Update: Contract with deputies' union could go before commissioners on May 4

A Douglas County deputy directs traffic during a wreck on Highway 395 near Topsy Lane in September 2022.

A Douglas County deputy directs traffic during a wreck on Highway 395 near Topsy Lane in September 2022.
Photo by Kurt Hildebrand.

After a year in contract negotiations with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Protective Association, participants said they are close to a final agreement that may include the Sergeant’s Bargaining Unit.

“I’m pleased to tell you and the public that discussions between the county and DCSPA continue,” County Manager Patrick Cates said on Thursday. “I believe that we are very close to a final agreement with both bargaining units that reflects the findings of the factfinders report before you today with some minor modifications. We hope to have that agreement before you for your consideration at the May 4 board meeting.”

While neither party is bound by the factfinders’ report Association President Deputy Justin Fricke agreed that a final agreement is approaching.

“We’re getting to the point where there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “This has been a real struggle and we’ve all worked very hard to figure out how to make these changes work.”

Fricke thanked the community who supported the deputies in their efforts to get a contract, as well as county commissioners for their support.

“In times of negotiations, it’s sometimes hard to see that,” he said. “This will make the negotiation process easier in the future.”

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Findings from a fact-finder in the contract dispute between Douglas County and the association representing around 90 deputies are scheduled to go before county commissioners on Thursday.

“Ultimately, I am finding that neither party ‘wins’ on each of their overall final proposals, as I find that certain of the unions proposals and certain of the county’s proposals are the best total fit for the ‘reasonableness’ criteria under the statute,” Fact-finder David Gaba wrote in his recommendation.

Commissioners are expected to discuss the recommendations at their 10 a.m. meeting.

The board could instruct the county’s negotiating team to come back with an agreement or send the team back with instructions to keep negotiating or go to binding arbitration, according to Chief Civil Deputy District Attorney Doug Ritchie.

“It was favorable in many areas,” Douglas County Sheriff’s Protective Association President Justin Fricke said. “We have not gone to Arbitration and hopefully we do not. We are working on a proposal based off this fact finders report.”

Fricke said that the fact-finder’s report for the Sergeant’s Bargaining Unit has yet to be completed.

According to the county, a two-year contract will cost $2.94 million. Gaba agreed with the county’s proposal that each member would receive a $3,000 lump sum payment instead of trying to track down the new step structure.

He agreed with deputies about the county including an up to 6 percent cost of living adjustment, pointing out that the up to 4 percent offered by the county won’t keep up with inflation.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Protection Association declared an impasse last year, which required the two sides go to fact-finding.

Government employees are represented by a variety of associations which are not permitted to strike but may seek binding arbitration to settle compensation disputes.

Gaba found that the county has sufficient resources to pay, which is the first rung in the legal ladder in government-association negotiations.

“The bottom line is that while the county may have an unwillingness to pay for the union’s proposals, the county did not meet its burden to establish that it actually lacks the ability to pay,” Gaba said.

The union presented evidence that total compensation for a new deputy is $77,207 across comparable counties, compared to $65,590 in Douglas, according to the recommendation included in the commission packet.

“The record also reflects that the wage disparity becomes even greater as a bargaining unit employee gains more experience,” Gaba wrote. “Clearly, as conceded to by the county, ‘wage rates for this bargaining unit have lost pace with the market.’”

Gaba recommended the deputies proposal of a two-year contract over the county’s three-year contract. He also agreed with deputies that the contract should remain in force during subsequent labor negotiations. Gaba recommended the union’s proposal for step movement and longevity will continue past the expiration date of the contract while the county’s proposal to clarify its obligations under PERS was also recommended.

Gaba agreed with the county that there should be 11 salary steps with a 3-percent pay increase included in each step.

“It is my conclusion that the interest and welfare of the public is best served by a recommendation that has the least chance of increasing employee turnover, decreasing employee morale or inserting language into the contract that is illegal or that may raise taxes,” Gaba said.

Douglas County commissioners meet 10 a.m. Thursday at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1616 Eighth St., Minden. For more information, visit www.douglascountynv.gov


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