Deputies’ union makes it personal

The president of the union representing county sheriff’s deputies turned up the heat in an apparently bitter struggle for an employment contract this week, accusing Butte County CAO Paul McIntosh of corruption and bargaining in bad faith.

When questioned about the charges, McIntosh called them “disparaging, inappropriate and inaccurate” and decried Deputy Sheriffs Association (DSA) President Greg Kiefer’s accusations as “rabid foaming at the mouth.”

Kiefer made his accusations public Tuesday, saying the county was stonewalling the union both at the bargaining table and in regard to a public-records request for thousands of documents pertaining to county finance. He also said McIntosh was “manipulating” county finances in order to grant raises to department heads while stiffing the rank and file. Kiefer also accused McIntosh of giving himself large pay raises at the expense of county workers.

McIntosh said those charges were based on “absolute paranoia,” saying the Board of Supervisors granted his last raise in July 2003. He was hired at a probationary rate of $110,000 a year in April 2002 and made the jump to full pay six months later. He now makes $158,361, he said. Raises for county heads are voted into effect by the Board of Supervisors.

Negotiations between the county and the union have dragged on, with union leaders lamenting that deputies in Butte County are making just 60 percent of what other law enforcement personnel in the area make. Top scale for a deputy is close to $45,000 a year.

“We’ve lost a bunch of good cops this year because of our pay,” Kiefer said. “They’re going to other agencies for the money. We’re not asking for all the money in the county, but we haven’t had a pay raise or a ratified contract in 18 months.”

Actually, sheriff’s employees did receive a one percent raise in December. The county justified the small increase by pointing out that it was taking on an estimated 23 percent increase in health coverage costs instead of passing that increased cost on to deputies.

“We could have given them a five percent pay raise and then had them pay more for their health insurance,” McIntosh said. “Normally salary increases and benefits increases don’t occur until the memorandum of understanding [with the union] is done.”

Kiefer countered that, “The benefits we get don’t pay our frikkin’ bills. It won’t pay your rent. … Those are the things that other counties pick up automatically.”

Both parties say they are waiting anxiously for a compensation study to be completed that will analyze the county’s pay scale and make recommendations as to what rates of pay are appropriate for county workers.

Kiefer said the county is stalling on releasing the report. McIntosh said it is due next month and added, “We know that we’re going to have to raise our salaries, so we’ve been trying to gear up for that.”

The other sticking point with the union has to do with a request it made for county documents relating to several facets of county finance. Kiefer said the county was violating state public-records law by not providing those documents within the standard 10-day period. County Counsel Bruce Alpert denied that allegation, saying the request was “the broadest I have ever seen” and might encompass “tens of thousands” of pages. Such a request could qualify the county for a 14-day extension, he said.

Contract negotiations are seldom without contention. But Kiefer is personally singling out McIntosh, he says, because “what he’s done here is he’s come in and manipulated the money for his own personal agenda.”

Kiefer also pointed to several newspaper articles, some dating back as far as 1990, that he said proved McIntosh has a history of shady dealings. McIntosh, who started his career in public administration at El Dorado County before heading up counties in Arizona and Florida, has not always left positions on good terms. Yet his detractors, such as those in Hernando County, Fla. who accused him, among other things, of accepting a gifted round of golf from a utilities consultant, have never actually proven any illegal behavior.

Kiefer likewise said he was convinced McIntosh is up to no good but failed to provide many specifics, telling the CN&R, “There’s corruption going on over there. He’s a corrupt man with obviously … a corrupt past, and apparently he’s trying to do the same thing in Butte County.”

When asked about the accusations, McIntosh said, “Mr Kiefer seems bent on making this a personal vendetta toward me, and I don’t understand. He’s accusing me of being corrupt and a lot of other things. I don’t know how to respond. It’s untrue.”