From: Contra Costa Times
By Gary Peterson 1/20/15
MARTINEZ — On the same day Contra Costa supervisors finalized their vote to rescind 33 percent salary increases, four board members were sued by the county’s Deputy Sheriffs Association and charged with threatening the union with retribution for helping gather signatures to protest the pay hike.
Supervisors Karen Mitchoff, Mary Piepho, Federal Glover and board Chairman John Gioia were named in the federal lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S District Court. Supervisor Candace Andersen, who cast the only dissenting vote against the pay increase when it was approved last fall, was not named.
The proposed wage hike, which would have raised supervisors’ pay from $97,476 to $129,216 by tying their pay to a percentage of superior court judges’ salaries, caused a public backlash. A drive by public employee unions — including the Deputy Sheriffs Association — gathered nearly 40,000 signatures supporting a referendum for a public vote on the raises. In the face of the outcry, supervisors voted Jan. 13 to rescind the proposed pay adjustment and finalized the action with a unanimous vote Tuesday.
“The DSA would have filed the suit whether or not the raise was rescinded,” said Jim Bickert, a labor relations representative for the Deputy Sheriffs Association. “The mere fact that these government officials would stoop to this level is what offended the union.”
The suit alleges that in December, during the signature-gathering effort, Piepho told former DSA President Ken Westermann that the union “made a bad decision, and it is not going to end well for you guys” — presumably a reference to the next contract negotiations between the board and the union. The union’s current contract runs through June 30, 2016.
The suit also alleges Mitchoff told a labor representative of the DSA that the referendum effort would ruin the next labor negotiations.
“Defendants are in a position to carry out threats by virtue of being able to impose terms and conditions of employment should the parties meet again and negotiate to impasse,” the lawsuit reads.
There are no specific allegations against Gioia or Glover.
Before Tuesday’s vote to rescind, the board heard from one county employee union that supported the proposed raise.
“Our association understands the need for and the rationale behind this raise,” said Paul Graves, president of the Contra Costa Deputy District Attorneys’ Association. “As public prosecutors, we have consistently recognized the need and necessity of competitive pay for county employees. We support the alignment of your salaries with other similarly situated professionals in the Bay Area, if that is your decision.”
Representatives from two other county employee unions that opposed the pay increase suggested supervisors tie their salaries to the workforce they oversee.
“Call me crazy,” said Eileen Bissen, a business agent with Local 1, “but I think your salaries should be tied to those of your employees.”