Con­tract pleases County, Sher­iff

Lodi News-Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Wes Bow­ers NEWS-SEN­TINEL STAFF WRITER

STOCK­TON — San Joaquin County Sher­iff Pat Withrow on Wed­nes­day said he was glad the dis­trac­tion of work­ing with­out a con­tract is com­ing to an end and his depart­ment can get back to busi­ness ads usual.

How­ever, he said Tues­day’s an­nounce­ment from the San Joaquin County Board of Su­per­vi­sors is still pre­lim­i­nary, and a fi­nal con­tract must still be rat­i­fied.

The county an­nounced late Wed­nes­day that it had reached a new con­tract with the DSA that gives union mem­bers a 6 per­cent cost of liv­ing ad­just­ment over the next three years.

In ad­di­tion, deputies with seven, 10 and 20 years of ser­vice will re­ceive a new longevity sup­ple­ment, and some em­ploy­ees will be con­tribut­ing an in­creased per­cent­age to­ward their health in­surance and re­tire­ment costs, ac­cord­ing to the con­tract.

In an email state­ment is­sued Wed­nes­day, Withrow said the cit­i­zens of San Joaquin County played a key role in the con­tract process, thank­ing those who sup­ported the depart­ment for their pa­tience.

“We hope this con­tract will al­low us to com­pete with other lo­cal agen­cies so we can re­tain our deputies and en­tice new qual­i­fied can­di­dates to ap­ply,” Withrow said in an email state­ment Wed­nes­day. ”This process is still a wait­ing game, and it will take time to re­cover the per­son­nel we have lost.”

In Au­gust, Withrow said he had lost 10 deputies to other law en­force­ment agen­cies over a six-month pe­riod, leav­ing his of­fice with 66 of­fi­cers on pa­trol.

The depart­ment is funded for 129 deputies, and Withrow had an­tic­i­pated nearly 30 more of­fi­cers leav­ing in the near fu­ture if a new con­tract was not ap­proved.

To an­swer the de­par­ture of those 10 deputies, Withrow re­as­signed deputies from posts such as the Coro­ner’s divi­sion, San Joaquin Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal and the San Joaquin County Su­pe­rior Court, to rou­tine pa­trols.

He also re­as­signed eight deputies as­signed to ar­eas like Wood­bridge, Thorn­ton and Lock­e­ford as part of the Com­mu­nity Car Pro­gram, ef­fec­tively sus­pend­ing out­reach op­er­a­tions in those ar­eas.

“We hope to re­in­state pro­grams such as the com­mu­nity car pro­gram, back in in­cre­ments as our numbers al­low,” he said. “All of this will take time, but we are con­fi­dent we will even­tu­ally get back to full strength.”

The DSA had been work­ing with­out a new con­tract since 2015, with 25 bar­gain­ing ses­sions held with the county since that time.

On Feb. 28, the county of­fered a 5 per­cent wage in­crease over three years and a new longevity pay sup­ple­ment, while the DSA coun­tered with a 6 per­cent wage in­crease over three years and a higher longevity pay sup­ple­ment.

The county said its of­fer would only cost $1.2 mil­lion an­nu­ally, while the DSA’s of­fer would cost $2.5 mil­lion an­nu­ally. Ne­go­ti­a­tions stalled af­ter the fi­nal pro­pos­als were pre­sented.

Al­though ne­go­ti­a­tions have come to a con­clu­sion, we are dis­ap­pointed that the process was so dif­fi­cult and met with so much re­sis­tance,” DSA pres­i­dent David LeCompte said. “We hope in the fu­ture, the county board of su­per­vi­sors rec­ti­fies their la­bor prac­tices in deal­ing with its county em­ploy­ees.”

Tues­day’s an­nounce­ment came af­ter sev­eral Wood­bridge res­i­dents de­scribed the in­crease in crime and graf­fiti in their com­mu­nity since the Com­mu­nity Car Pro­gram had been sus­pended at the Board of Su­per­vi­sors meet­ing that morn­ing.

One res­i­dent sug­gested county ex­ec­u­tives’ salaries be frozen un­til a con­tract with the DSA had been made.

Sim­i­larly, mem­bers of other unions un­happy with la­bor ne­go­ti­a­tions with the county ex­pressed a vote of no con­fi­dence in County Ad­min­is­tra­tor Nino.

They also ques­tioned why the county re­fuses to of­fer com­pa­ra­ble wage in­creases while ‘amass­ing tens of thou­sands of tax­payer dol­lars in its ac­counts.’

On Wed­nes­day, Nino said the board has a pol­icy in place in which 5 per­cent of the county’s gen­eral fund is place in re­serve to cover its un­funded li­a­bil­ity.

The county’s cur­rent bud­get, she said, to­tals $1.8 bil­lion, mean­ing roughly $90 mil­lion is cur­rently in re­serves to ad­dress pen­sions.

In ad­di­tion, she said a to­tal of more than $50 mil­lion has been trans­ferred from the Gen­eral Fund to cover costs at San Joaquin Gen­eral over the years, a crit­i­cal ser­vice the county must pro­vide to its res­i­dents.

Nino said the county was very pleased with com­ing to an agree­ment with the DSA.

“We al­ways set a goal to get an agree­ment that’s a com­pro­mise be­tween the county and DSA, and that’s what we did here,” she said. “For the board, this was about mak­ing sure there is as­sis­tance in re­cruit­ing and re­tain­ing of­fi­cers. And the out­come is one that makes sense.”

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