By Investigative Reporters Edward Snook and John Taft
This article was originally published in the Oregon Observer, prior to the levy election, and later revised for Strobezone on Jan. 10th 2001.
Sheriff Department’s Union Contract Secrets Revealed
Grants Pass -- Have the JoCo commissioners and sheriff sold out the publics right to good police protection to a union called the association? This union represents deputies during collective bargaining with the county
The Oregon Observer is taking a hard look at the contract the county commissioners have signed giving the sheriff’s association (union) very plush working conditions. The Observer will expose this sacred cow contract for what it is, a pox upon the people A myth perpetuated by the local media and the commissioners that the people are being served. When the sheriff and his friends proclaim we are here to serve you, ask the question, fried or broiled?
We find conditions in this four-year contract that don’t normally exist in the private sector. A private enterprise couldn’t stay in business and make a profit if it gave comparable benefits to its employees. Wal-Mart reportedly shut down a meat section in one of its stores when the employees tried to organize and form a union. This major department store won’t deal with unions because they could put them out of business with excessive demands. The union has to justify its existence to its members for the monthly dues deputies’ pay. Excessive benefits won by the unions come out of the property owner’s pocket and put his home at risk of government seizure for nonpayment of taxes. It’s a never ending round of the union grasping for more money and benefits while the property owner flounders in rising property taxes.
Why are the sheriff and friends cranking up the propaganda machine and spending thousands of dollars promoting a property tax levy? Is this really to protect the citizens or to perpetuate a money hungry power driven elitist group of county employees? Are Josephine County residents being flimflammed by a self-serving sheriff’s department union, called the association? Elected county officials have made JoCo property owners the milk cows on the association’s family farm for their better living. The cows (homeowners) are locked into the stall to be stripped by a grossly lopsided, unfair labor contract. The association, sheriff, and two commissioners all willingly signed their names, on August 4th, 1999, to this contract smelling of brimstone and burned paper. They sold their souls for four good years. Shades of the story, The Devil and Daniel Webster. These are harsh words and they will be fully backed up with documentation from the association’s contract with the county.
Police Unions Run up the Cost of Property Taxes
Following the tail of the snake will lead to the head of the serpent. On May 26, the commissioners held a public hearing at Basker Hall to determine the fate of a property tax levy to fund the sheriff and district attorney. The commissioners deceived those in attendance by allowing the audience to believe that their public statements mattered as to whether the levy would go on the September18 ballot. May audience members spoke both pro and con, still believing their input would be listened to. Bob Armstrong, a retired 33-year law enforcement officer and supporter of Dave Daniel let the chickens out of the coop. Armstrong said, "The other thing I would like to say in defense of the public is that sometimes I think that the public thinks that people aren’t doing what they should be. And there is some justification for that. We have probably 210 retired law enforcement people living in this area who would be perfectly willing to donate time, education, and experience to help protect their community. But, police unions don’t want them to do anything that a paid deputy could do because that could mean losing police jobs. The point we really have here is we have a bunch of guys that can do gopher jobs and help considerably with getting the law enforcement done."
Deputies Union Contract Puts Public at Risk?
There are an estimated 210 retired police officers in Josephine County ready, willing, and able to perform public service in their area of expertise according to Mr. Armstrong. Why are these trained men who are willing to serve the people of Josephine County at little or no cost relegated to gopher jobs? Why aren’t they put in patrol cars or used as backups to fill in on the midnight to 8 a.m. patrols. Daniel originally completely gutted this shift so there were no patrols. Under pressure he put one deputy on patrol to go wherever he wished during these hours.
Why are Daniel and his friends promoting this levy and spending thousands of dollars to do so? Are they really out protecting the public from the bad guys, or is their first concern looking after the goose that lays the golden eggs? The smart money will be placed on the goose to win. The sheriff’s department could be run for millions of dollars less than its normal budget of around 7 million dollars. If proper use of the retired cops in JoCo was efficiently utilized these saving could be realized. Here’s why and how the sheriff’s association and their collaborators in county government are barbecuing the homeowner.
In the following statement the Observer gives evidence that the first duty of the Sheriff’s association (union) is self-preservation and plush working conditions as opposed to protecting its employee the public at a reasonable cost. The union has written into its current contract the following statement, which was signed by a quorum of county commissioners, Haugen, Iverson, and Sheriff Daniel. The Sheriff’s association’s signatories are Kevin Michael, Judie Erickson, and Clay Darby. Daniel is a known avid union supporter having been a high ranking official before being elected sheriff.
