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Judge in Hackensack sets hearing date on sheriff’s officers’ contract dispute with Donvan

Photo Credit: by Mary K. Miraglia

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Bergen County Sheriff’s officers will have to wait at least another month to find out if their 2011 – 2014 contract and raises will be implemented: Superior Court Judge Joseph Conte scheduled a new hearing date, saying that he wants to consider “all the issues at the same time.”

He set the hearing for 1:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16.

Although the contract was negotiated more than a year ago, signed last December, and approved by the freeholder board in May, County Executive Kathy Donovan has contested it before the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC), and asked for reconsideration because she was not allowed to participate in the bargaining process.

She continues to refuse to implement the pact. As a result, sheriff’s officers haven’t receive the raises they negotiated.

According to her attorney, Matthew J. Giacobbe, Donovan asked to participate in the negotiations “many times” and was validated in that endeavor when PERC issued an opinion in September that she is “a joint employer with the county sheriff” of the employees in the Sheriff’s Department.

The PERC opinion was the result of an unfair labor practice complaint Donovan filed. Giacobbe said PERC issued a similar opinion in Bergen County in 1984.

Giacobbe argued to Conte that jurisdiction in the case belongs before PERC.

However, PBA Local 134 attorney Steven B. Hunter emphasized that state statute authorizes the sheriff as “the employer for the purposes of fixing compensation” for his employees. As a result, PERC “does not have jurisdiction” over the issue, which he said belongs in state court.

Conte has three legal issues before him:

An order to show cause from PBA Local 134 to enforce their negotiated contract;

A motion from Donovan to dismiss the entire matter, with  jurisdiction left to the sole decision of PERC;

A motion from Sheriff Michael Saudino to intervene in the case.

According to PBA President Ed Brunner, the negotiated settlement represents raises of 2% over four years “for only the officers at the top range of experience.”

(STORY and PHOTO by Mary K. Miraglia)

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