Arbitrator rules against sheriff, detention officers recover jail desk jobs

Richard Wiles
EL PASO, Texas – An arbitrator has ruled El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles cannot allow civilians to do certain jobs at the county jail.
During the past year, Wiles began shifting 24 positions away from detention officers in a move to save money.

ABC-7 has learned the grievance filed by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Association was upheld. It states the collective bargaining agreement prohibits the sheriff’s office from assigning those jobs, which included paperwork for bonding and classification of inmates, to civilians.

“It’s definitely a setback for this office and for the taxpayers of El Paso County, but I will continue to look at other ways that we can be as efficient as we possibly can,” Wiles said.

The sheriff hoped to save taxpayers as much as $500,000 a year by “civilianizing” the positions, 22 of which are currently filled by civilian employees. The sheriff’s association said the savings are more like $150,000 a year.

Robert Horstman, president of the sheriff’s association, said the move could have jeopardized the safety of deputies and inmates.

“I know they talk about saving money and being frugal with taxpayer money and we agree with that as well, but we don’t want that (to happen) over the backs of our detention officers, we don’t want to sacrifice officer safety and safety of the facility to save a buck,” Horstman said.

Some of the positions turned over to civilians had been held by detention officers for more than 20 years, Horstman said.

Tom Buchino, running against Wiles in the November general election, agrees with the union.  “The contract was violated,” Buchino said, “I will not put a price tag on public safety.”

The sheriff’s office will not let go of the 22 civilians and will instead reassign them to other positions, Wiles said.

“I was trying to save money to be efficient and spend taxpayer money wisely, but I was also trying to reduce the cost of the jail here in El Paso County,” the sheriff said.