“The city has tried to say I was over there going rogue and I was just sitting in an office writing things,” said Moose. “There are days that I wish. But there was definitely a system of checks and balances.” He flatly called the city’s allegation “insulting.”
Lawyers for the officers subpoenaed the documents from the city, asking for the full historical file from the 1993–94 bargaining sessions that would have included notes and minutes from meetings with the unions. After a “diligent” effort to locate them, the city’s attorneys claimed no records could be found at all relating to the manual change. But in recent years, Groepper’s own search has turned up at least a few of them.
There’s the memo written to Moose by Sgt. Darrel Schenck, which shows the benefits were reviewed and revised by many city leaders, not just dropped in the police manual. Schenck notes language in the manual “has had extensive reworking and numerous drafts” and was approved by key city managers.
There are the notes from city employee Rebecca Gunther that show the benefits were discussed in bargaining sessions October 6, 1993.
There are also notes from the Portland Police Association from the October 6 discussion, as well as from subsequent meetings November 23 and December 22, 1993, and March 7, 1994, which show the benefits were explored not only in formal negotiating sessions with the city, but also in smaller meetings between the union and Portland’s Police Bureau and Bureau of Personnel Services.
But Groepper’s most potent discovery is Michael Sims, the information systems manager who implemented the computer storage system that the city claims it can no longer access. In a recent affidavit Groepper solicited from Sims, he states bluntly, “The documents Henry Groepper is seeking are stored or archived on the Novell system, on disk and/or tape, and [are] readily retrievable.”
The discovery, Groepper thinks, spells victory for him and his colleagues. For the City of Portland, it potentially represents untold millions of dollars. Duddy alone would cost the city $7,680 a year for health care premiums. Multiply that by 110—and possibly by another 89 for the number of disabled firefighters who Groepper believes have also been unfairly denied benefits—and that’s more than $1.5 million annually in liabilities.
In a January 27 letter, Groepper asked the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office to order the City of Portland to produce all missing notes and minutes from the bargaining sessions with unions, or to issue criminal penalties against whoever destroyed them. Presenting his findings as evidence the documents once existed, Groepper even offered to pay a computer technician to retrieve the remaining records, using methods suggested by Sims.
Deputy District Attorney John Hoover denied the appeal April 28, saying his office “is not in a position to order a public agency to disclose records that they have represented cannot be found.” Hoover has worked with the city, however, to broaden the search for the documents, an effort that could allow Groepper and his experts to search the computers.
As talks continue, City Hall remains silent. Current Mayor Sam Adams was chief of staff for Mayor Vera Katz when the benefit landed in the police manual. But his spokeswoman, Amy Ruiz, said, “At this time, as the issue may be headed toward further litigation, the Mayor’s Office is declining to comment.” Commissioner Randy Leonard, who headed the firefighters’ union in that era and would have attended the benefit negotiations, also declined to comment, saying he has not been involved with the dispute and can’t be of help. Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who today oversees the Fire & Police Disability & Retirement Fund, also declined to be interviewed, though his staff provided historical details helpful to assembling this article. David Shaff, administrator of the Portland Water Bureau and the labor relations manager for the Bureau of Human Resources when bargaining took place, said, “I would bet the city attorney would be very unhappy with me if I went off and met with reporters.”
After years of debating the issue with the city, both in court and out, Groepper is simply eager to see the situation come to a just end. Despite his ongoing fight with cancer, Groepper says that given the chance to rewrite history, he wouldn’t trade his days of busting meth labs, even when he had to strip down on the front porch once home, mindful of how the stench of his clothes irked his wife and kids. “Would I trade my police career? No. I loved being a police officer, I really did,” he says. “Would I trade working for the city of Portland? I would.”