Deputies’ fate rests with the union

  Last week’s announcement that the sheriff was withdrawing his plan to lay off and demote deputies was great news.

  Recent disturbing events —including a home invasion, burglary and officer-involved shooting — have many citizens on edge. The prospect of personnel cuts at the sheriff’s office have been met with shock, fear and anger.

  Some residents — including the sheriff himself — directed their frustration at the Board of Supervisors for cutting the sheriff’s budget by $760,000.

  To Sheriff Greg Hagwood’s credit, he has set aside his personal frustration for the good of the county. After initially blasting the board for not understanding his budget or how the sheriff’s office works, Hagwood took a deep breath, stepped away, and looked at the big picture.

  He agreed to a number of budget-related compromises that would keep his department intact.

  In a meeting with Supervisors Jon Kennedy and Terry Swofford, and District Attorney David Hollister, Hagwood agreed to a plan that included using state grant money to offset some of the sheriff’s general-fund cuts.

  The men set aside their differences to do what was best for the citizens of Plumas County. The sheriff said after the meeting, “When it comes to public safety, our priorities are the same.”

  Hagwood even credited Supervisor Kennedy’s behind-the-scenes number crunching for helping to make the plan work.

  We applaud the group for setting personalities aside and hashing out a plan. It was the kind of work we expect from our public leaders.

  But there is still one key issue that needs to be resolved for the deputies to keep their jobs: The sheriff’s employees union will have to take some cuts.

  When Hagwood and Kennedy announced the sheriff was withdrawing his restructuring plan, they emphasized that it wouldn’t work unless the union agreed on concessions.

  The sheriff’s employees have been able to avoid the kind of cuts to their benefits plan that the county employees have been forced to accept. But it looks like that is about to end.

  The fate of at least four deputies could depend on a vote of their peers. If the union agrees to concessions, the deputies will keep their jobs. If the union votes against taking cuts, four deputies will likely be demoted to jailers as part of a cost-saving retooling of the sheriff’s office.

  Hagwood said that his employees understand the situation. He said they “are fully aware, and absolutely prepared to make concessions.”

  If the sheriff is right, and the employees are willing to take benefits cuts, the immediate problem will be solved — at least for this year.

  From the outside, it would seem like an easy decision for the union members: Everyone chip in a little so co-workers don’t lose their jobs. But to workers trying to support a family, benefits are important.

  The sacrifices that workers are being asked to make these days rarely make the headlines. When the Board of Supervisors or the sheriff make a financial decision, it’s Page 1 news.

  But the cuts workers are taking in these tough times impact them and their families profoundly. If the sheriff’s union votes to accept concessions, they certainly deserve recognition for doing their part to make the county a safer place. …

  It’s Page 1.

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