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Public Communications (MS-11)
614 Division Street, Port Orchard, WA
Phone: 360.337.4598
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   
Date: September 6, 2013

Contact: Jacquelyn Aufderheide, Chief Civil Deputy Prosecutor
360.337.4973 or JAufderh@co.kitsap.wa.us

No: 2013-083

County considers appeal of Superior Court ruling

(Port Orchard, WA) - Kitsap County Commissioners are considering appealing a judge's ruling that an arbitration award was arbitrary and capricious. The deadline for filing an appeal is September 30.

The arbitration award, issued in February by a three-member arbitration panel, settled a dispute between sheriffs deputies and county negotiators over terms of a collective bargaining agreement for 2012.

The arbitration panel gave the 105 deputies a 2 percent wage rate increase retroactive to January 2012 plus another half percent increase effective July 2012, increasing an average deputy's wages by $144.23 per month. As a consequence of the recession, most county employees received no wage rate increases in 2012.

The additional half percent wage increase was intended to offset increases in employee contributions toward the cost of medical insurance premiums. Both the half percent wage increase and premium increases were to go into effect July 2012.

The Kitsap County Deputy Sheriff Guild challenged this award, issued earlier this year. Last Friday a Pierce County judge confirmed that the portion of the award retroactively increasing employee medical insurance contributions violated employees' due process rights, and struck that language from the award.

Prior to the award, the County paid 100% of the employee-only premium and 90% of dependent premiums. Under the terms of the award, deputy sheriffs were to contribute 3 percent toward the cost of employee-only premiums and 15 percent of the cost of dependent premiums.

"100 percent employer-paid premiums for health insurance are no longer standard nor are they sustainable," said Commissioner Josh Brown. According to Commissioner Brown, if the award had been implemented according to its terms, and depending on employees' choice of plans, a deputy sheriff would go from paying nothing for medical premiums to paying $19.47 a month for employee-only coverage. An employee's contributions for full-family coverage would increase from $116.78 to $194.64 per month.

"By comparison, most county employees pay as much as $71.22 per month for employee-only coverage, and $307.86 for dependent coverage," said Commissioner Charlotte Garrido. "The County's proposal to pay 97 percent for employee-only premiums and 85 percent for full family is a reasonable effort to bring deputies closer to what the rest of the county's employees are paying," said Commissioner Garrido.

According to Jacquelyn Aufderheide, Chief Civil Deputy Prosecutor, the solution mandated by this ruling also creates several problems. Ms. Aufderheide, who argued the case on behalf of the county, reported that under current legal standards, deference should be afforded to arbitration decisions and affirmed unless they are willful and unreasonable.

The Legislature established interest arbitration as an alternative means of settling disputes involving uniformed employees. "Striking one part of the award changes the dynamic of the entire award," said Ms. Aufderheide. "Typically, a reviewing court either affirms the entire award or vacates it and remands it back to the arbitrator.

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Kitsap 1
(360) 337-5777
kitsap1@co.kitsap.wa.us

Last Updated: 
May 27, 2014