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State Appellate Court Upholds Donovan’s Appeal of Sherriff’s Department Contract Negotiation Ruling

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State Appellate Court Upholds Donovan’s Appeal of Sherriff’s Department Contract Negotiation Ruling

A state appellate court has ruled in favor of Bergen County Executive Kathleen A. Donovan’s motion to delay the implementation of new contract for the county sheriff’s department until the executive’s appeal of a lower court ruling determining whether the executive’s office has the right to be part of contract negotiations with the sheriff’s department is concluded.

The stay blocks over $10.5 million in raises for the department in a new contract that was negotiated by Sheriff Michael Saudino without participation of the county executive. Donovan has argued that, as county executive, she has the right and a responsibility to sit at the bargaining table for any employee contract negotiations. Donovan was excluded from the negotiations last year by Saudino and the Sheriff’s Department PBA.

“I am very pleased that the Appellate Court took the time to carefully consider the logic of our argument and granted the stay until the appeal process is completed,” said Donovan.

“We want to affirm the right of the county executive’s office to be part of any and all contract negotiations that impact the taxpayers of Bergen County,” added Donovan. “I cannot protect the taxpayers if I am not part of the negotiation process.”

Donovan’s legal intervention seeks to clarify the powers of the county executive in dealing with issues that impact the budget, such as union contract negotiation. Donovan maintains that, as the highest elected officials in the county and the one ultimately responsible for presenting a yearly county budget, her office is entitled to represent the taxpayers at contract talks involving all county employees.

Attorneys for Donovan also argued that the executive, along with the sheriff is a joint employer of sheriff’s department employees, which thereby gives her the right to have a seat at the negotiation table.

Donovan is being supported in her efforts by the state Public Employee Retirement Commission, which wrote to the Appellate Division on February 22 of its intention to intervene in the case. PERC’s letter said the ruling by Superior Court Judge Joseph Conte barring an appeal of his earlier ruling opposing the county executive’s right to  take part in sheriff’s department contract negotiations is; “contrary, in all pertinent respects, to the holding of the Commission.”

PERC ruled 6-0 in August of 2012 that the county executive did have the right to sit at the bargaining table.

At the time of the ruling, PERC said, in part, that  “…the county executive is authorized, subject to freeholder board approval, to negotiate contracts for the County, of which the Sheriff is but one part.”

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