Contract Clause Excludes Patrol Volunteers
Under Article 6.2 in the association’s contract signed by the above persons the meaningful use of retired law enforcement officers is prohibited by "Use of volunteers and paid extra help shall be at the discretion of the sheriff so long as work performed does not replace existing bargaining unit employees."
That one sentence in the contract shows the association is not out to protect the best interests of the public but that of a powerful self-serving association of JoCo deputies. By preventing the estimated 200 retired cops from doing meaningful jobs the union protects their own self-serving interests first. The public interests come in at a distance second. Sheriff Daniel want’s to solve the department’s problems with property tax dollars. If the sheriff’s department was run efficiently, all resources utilized, and the union contract modified the department could serve the law enforcement needs of JoCo for an estimated 3.8 to 4.5 million dollars. The sheriff’s budget at over $7 million before the budget cuts was an extravagant waste of taxpayer dollars and should not be tolerated.
The sheriff is playing the woe is me game and reducing patrols and other services. At one time he eliminated county patrols on the midnight to 8 a.m.shift and then points his finger at the budget saying that’s the problem, no money. The real problem is the association’s contract the sheriff and others signed eliminating volunteer cops from serving county residents in a meaningful manner and the inefficiency of the department in general. This is why there are limited sheriff patrols in JoCo inefficiency and a sweetheart labor contract. Some claim Daniel is paying back the union for member’s support during his run against Dan Calvert.
Was Former Sheriff Calvert Ready to BustUnion Contract?
Many former supporters of Daniel believe he gained his office by deception and that he has the support of deputies by protecting their union and supporting their plush working conditions at the property owner’s expense.
In an interview with a reliable source I was told former Sheriff Dan Calvert was opposed to certain provisions in the union contract and his inability to get rid of ineffective deputies in the sheriff’s department. Those deputies are still there. Here is Calvert’s reported statement, He said that he was inexperienced in contract negotiations and had he known what he knows now he would never have signed that contract. So he was looking forward to reelection because that contract was up for negotiation and he certainly would have renegotiated a much different contract, one that gave him more ability to pull out the bad weeds if you will. It would seem these alleged bad weeds, (deputies) have flourished under the present sheriff. In fact one weed pulled by a former sheriff was transplanted by Daniel and allowed to take root in his department again. The association no doubt knew Calvert’s views and it would have been to the union’s benefit to get rid of Calvert and get a pro union sheriff (Daniel). The conclusion can be reached that a lot of deputies wanted Calvert out of office because if he were reelected they were weren’t going to get the plush, plush, contract they wanted and now have.
Deputy Works Six Months Out of a Year and Gets Full Salary and Benefits
The association’s plush contract with JoCo allows big tough deputies a 15-minute break every two hours to eat a can of spinach. Then at lunchtime they get a half-hour break. The association’s contract states, "The meal period shall be thirty (30) minutes and shall be considered on-duty time." During an eight-hour day this tallies up to seven hours of work for eight hours of pay. When deputies eat, you pay. The union’s contract seems to advocate as much salary and benefits for the deputies with as little work as possible. How many hours a week does a deputy work? To determine this fact we will have to find out what the union contract calls for.
Based on 52 weeks in a year there are 260 workdays. Subtract 12 holidays this equals 248 days worked. 248 days less 24 days vacation equals 224 days worked. 224 days less 12 days sick leave if used equals 212 days worked. 212 days less 32.5 days (that’s 6.5 weeks) paid for daily rest breaks and paid mealtime equals 179.5 days worked during the year. Work six months and get salary and benefits for a full year. How does the reader’s job compare with this?
Deputy Paid Full Time Works 69% of Time
A fifteen year employee of the sheriff’s department works only 179.5 days out of 260 work days when all the listed days are subtracted. That’s 80.5 days off or 16.1 weeks a year the deputy doesn’t have to work but gets paid for this time. Our 15-year deputy works only 3.45 days per week and gets paid for 5 full 8-hour days. This sounds like part time early retirement. How many workers in the Josephine County labor market get that kind of deal? Where can most people get the working conditions Lt. Gordon Williams enjoys? Williams is one of the signers of the boycott against the Observer. Williams only works 6-months a year. That’s 179.5 days per the association’s contract. No wonder the sheriff can’t get the job done with the staff he has. Who’s doing the work? Unfortunately for the taxpayers, much of the time, nobodies doing the work. The sheriff wants the levy passed in September so he can have a full-bellied bloated department that puts every homeowner in JoCo at risk of losing his home.
