Monday, April 2, 2012
Charges brought by a former member of the Correction Officers Benevolent Association against its president, Norman Seabrook, were dismissed by a huge margin of votes at a special union meeting March 28.
A spokesman for Mr. Seabrook, Michael Skelly, said that the dissident, Chandra LaSonde, was not allowed to present her case at the meeting because she was no longer a Correction Officer and therefore ineligible to participate.
Ms. LaSonde, a former COBA board member and a political rival of Mr. Seabrook, said she should have been permitted to speak. “In the bylaws and constitution it states that members retired and active can attend meetings,” she said in an interview. “The only difference is that retired cannot vote. I am officially retired as of March 9 of this year.”
Ms. LaSonde says Mr. Seabrook forced her to resign from the board after she filed an allegedly fraudulent insurance claim on behalf of another board member. She was acquitted in Federal court, but the city initially fired her after she refused to answer a Department of Correction investigator’s questions about the claim.
Her status was later changed to retired, she said. DOC said last week that she was still listed as terminated.
She sued and won a court order requiring the union to review her charges, which included several related to her case. She alleged Mr. Seabrook testified falsely against her in court and refused to reinstate her to the board after her acquittal. She also claimed that he misappropriated funds, ignored motions by union members and violated COBA rules on scheduling meetings.
COBA announced that the first of the 12 charges was dismissed by a vote of 3,408 to 82, and the rest of the charges were defeated by similar margins. The votes included proxies filed before the meeting.
‘We’re Deeply Grateful’
“The Executive Board and I are deeply grateful for the outpouring of support demonstrated by our loyal brother and sister officers who took time out of their busy lives to ensure their union would continue to move forward despite any adversity it faced,” Mr. Seabrook, who has been president since 1995, said in a statement. “From day one, we firmly maintained our innocence and spent the last two years in the facilities and in the courts to both communicate and reaffirm our innocence. I look forward to the election in June where all COBA members will once again be given the opportunity to keep COBA moving forward for many years to come.”
Ms. LaSonde had her own view of the situation. “The actions taken by Norman Seabrook and the executive board were not only illegal but disrespectful to the members that he’s paid to represent,” she said. She will return to court seeking an order for another special meeting at which she is allowed to speak, she said.
Police were called to the March 28 meeting, she said, and a Sergeant told her she had a right to stay. But, she added, a higher-ranking officer who is a friend of Mr. Seabrook’s told her she had to leave or be arrested.
Another COBA member said the meeting room was cleared for an hour while this was worked out. This member, who asked not to be identified, said the tone of the meeting was extremely hostile until police arrived.