Kendall Hallett was right. The Madison Police Department, the parking enforcement officer's employer for 11 years, did indeed "want me gone," just as he told Isthmus (Watchdog, 11/30/07). On Dec. 5, Hallett was fired, setting up a battle between the MPD and Hallett's union.
Hallett's termination, imposed while he was serving a 30-day suspension, was for violating the MPD's policy on access to police records. According to a memo by Capt. Cameron McLay, Hallett ran afoul of this policy by "having posted a number of documents on the Internet."
Chief among these was a spreadsheet that gave a month-by-month breakdown of the number of citations issued by the MPD's 28 parking enforcement officers. McLay's memo calls these "departmental documents" that Hallett was not authorized to release.
But David White, staff rep of Council 40, which represents Hallett, a union steward, says this rule is being misapplied. The spreadsheet is "a public record" whose release does not jeopardize the MPD or any investigation.
"I suspect that's the purpose of the rule," he says. "This has nothing to do with that." (In fact, a spreadsheet containing these tallies was released to Isthmus on request, without redactions. But MPD Capt. Carl Gloede says employees must follow proper procedure, even for public information.)
McLay's letter goes on to chastise Hallett for "accessing local media to draw attention to your personal discipline issue" -- a reference to the Isthmus article. He suggests this violates MPD policy 2-258: "Members of the department shall not communicate with the news media for purposes of personal gain or advancement." The memo says this violation was not pursued, beyond an expression of "our concerns."
White says the policy against seeking media attention may make sense when applied to sworn officers (although it could be argued that MPD officers, supervisors and the chief of police regularly violate it with impunity), but not civilian parking enforcers. He says the city is "too damn cheap" to hire sworn officers for this job, so it shouldn't hold them to the same standards: "They can't have it both ways."
Finally, McLay's memo suggests Hallett is unstable and may "pose a workplace violence threat." McLay also sent an email making these claims to parking enforcement staff. It says that while Hallett had not made any "specific threats," he may own a firearm and they may need to take "emergency action."
White is enraged by this correspondence, which "way overstepped the line." He says McLay's obvious intention was to "drive a wedge between Kendall and other people in the department," even though there is no credible reason to believe he posed a threat.
"Those who know Kendall consider the idea completely absurd," says White. "He's kind of a peacenik." Hallett agrees. "I have no intention of harming any person or any thing," he wrote on his website (kendallhallett.com). "I can only characterize it as a cynical attempt to discredit me."
White says the union will fight Hallett's termination, just as it is fighting his suspension and some prior discipline. He says the department's stated reasons for going after Hallett are "fraudulent." The real reason is that "he is a thorn in their side, a burr in their saddle.
"He's not the most compliant employee. He questions authority with some regularity. He can be difficult to supervise. But so what?"
Capt. McLay declined to comment, saying "This is not the appropriate venue to air the city's side of the story." But an anonymous caller to Isthmus wanted it known that Hallett "is gay. He wears earrings and stuff. We don't need his kind around here. Write about somebody good."