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"They took our name because they have no credibility," charges HPPU vice president Terry Martin. "That way, they can go to the Texas Legislature and fool people into believing they are us."
Marticiuc dismisses the lawsuit as ridiculous, noting that no one has proprietary rights to the word "union." He says the name change had nothing to do with making the acronym similar to HPPU's -- though he readily admits that he hopes to run his rival out of business.
The real battle isn't over acronyms; it's for members. For years, HPOA and HPPU had been neck-and-neck, each vying to be the largest employee group in the department. But after Marticiuc's election, a large number of HPPU members defected to join him. According to HPD's figures, as of November, 3,538 of the department's 4,909 Class-A officers paid dues to HPOU; only 1,585 paid them to HPPU. Obviously, some officers have dual memberships. But even HPPU officials acknowledge that Marticiuc has made a serious dent.
"We've lost between 500 and 700 people," says HPPU's Martin grimly. "But we're still paying the bills."
Some believe that Marticiuc is on the verge of realizing his dream: destroying HPPU, taking over its members and thus creating a single police union that likely would be a powerhouse in city politics. Craig Goralski, president of the Houston Police Officers Pension System, has watched the war between HPOU and HPPU with great interest.
"Hans has his detractors," says Goralski. "But if he pulls this off, it will really be an historic achievement in our department."
May Walker, head of the Afro-American Police Officers League, doesn't mince words on the subject of Marticiuc. "I just believe he's a blatant racist," she says.
She bases her opinion on Marticiuc's opposition to the settlement of a discrimination lawsuit. Three years ago, HPD finally maneuvered to end a federal suit brought by minority officers in 1976. At Nuchia's recommendation, the city and the officers reached a settlement: HPD promised to promote 134 blacks and Hispanics to the ranks of sergeant and lieutenant over a five-year period.
HPOA opposed the deal, saying that it hadn't been allowed to participate. In April, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered all the parties back to the negotiating table, and so far there's been no movement toward a compromise.
After Marticiuc took over the HPOA, Walker says, the group's stance toward the suit changed. "It became white against black, that white males were being discriminated against at the police department," she says. "How is that possible when the department is dominated by white males?"
Asked about the accusation of racism, Marticiuc says Walker's words don't merit a response. Instead, he gladly offers his own ideas for settling the lawsuit: His group, say, would agree to let the promoted minority officers keep their positions in return for an across-the-board pay raise.
Since his blowup with Nuchia last August, Marticiuc hasn't had much opportunity to float such plans to anyone in a position to act on them. This week Clarence Bradford, formerly an assistant chief, succeeds Nuchia as head of the Houston Police Department. Just after City Council approved Bradford's appointment, the incoming chief sent word to Marticiuc that he'd like to reopen the lines of communication between the HPD hierarchy and HPOU, and he indicates that he'll fight for officer raises.
Nevertheless, it didn't take Marticiuc long to foul the newly friendly atmosphere. Three days after a cordial getting-to-know-you meeting with Bradford, Marticiuc turned the force of his fury on Lanier, Bradford's boss. While meeting with the representatives of the nine employee groups, Lanier explained that there wasn't much money available for salary increases. And once again, Marticiuc stormed out of a meeting.
The mayor was nonplused.
"I used to negotiate labor contracts many years ago," says Lanier, "and I never thought that style was particularly effective."
Marticiuc disagrees. Lanier, he says, was basically telling the committee "to go take a flying leap." And if the other employee-group leaders "had any snap and any balls at all, they would have sent that old man a message and walked out with me."
Marticiuc seems to enjoy telling the stories about his battles with Nuchia, Lanier and other union leaders, especially to a reporter -- not so much because he likes the spotlight, but because it's one more chance for him to send a message.
"There's no one out there protecting the protectors," says Marticiuc. No one, he means, except him and his HPOU.
Marticiuc rarely misses a chance to deliver that message. Asked to be photographed for this story, he again eagerly seizes the opportunity.
"Yeah, I'll pose for your pictures," he says with that wry grin. "In uniform