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Sheriff’s union vote certified

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The recent vote by sheriff’s deputies to form a union has been certified, clearing a path for negotations between union representatives and county management.

The Chaves County Labor Management Relations Board voted unanimously, 3-0, to certify the Dec. 6 vote in which 28 certified law enforcement officers, out of an eligible pool of 30, voted 24 to 4 in favor of being represented by the International Union of Police Associations, AFL-CIO.

Only two ballots cast were rejected, both made by law enforcement officers still on probationary employment status, according to County Clerk Dave Kunko, who acted as elections supervisor. He indicated that deputies on probationary status were not permitted to vote according to established rules.

Attorney Mark Horton, who appeared at the meeting by phone and represented the union in the absence of Tom Martin, did not object to any of the statements made.

“I just want to say for the record that I appreciate the two lawyers and the two parties coming to an agreement,” said Kelly Cassels, a neutral member on the board. “I don’t know how much money they saved the county and the union representatives by them being able to come to an agreement about the consent regarding the election act. We didn’t think they could do it, but they did.”

The other members of the board are David Parsons, representing management interests, and George Mata, representing labor.

County Manager Stanton Riggs indicated that union representatives must now initiate collective bargaining talks with the county and thinks, from his brief talk with Horton, that will probably occur by mid-year 2018. He said that his expectation is that the union will want an agreement in place by July 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year.

He also said that the Labor Relations Management Board could decide to meet again should an issue arise during negotiations.

Certified law enforcement officers with a rank of sergeant or lower will be represented by the union, which according to a deputy who led efforts to unionize was formed primarily to address concerns about officers’ safety.