The deputys’ association and it’s friends would enjoy seeing a successful boycott against the Observer. The deputies and sheriff don’t want the Observer exposing their plush contract to the public. The Observer is the only way this information is going to get out. The sheriff and his boys attempt to keep the black curtain tightly closed around that department. See the June/July issue of the Observer for the boycott story.
Thirteen Union Perks Listed: UnluckyTaxpayers Pickup the Tab
The JoCo is a collection agency for the union. The taxpayers pay for the bookkeeping, and the union dues are subtracted from the deputies’ paycheck. By terms of the contract the county is required to transmit the funds to the association within five working days. The union should be collecting its own dues, as they are a self-serving entity not working for the best interests of county residents. Keep in mind the county commissioners and sheriff signed this sweetheart contract. Who is representing the taxpayers? It’s not the commissioners as they also signed the contract. 1 .Our county commissioners agreed to allow the union representative to have three of the association’s deputies negotiate for so called collective bargaining with pay. This may involve hundred of hours of actual non-productive work time for deputies. Again, who’s looking after the county? It certainly isn’t the associations negotiators as they are looking after themselves.2.The contract calls for three members to discuss grievances with pay.3.The contract agrees to give space of at least 3’ by 4’ for union propaganda in the squad room and the jail. The county gets to pick where the bulletin board goes. What a nice concession that is! 4. The association has the right of access to the county premises, including the sheriff’s office. 5. The association gets the use of county buildings and facilities for its meetings. It also is entitled to use county equipment for the association’s purposes. The contact does call for reasonable reimbursement. 6. Other benefits include paid travel to seminars, special training, and a monthly allowance of $30 that’s $360 dollars a year for maintaining the deputies’ belt, gun, flashlight, baton, etc. 7. "Effective January 1, 2000, the county will pay the full cost for medical, dental, and vision insurance coverage for full-time employee (budgeted 1.0 FTE positions). 8. The county shall provide long term disability insurance. 9 The county shall provide liability insurance for each deputy. 10.The county shall provide and maintain a ten thousand dollar life insurance policy for police officers … 11. The county will provide (auto) coverage for all bargaining unit employees. Whose car are they driving? 12. Through the year 2003 a pay raise of about 2 to 4 percent is guaranteed. When a deputy goes to work for the JoCo sheriff’s department it’s like moving back in with Mom and Dad. Everything is taken care of for the deputy. This is only part of the story telling what the deputies are getting from the taxpayer. If you would like more information you can obtain your own copy of this contract from the JoCo personnel director for $5.00.
Vote No on the Tax Levy
The voter needs to ask himself if he is getting the kind of benefits and salary that is being paid to the deputies. It’s time to trim the fat from the sheriff’department’s big belly. A no vote on the September levy will begin this process. Don’t allow any more money to funneled into the sheriff’s department. Only the voters can make Daniel and his boys accountable. The sheriff’s department must be audited, an oversight committee set up, an efficiency expert provided with access to this department, and the public must receive full disclosure on the association’s contract. The signers of this plush, plush, plush association’s contract, the sheriff and two commissioners, have put homeowners at risk in Josephine County and have done county residents a great disservice. A no vote on the levy is a responsible vote by an informed citizen. Also read the Constitutional aspects of a property tax levy in this issue of the Observer. If you still are undecided or will vote for the levy, the Oregon Observer will give you free counseling before it’s too late.
Levy Passes along with Degeneration of Property Rights
The uniformed and those intimidated by the sheriff’s department’s fear generating propaganda machine gave the levy the necessary votes to increase property taxes. Again it can be argued that the property tax is an unjust tax that puts each man’s home at risk of foreclosure. The property tax pits citizen against citizen. It is immoral for one man to be able tot ax another man’s home to pay for his personal political agenda. No matter how good the cause may sound it is still wrong! I am now forced to pay more property taxes for a sheriff’s department I believe to be corrupt. JT