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CSEA sues county

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — January 21, 2011 — The union representing 107 Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office employees has filed suit against the county.
CSEA (Civil Service Employees Association) Local 1000 has asked a federal judge to rule that the county’s wage and longevity bonus freezes are unconstitutional “impairments of contract.”
The wage/bonus freezes were enacted in December in a split vote of the County Legislature, purportedly as a means to avoid layoffs in a severe fiscal crisis.
While the county and the Legislature are defendants, the complaint specifically targets legislators Jonathan Rouis, Elwin Wood, Jodi Goodman, Leni Binder and Ron Hiatt (who all voted for the freezes), along with the Sheriff’s Office.
“We’re looking to go about this the most efficient way,” CSEA spokesperson Jessica Ladlee told the Democrat this week.
While there is a “strong possibility” CSEA will go the more traditional route of grieving the matter to the state Public Employee Relations Board (PERB), Ladlee said the suit promises a quicker decision and possible reinstatement of wages and longevity bonuses promised in a March 2010 contract between the county and CSEA.
“We think this is the best way to go,” she said.
The suit asks for the retroactive reinstatement of the monies due, plus attorneys’ fees and the making whole of CSEA unit employees “for financial losses of any kind, including pension credits.”
County Manager David Fanslau said Wednesday that he could not talk about the matter because the county has yet to be served with papers.
Legislature Chairman Jonathan Rouis could not be reached for comment.
Three other unions – Teamsters Local 445, Laborers Local 17 and the New York State Nurses Association – have announced their intent to file grievances but not yet suits.
In the past, however, legislators have acknowledged that the county might not legally prevail in any grievance or suit, since (as this suit notes) the contractual agreements with the various unions do “not make the compensation sections… conditional or subject to annual legislative appropriations.”

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