Legislators Approve Sheriff’s Contract

The Chautauqua County Legislature approved 2 percent wage increases for four consecutive years for the Deputy Sheriff’s Association at Wednesday night’s meeting.

Terms and conditions were approved for contract years of 2013 through 2016 with modifications to health insurance benefits to include a high deductible health insurance plan and the wage increases.

If an agreement was not reached, the sheriff’s union would have declared an “impasse” and the contract would have gone to arbitration, which would involve a panel of arbitrators to suggest a fair contract.

“Had we rejected this, we likely would have lost in arbitration and had to pay a higher wage increase,” said George Borrello, R-Irving. “I’m not willing to gamble with taxpayer money in binding arbitration. This was a good contract and negotiated a low wage increase.”

Mark Tarbrake, R-Jamestown, agreed with Borrello.

“I feel this is an excellent contract, negotiated in good spirits and led by Mr. Horrigan (county executive) and the sheriff’s union,” he said. “They’ve done a great job in coming to an agreement.”

Three legislators voted against the contract, including Terry Niebel, R-Sheridan; Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia; and John Runkle, R-Stockton.

Runkle said Wednesday night that he voted against the contract because by agreeing to it, the stage would be set for a much larger group of workers, such as those represented by the CSEA 6300 union.

However, larger units do not have the option of binding arbitration if they declare an impasse.

When a a public employee union contract expires, terms of the contract continue until new terms and rates are negotiated.

These guidelines fall under the Taylor Law, which was enacted in 1967 and binds law-enforcing public employees to arbitration with the final say made by an impartial arbitrator.

Scudder declined to comment on the contract, while Runkle and Niebel could not be reached at press time.

“Retroactive pay” for the course of 2013 was also debated at the Public Safety Committee, although the contract expired in 2011 and retroactive pay would not be included for 2012.

The former contract, which covered 56 deputies, expired in 2011 and was discussed heavily in executive session throughout last week.

The previous contract included 3.5 percent to 4 percent increases.