May 6th, 2009 | by JAMES PITKIN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP, Multnomah County

UPDATED (Again and Again): Union Boss: Wheeler Rejects Jail Deputies' $1.2 Million Offer

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Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler on Tuesday rejected an offer from county jail deputies to give up their cost-of-living pay hikes next year, the head of the county corrections deputies' union tells WW.

Read about why Wheeler gave up $1.2 million in savings for the county, which is facing drastic budget cuts to fill a $42 million shortfall, after the jump.



Multnomah County Sheriff's Sgt. Phil Anderchuk, the union boss, says the union offered to give up its cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) on two conditions:

• If Wheeler agreed to use part of the $1.2 million the county would save to keep open 60 of the 120 jail beds slated for closure in Wheeler's proposed budget.

• If Wheeler agreed also to use the rest of the $1.2 million in savings to keep four corrections deputies positions slated to be cut.

With those two conditions in place, Anderchuk says he could have saved 10 of the 22 jail deputy positions Wheeler proposed cutting in his budget.

But Anderchuk said Wheeler refused the union's terms. Anderchuk's concern: that the savings would fund programs associated with the county Department of Community Justice, rather than keeping jail deputies employed.

Wheeler's chief of staff, Tom Rinehart, has not yet responded to requests for comment.

Anderchuk had plenty to say about Wheeler's counter-offer, which has not yet gone before the full 450-member union for a vote on whether to accept or reject it.

"I think it's a terrrible decision," Anderchuk said of Wheeler's choice. "The chair and the board (of county commissioners) are constantly stating that public safety is a top priority for them and it's a core county service. Yet they are rejecting an opportunity to validate that pledge."

We'll update this post if we hear back from Rinehart or someone else from Wheeler's staff.

UPDATE: Wow, this just got messy. Wheeler spokesman Rhys Scholes called Wednesday afternoon and said that Wheeler has not rejected any offer from the jail deputies' union because none had been put to him from the county office of Labor and Employee Relations.

Scholes also said the deal put forward by the corrections deputies' union was different from what Anderchuk described, including demands for no job losses through 2014 and a substantial increase in retiree benefits. Scholes said that offer is not acceptable because it would tie the hands of future county boards regardless of what happens to the economy.

Scholes said an agreement with the corrections deputies' union that would save jobs within that union still is possible.

UPDATE: Anderchuk called Wednesday afternoon, before Scholes called, and said that Wheeler in fact had not seen the deputies' specific offer. Anderchuk says Wheeler rejected any offer that would restrict the county board's ability to close jail beds. Anderchuk says he remains concerned about giving up the COLA if the savings are used for programs outside the jails.

UPDATE: And now the sheriff's office jumps in. Christine Kirk, Sheriff Bob Skipper's chief of staff, called to say that the deal Scholes referred to was an old one dated from last month. And at 3:11 p.m., Skipper himself chimed in with this email (MCCDA is the corrections deputies' union):
Thank you for your interest in the County and its ability to fund public safety. In response to the story on MCCDA and their pay freeze I wanted to make sure you knew where the County and I stand.

I and the County support the leadership of MCCDA and their willingness to vote for a COLA freeze during this difficult budget time. We fully support using the 1.2 million for a COLA freeze to restore MCCDA positions allowing the County to reopen 57 jail beds at Inverness for 11 FTE. It is in this area, that there is 100% agreement between all parties. There are other aspects of the proposal where we still need to reach an agreement and we hope to get to a win win for the public, the County and the bargaining unit that is making a sacrifice to restore services.

Thank you again for your interest.

Sheriff Skipper
 
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