Updated Tue, Mar 18, 2014 3:57 pm
A labor contract for lieutenants and the captain at the Athens County Sheriff's Office was approved Tuesday by the county commissioners, with a change.
There is still disagreement over whether the original version of the proposed contract had automatically gone into effect because the commissioners did not take action within 30 days of the contract being presented to them. Sheriff Patrick Kelly says yes, the commissioners say no.
With the contract approval Tuesday, the issue now appears moot.
Kelly said the union was willing to accept the change the commissioners wanted in the proposed contract. The lieutenants and the captain are represented by the Ohio Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.
"We wanted everbody to sign off on it," said Kelly, who described the commissioners' action Tuesday as "a formality of having the commissioners sign off."
Lt. Aaron Maynard, bargaining unit representative, said the union wanted to get the contract settled.
"We chose, as a bargaining unit, to work with the commissioners ...," Maynard said.
Omitted from the contract approved Tuesday was a sentence that said: "The employer will only lay off bargaining unit employees and/or abolish positions in the bargaining unit for reasons of economy and/or efficiency including a reorganization for more efficiency."
Commissioner Lenny Eliason had raised concerns about that provision during a March 4 meeting with Kelly and Maynard. Eliason said he was concerned the added language could “handcuff” a future sheriff who wanted to reorganize the department. He said the sheriff would have to be able to show it was being done for economy and/or efficiency. If a change in the department was contested, a third party could end up deciding whether the change improved efficiency, Eliason had said.
During the March 4 meeting, Kelly said he supported the additional language because he wanted to protect the lieutenants if another sheriff came into office.
Kelly said Tuesday that even with the sentence removed, he feels that the lieutenants are protected and could only be removed for just cause.
Kelly said last week, and repeated Tuesday, that he feels the contract that was originally submitted to the commissioners in February had gone into effect because that commissioners did not act on it within 30 days. That opinion, Kelly said Tuesday, came from both from his office's labor attorney and the attorney for the union, although Eliason has said the commissioners' labor attorney disagrees.
Commissioner Charlie Adkins said that because the commissioners opposed a provision in the contract during the March 4 meeting, negotiations were still under way and the 30-day time limit did not apply.
"In the world I come from, that's bargaining," said Adkins, a former union president at Ohio University.
The new agreement is a three-year contract.
Maynard said supervisors will be getting a 50 cents-an-hour increase in their base pay. They were already slated to receive annual 2 percent cost-of-living increases that are tied to an already-approved labor contract with deputies.