Board of Supervisors votes to recalculate overtime for deputy sheriff association units

Paul Myers

Board of Supervisors passes final, best and last proposal to institute an approximate $10 change per pay period on sheriff deputy bargaining group

VISALIA – The Tulare County Board of Supervisors took decisive action last Tuesday when they decided to unilaterally change the overtime rules for sheriff deputies.

In a 4-1 vote, the board ultimately decided that deputies would be paid one and a half times their base rate per overtime hour, and half their rate for any “additional pay codes.” First year supervisor Larry Micari was the lone vote against the resolution. Additional pay codes are compensation in addition to an employee’s base rate. Examples would be an advanced degree, certification, or being bilingual.

Deputy Javier Martinez represented Tulare County Deputy Sheriff Association (TCDSA) units 13 and 15 at the board’s public hearing on Feb. 2. After explaining TCDSA’s position he pled to the board that a recalculation in overtime pay, that will ultimately lead to a reduction in each pay period, is hurtful given the pandemic.

“You know, several of our deputy spouses are out of work. And this is going to hit them in the pocketbook,” Martinez said. “I would emphatically request that you vote not to impose this [last, best and final] on members of the TCDSA.”

Exactly how much will deputies be losing per pay period? According to the county’s lead negotiator on this matter, ShellineBennett: it is approximately $10.

Bennett, an attorney for Liebert, Cassidy and Whitmore, has been working on a deal with TCDSA over the last few years. According to a county staff report they first presented the overtime proposal to TCDSA in November 2018, and again in approximately the spring of 2019. Martinez said that negotiations partly dragged on because of the pandemic.

On May 1 last year the county reopened negotiations with TCDSA to discuss ways to bring down the county’s overtime costs. Bennett said several options were discussed.

“The county sought various ways through bargaining to reduce the overtime costs. And it wasn’t just limited to the cash in lieu issue. We looked at sick leave buyback…bilingual pay, straight time overtime, overtime premium, we looked at a number of items to reduce the overtime costs,” Bennett said.

Unfortunately, none of it satisfied TCDSA. However, there are four other groups who managed to make a deal. Bennett said that reducing additional pay codes for overtime was signed off by employee bargaining units for the District Attorney’s Office, SEIU, Probation and the Fire Department.

Negotiations broke down, and on Oct. 14 the county submitted their last, best and final proposal. That did not lead to an agreement either. On Nov. 16, the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) assigned a mediator to help solve the matter. According to a county staff report the two sides still weren’t able to come to an agreement.

As of last Tuesday, the board held a public hearing to give TCDSA representative Martinez and Bennett the opportunity to offer their competing sides. Martinez said the issue goes back to a court case in 2016 that allowed for the overtime pay of additional pay codes. As a result deputy associations all over the state began calling for additional overtime pay in their Memorandum of Understandings (MOUs) based on the ruling.

Bennett agreed that was true but recognized that it increased the county’s costs for overtime. She added that by changing the calculation to pay half of the additional pay codes would save the county approximately $125,000 a year.

District 2 board supervisor, Pete Vander Poel said that he thinks it is important to do what they can for county employees. In particular those who work in law enforcement. But he added that it is also the county’s responsibility to be a good steward for the taxpayers of Tulare County.

“When we’ve been able to reach agreement with four out of five [bargaining groups]… it kind of makes you wonder what’s…holding them back from coming to an agreement,” Vander Poel said. “I think it’s an important thing, from an employer perspective and from the tax payer perspective, that we keep a level of consistency across all of our bargaining groups and ultimately settle on the point five calculation.”

First year District 1 board supervisor, Larry Micari ultimately voted no on the overtime change, but said he thought a lot about it.

“I just want everyone to understand that we really put a lot of thought into this, I put a lot of thought into this, and I’m not taking any decision lightly on it,” Micari said.

Supervisor Eddie Valero motioned to pass the resolution, and Vander Poel voted to second it.

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