Dee from the Desk: the Union Smokescreen and the GOP Divide

For once, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung has flexed his Republican muscles. Fung is going head to head against the local police union however many of Fung's fellow Republicans are quick to side with the union.

Last week, Fung recommended the termination of Police Captain Steven Antonucci saying that it was Antonucci that ordered the excessive ticketing in two wards where the councilmen voted against the newly proposed police contract. Antonucci also happens to be the President of the Cranston Police Union.

In response, the union through its lawyer Joe Rodio, is lobbing accusations at Fung claiming extortion and racketeering. The union says they plan to sue the mayor, claiming he was making backroom deals in order to avoid litigation with the officers.

Although no suit has been filed yet, to threaten to sue a sitting mayor for extortion and racketeering is no joke and the union knows that. The union also knows how much attention such allegations would get since Fung is currently running for governor.

Meanwhile, the union president is on the verge of being axed and the union needs to try to save his job in order to avoid looking weak. So as an organized body the union is threatening a lawsuit against the mayor. A lawsuit, that regardless of how founded or unfounded the claims might be, will be concerning to the mayor who wants to be governor.

A lawsuit also offers another benefit to the union: distraction. It distracts people from the real issue. It offers a smokescreen, a buffer. Now that people are pointing fingers at the mayor for alleged extortion and racketeering they are less focused on the parking ticket scandal and any potential police misconduct.

If there was extortion and racketeering going on behind the scenes on the part of the mayor, then the Rhode Island State Police will probably discover it. Currently, the State Police have taken over the Cranston Police Department as they probe the parking ticket scandal. If Fung is responsible of such serious wrong doing then Rhode Islanders should expect some sort of criminal charges, however, there has been no mention of any. In fact, the State Police have not even suggested that the mayor might be involved in anyway.

Not to mention, Fung is still widely popular with rank and file police officers throughout the state. Most public safety officers are between supporting Angel Taveras and Allan Fung. They are unlikely to support Raimondo, who they blame for cutting their pensions and they are unlikely to support Pell who might just be a bit far to the left for them.

While the union is pointing fingers at the mayor, so aren't his fellow Republicans. The GOP has become hugely divided as battle lines are being drawn in the Republican Primary. Some members of the Republican Party are using Fung's challenge to the union as leverage to say that the mayor is involved in shady dealings with the police or that he should not run for governor and instead focus on Cranston. This is not a Fung vs. Block situation. Republicans who don't support Fung for Governor should still support Fung as mayor. The mayor of the state's third largest city is going head to head with the president of a powerful union. Republicans more than anyone know just how difficult it is to take on the local unions. Instead of being quick to point the finger at Fung, fellow Republicans should applaud the mayor for being strong and taking on the union. It is amazing how quick Republicans are to point the finger at their own candidate and side with a local union.

Democrats on the other hand would never do that. When Cicilline was being blamed for the budget issues in Providence, the Democrats stood by him. You didn't hear fellow Democrats pointing fingers at Cicilline on talk radio or making accusations on Facebook.

Republicans know what Fung is up against and they need to stand by him if they ever plan to win any battles against the unions. Whether the Republicans support Ken Block or Allan Fung for governor shouldn't matter in this situation. What matters is a local mayor is facing off against a local union and needs support behind him. Republicans can support Fung in his battle against the unions and not support his candidacy for governor. Members of the GOP need to remember what the overall goal is, and here is a hint: it is not to get a candidate elected Governor. The party as a whole needs to focus on spreading the Republican message, not harping all over a member of their own party because they don't support his candidacy for governor.

Time will tell what the union claims actually are and if there is any substantial evidence to back them up. Until that point the Republicans should stick together whether or not they support Fung for governor.

Dee DeQuattro is the assignment desk manager and digital news coordinator for ABC6. She studied politics and communications and holds a master's degree from Providence College. Follow her on twitter @deedequattro and log on to ABC6 .com for her latest in depth coverage of politics and news.