Deputies, dispatchers get new pact

LISBON – A new three-year contract with sheriff’s deputies and dispatchers automatically went into effect this week after Columbiana County commissioners declined to take action.

The contract was presented to commissioners by the sheriff for their approval on March 20, and they had 30 days to act or it would automatically go into effect, which is apparently what they opted to do.

“There was no particular reason,” Commissioner Chairman Mike Halleck said of their decision to let the contract go into effect without their approval. He has always been puzzled why the law requires commissioners to act on the sheriff’s contract but not union contracts involving other county departments.

“We don’t have to approve any other of the employment contracts, and I don’t see why we have to do his,” Halleck said. “That’s between (the sheriff) and his employees.”

Sheriff Ray Stone recommended commissioners approve the contract, which calls for deputies and dispatchers to receive a 2.5 percent pay raise this year, and a wage reopener in 2014 and 2015.

In exchange, the employees agreed to begin paying 10 percent of the cost of their monthly health insurance premiums, up from 9 percent, which is the current rate being assessed all employees covered under the county’s self-funded plan. This issue is also subject to renegotiation in each of the next two years.

Stone said there are no changes in other areas, such as the uniform allowance or longevity pay, nor did he opt to resolve any of the several labor grievances pending against him.

The one grievance was over Stone running radar in a school zone, which the union claims amounts to performing work that should be done by a deputy.

“No grievance was resolved as part of the contract. I’m not conceding on any of them. I’m not giving away any of my authority,” he said.

Among the other unresolved grievances:

– A grievance was filed when Halleck and county Republican Party Chairman David Johnson showed up at the county jail to post bond for a friend who had been arrested for failing to pay a traffic-offense fine. Upon his release, the pair accompanied the friend from the jail to the sheriff’s office in the lower level of the building to complete the paperwork, but the grievance alleges a deputy should have escorted the inmate.

– A grievance was filed by a dispatcher denied three-day paid bereavement for her the death of her stepfather’s grandfather. Stone said she was told she had the option of taking paid vacation days or compensatory time, but a stepfather’s grandfather was not covered under the funeral leave policy.