred within the department from patrol lieutenant to support services lieutenant in retaliation for his union activity in December 2017, according to examiner John Pozniak.

Pozniak concluded the city committed the violation and ordered the immediate rescission of his transfer.

His order also called for the city to stop discriminating “in regard to hire or tenure of employment or any term of condition of employment to encourage or discourage membership in any labor organization.”

Helm was notified in December that he was being transferred to support services lieutenant, a reassignment that stripped him of his supervisory authority.

He has been a city police officer for nearly 25 years, serving as Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 29 president since 2008.

In an employee performance review just prior to his transfer, his direct supervisor, Capt. Jody Miller, rated Helm “as satisfactory for each of the job factors, except for communications, interpersonal relations/equal employment opportunity, and supervision/management, where he ruled Helm as ‘needs improvement,’ “ according to Pozniak.

The Fraternal Order of Police, Pozniak noted, alleged that the city gave Helm a negative employee performance review in retaliation for his protected activity as FOP president.

Pozniak concluded that the FOP “sustained its burden of proving the city was unlawfully motivated when it gave Helm his 2017 review and reassigned him to the Support Services Lieutenant position.”

Williamsport Police Chief David Young said he and the city solicitor are considering the review process.

He had no further comment.

Declining comment were Williamsport Mayor Gabriel J. Campana and Patrick Harvey, an attorney for the city.

Tony Caputo, an attorney representing the FOP, said, “We are obviously pleased with the ruling.”

He said the question now comes down to whether the city plans to appeal it. Helm could not be reached for comment for this story.

Exceptions to the Proposed Order can be filed by Oct. 2, according to the Labor Relations Board.