Deputies union in San Luis Obispo County joins in march of frugality

The county’s newest employee union has reached a tentative agreement to keep down costs that is drawing praise from the Board of Supervisors but also is being used as a cudgel against a separate union that is not “stepping up,” as Supervisor Jim Patterson put it.

The Association of San Luis Obispo County Deputy Sheriffs has agreed to a “memo of understanding” under which it would receive a previously negotiated 2.98 percent pay raise. However, the union also would contribute an additional 2.98 percent to its pension contribution rate while the county decreases its rate by the same percentage.

The association represents 139 deputy sheriffs, senior deputies and sergeants. They broke off in February from the Deputy Sheriffs Association, which still represents correctional officers and dispatchers.

The association’s moves would save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to a memo from Human Resources Director Tami Douglas-Schatz, who is the county’s lead labor negotiator.

Douglas-Schatz lauded the association for being “an agreeable partner across the table,” and she and supervisors thanked members for “stepping up” at a time when the county is struggling financially.

The congeniality between county management and the association comes at a time when there is increasing public discontent with public employee unions, which many taxpayers perceive as having better salary and retirement contracts than people in the private sector.

If only, supervisors said, the Deputy County Counsels Association — which negotiates for the attorneys that represent the county — would be as cooperative.

At the same meeting where the board signed off on the deputies’ terms, supervisors voted to spend $100,000 on outside counsel to represent the county in litigation about pensions with its own deputy county counsels, represented by the Deputy County Counsel Association in a lawsuit against San Luis Obispo County.

That group looks bad in comparison, Supervisor Adam Hill said.

“It’s not the most polite thing to say, but it’s the truth,” he said.

The extra $100,000 was part of $135,000 the County Counsel’s Office asked for Tuesday.County Counsel Warren Jensen said his office also needs more money to fight a lawsuit by mobile-home park owners challenging the county’s mobile-home park ordinance, which protects renters; and extra funds to continue to deal with the Los Osos Community Services District bankruptcy.

Supervisors approved all the “unanticipated expenditures for outside counsel.”