Sheriff Union certificate pay returned

Published 6:26 am Wednesday, September 28, 2016

By Dawn Burleigh


Extortion. Sneaky. Underhanded.

Just a few of the words used to describe Orange County Commissioners Courts actions concerning an agenda item voted on the previous week.

The court met Tuesday afternoon to a standing room only audience asking for clarification of a vote on Sept. 20.

The item on this week’s agenda read: Discussion and possible action regarding clarification of agenda item #2 from Commissioners’ Court dated September 20, 2016 in regards to Certificate pay for employees of Orange County Sheriff’s Office Employees Union. Agenda item #2 From September 20, 2016 read as follows:

Discussion and possible action regarding the Collective Bargaining Agreement between Orange County and Orange County Sheriff’s Office Employees Union.

In the minutes from the Sept. 20 meeting it reads: Motion made by Stephen Brint Carlton, seconded by Barry Burton for fiscal year 2016-2017 PAY MATRIX funding the Orange County Sheriff’s Office in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement between Orange County, Texas and Orange County Sheriff’s Office Employees Union exactly as written, no more, no less, for fiscal year 2012-2013 which was set to be the last year of the contract, with the exception of the classification of Dispatchers 1 through 5 and Dispatcher Supervisors 1 and 2 as those positions will now be removed from the CBA Contract into their own matrix system at the current rate of pay for both their hourly wage and certificate pay.

The question for clarification arose when the County Treasurer was told to stop paying the certificate pay as per the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

“It does not say to increase or stop paying [certificate pay],” Christy Khoury said. “That was not discussed. I need the court to tell me their intent come October 1.”

According to a letter from an attorney dated Sept. 6, 2013, paying certificate pay on the now expired contract is voluntary.

Negotiations for a new contract have been in litigation since the county sued the union concerning reaching an agreement.

Commissioner John Banken said he was in the 2013 meetings concerning certificate pay.

“The 2013 County Auditor said don’t pay, but the county attorney highly recommended we do not stop paying,” Banken said. “Last week the only thing we discussed was the dispatchers.”

Banken said a lot of things are legal does not make it right.

“They face danger everyday, more than us,” Banken said. “They put their lives on the line and hope to return home at the end of the day. Law enforcement is getting killed everyday.”

Sheriff Keith Merritt said the more education deputies and correction officers have the more it benefits the citizens.

“It helps them be mentally prepared,” Merritt said. “Education is the key to success in law enforcement.”

Commissioner Barry Burton said he did notice a difference in payroll for the Sheriff Office and thought it was due to the changes in overtime and vehicles.

County Judge Stephen ‘Brint’ Carlton said everyone is responsible for their vote and understood what they were voting on last week.

“I trusted you. Are you saying I can’t trust you anymore?” Commissioner David Dubose asked. “I trusted you to tell me the right thing.”

Sergeant Mark Felts asked the court to not take the money away from the Union employees.

“I have people out there answering calls worried about money,” Felts said. “I signed up to die, and I will be there for you rather I like you or not. Don’t get me killed because someone’s mind is not on the job like it should be because they are worried about their paycheck.”

Captain Tom Ray reviewed the steps, which have been taken to reach an agreement between the court and the union since the end of the 2013 contract. Including the previous County Judge stating the court would only accept a four year contract when presented with a one-year contract.

Kim Williford, of Orange, told the deputies presnt how much she appracetoactes them and what they do.

“Don’t turn us into a Ferguson or Charlotte. Don’t take my protection away and don’t do it underhanded,” Williford told the court. “That is taking groceries from their households.”

The court voted the vote last week was for the dispatchers and to continue to pay according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The vote was 3-2 to a standing ovation from the audience.