Union shift puts deputy’s lawsuit in limbo

A shakeup in union representation for sheriff’s deputies has thrown a deputy’s lawsuit against the county into uncertainty.

The Deputy Sheriffs Association and Deputy Michael Neufeld last year sued the county and its Civil Service Commission after it failed to help Neufeld. He had gone to the commission after the sheriff ignored his complaint about the transfer of another deputy to his station.

However, since then a new union, the Association of San Luis Obispo County Deputy Sheriffs, has taken over representation of the county’s deputies from the DSA.

The suit arose after Neufeld complained about the transfer of an unnamed deputy to the station in Oceano where he worked. The specifics of Neufeld’s complaint about the other deputy are being withheld because it is a personnel matter.

After the sheriff’s administration declined to reassign the deputy, Neufeld filed a grievance with the Civil Service Commission, which is an avenue for employees who cannot achieve what they consider fair treatment in their departments.

The commission said it had no jurisdiction in the case.

That perspective leaves deputy sheriffs without the same protections other county employees have, according to the DSA’s attorney, Alison Berry Wilkinson.

She and Neufeld went to court, and Wilkinson said last week that the litigation is “still at a very preliminary stage.”

However, County Counsel Warren Jensen said Monday that Wilkinson has not been in touch with the county.

She “has not communicated with us in any way regarding her intention to pursue this lawsuit or made any attempt to resolve the issues outside the lawsuit,” he wrote The Tribune in an e-mail.

“Due to the recent election, the Deputy Sheriffs Association no longer is the recognized bargaining representative for this deputy and their ability to pursue this litigation is therefore now in doubt,” Jensen wrote.

Jensen added that the lawsuit has not been served against the commission or the county. “Service” is the legal action that officially brings a defendant into an action.

“Because neither defendant has been served, they are not required to file responses with the court and they are not required to do anything else in response to the lawsuit,” he wrote.