MCSO deputies bolt after county pay negotiations stall

Several Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office deputies have left the force after learning that the Deputy Sheriff’s Association has been unable to come to terms with the county in negotiating a pay increase for law enforcement staff, according to Sheriff Tom Allman.

However, MCSO deputy Craig Walker, who also serves as president of the DSA, said the union will continue to negotiate with the county in hopes of bridging the divide in competitive pay.

Allman said that on Tuesday, two MCSO deputies left the agency for another unnamed organization to get as much as a 40 percent pay raise, and last week two others retired knowing they would get the county’s 2.5 percent cost of living retirement increase. Allman also acknowledged on Wednesday another unspecified county was in town doing background checks on two MCSO jail employees.

The Deputy Sheriff’s Association, along with all county employees, had a 10 percent pay reduction in a cost-saving measure mandated by the county. The DSA, however, was the first to take the pay decrease in July 2010, which was nearly 20 months before it was implemented for the rest of county employees under the SEIU union, Allman said.

Much like how SEIU represents county employees, Walker said the DSA is a separate bargaining unit that represents at least 130 who work in county law enforcement.

Mendocino County has never re-established the full loss of pay felt by any of its employees despite having a larger budget for this fiscal year.

According to Mendocino County Human Resource Department documents, MCSO deputies in training start at $15 per hour, a Deputy Sheriff I classification pays $19.23 per hour, and the second classification pays $22.04 per hour.

In contrast, nearby Sonoma County pays its deputies in training a minimum of $30.91 per hour, the Deputy Sheriff I class receives a minimum of $32.70 per hour and second classification employees earn $36.29 per hour minimum, according to Sonoma County.

“Our recruiting and retention is significant and a problem for us in this juncture,” Walker said. “We are still in negotiations with the county as the contract expired in June of last year. I think it’s everybody’s goal to get the 10 percent reinstated.”

Before the 10 percent cut, Allman said MCSO had a deputy in every resident post in the county.

Resident deputies are those who live in outlying areas like Laytonville, Covelo, Potter Valley, Anderson Valley and the South Coast, Allman said.

As a result in the loss of deputies, Allman said that as of April 26 he is ordering all the resident deputies to report to a main office for duty in either Ukiah, Willits or Fort Bragg, which will likely affect the response time to outlying areas, but will improve officer safety. Allman said deputies will still be responding to calls.

Allman said he has contacted each member of the Board of Supervisors, and county CEO Carmel Angelo to personally discuss the situation.

Angelo said she was hopeful the county and the DSA could still successfully negotiate a new contract.

“The county and DSA agreed we would wait until March 3, which was the mid-year budget report, to really look at the projections of the county fund balance,” Angelo said.

Now that the mid-year budget has been completed, Angelo said she believed a new contract can be hashed out in the near future.

Allman said nobody’s expecting a full 10 percent lump sum right away, but proposes a three-year plan with a 3 percent pay increase one year, another 3 percent the second year and the remaining 4 percent in the third year. Allman said at the very least the deputies would see it as a good-faith move.

“We have very good deputy sheriff’s and some of the best in Northern California,” Allman said. “The fact we are losing good deputies should be a concern of every citizen in this county.”