Contract pleases County, Sheriff
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.”