To the Editor:
It has come to my attention that many of you received correspondence from an attorney representing the International Union of Police Associations.
As you may recall, two groups of members at my office voted about a year ago to segregate themselves from the agency in terms of negotiating (aka collective bargaining) their salary, benefits and working conditions.
In doing so, they invoked the "status quo doctrine," which basically means that everything freezes for them until they negotiate a contract. Early on, IUPA used "status quo" to impede my effort to initiate a physical fitness standard for deputies and also employed "status quo" to thwart a new promotional testing process for sergeants. In other words, they stringently opposed any changes until such time as they are able to secure a contract.
Fast forward to my decision to issue a one-time bonus check in the coming months. This money is already in the current budget - a budget that marked the third consecutive year of reductions and this money does not affect next year's budget, which represents a reduction in four years of $21.5 million.
This money also represents "recapture dollars" I have saved via smart, fiscal management of vacant positions after last year's buyout of senior personnel.
After three consecutive years without salary increases for my team and following the Board of County Commissioner's decision last year to increase the salary of the Lee County Port Authority Police, I decided to offer a bonus this year instead of returning the dollars I saved.
Legally and based on the principal of the IUPA's self-imposed "status quo" it would be wrong and is against my legal advice to extend the bonus to union members who voted to segregate themselves from the rest of the agency.
One thing noticeably absent in the union attorney's propaganda is any citation of law or legal precedent calling my decision into question or threatening to reverse my decision.
Another thing noticeably absent was the fact the Sergeant's Union is now in the process of decertifying IUPA and that vote will be tallied July 17. While I am not about to predict that outcome, suffice it to say the fact it is taking place should be a clue for you.
The law states members must wait one year after voting a union in before they can move to vote it out. It is not coincidence that the Sergeant's Union recently turned 1-year-old. Only time will tell what the deputies decide when their union celebrates its first birthday.
Let me know if you need clarification on anything I have said or done to this point but whatever you do; always remember that no matter how thin you slice the ham there will always be two (2) sides.
Lee County sheriff