September 29th, 2011, 3:33 pm
Posted by Kimberly Edds, Staff Writer

The County of Orange was unfair to the Sheriff’s deputies union when it moved deputies out of jailhouse jobs and replaced them with civilian jailers in an attempt to save as much as $34 million a year, a California Court of Appeal ruled.

The appellate court also upheld an order by Orange County Superior Court Judge Kazuharu Makino barring the Sheriff’s Department from making any staffing changes at its jails – for now.

Caught in the middle of the fight is the department’s Correctional Services Assistants program – which trains civilians in jail operations to work along with sworn deputies. Eventually, the department hopes CSAs will make up as much as 35 percent of its jail staffing.

Union officials repeatedly warned the Sheriff’s Department beginning in 2008 that the department cannot replace deputies with civilians without first meeting and conferring with the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs.

The county argued the Sheriff’s Department should be exempt from the “meet and confer” requirements of the contract with the union because it is trying to improve “the economical and efficient operation of local government.”

The county went ahead with the CSA program. The union sued last year, arguing the sheriff’s department sidestepped collective bargaining requirements and demanded a temporary restraining order blocking any reduction in deputy jail positions.

Makino sided with the union and issued the temporary restraining order.

The county appealed Makino’s ruling, claiming that the restraining order was improper because AOCDS wasn’t likely to prevail in its lawsuit against the county.

Justice Richard Fybel of the Fourth Appellate District, Division Three, sided with the union in a 25-page opinion issued Wednesday.

“The trial court did not abuse its discretion by concluding a preliminary injunction should be issued pending trial in this matter, after balancing the likelihood the Association would prevail on its claims and the relative harm the Association and defendants would suffer as a result of the issuance or non-issuance of the preliminary injunction,” Fybel wrote.

The three-justice panel ordered the county to pay the union’s legal bills.

A handful of CSAs have been working the county’s jails since January 2010; but apparently it wasn’t until a shift change last summer at the Theo Lacy jail in Orange that a deputy went to the union to complain.

It seems some of the positions – there are about 50 CSAs working in the entire jail system at the time– that were once up for grabs by deputies were converted to CSA spots – without going back to the bargaining table. And that didn’t make the deputies too happy.

Makin’s restraining order, froze jail positions as they categorized as they were on July 30, 2010.

CSAs, who make between $20.47 and $27.41 an hour, also help save money because they receive less lucrative benefits and pension package than those given to deputies.

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