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Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Ind. Decisions - "Are the Commissioners and County Council legally authorized to bind the elected officers to the terms of a collective bargaining agreement?"

From a Jan. 7th story by Stuart Hirsch of the Anderson Herald Bulletin. Some quotes:

ANDERSON, Ind. — Government workers in Madison County could be subject to five different sets of employment rules depending on which elected official they work for under a ruling issued by a Grant County judge.

“What we have is a nightmare right now,” County Attorney James Wilson said of the 13-page New Year’s Day order issued by Judge Warren Haas. * * *

At issue is a lawsuit filed by United Auto Workers Local 1963 in 2011, shortly after Larry Davis and Angela Shelton took office as assessor and recorder, respectively.

Davis and Shelton did not retain longtime employees, or chose to fire some. In addition, they said they were not bound by terms of a collective bargaining agreement reached between the Board of County Commissioners and the union in 2009.

“The question before the court,” wrote Haas, “is whether the Commissioners and County Council are legally authorized to bind the elected officers to the terms of a collective bargaining agreement.”

Based on his findings of fact and legal cases cited by both sides in the dispute, Haas concluded that the assessor, recorder and, by extension, other elected officers (even though they weren’t part of the suit), are independent of the commissioners and County Council in the appointment, discipline, removal and work of their deputies and employees. * * *

When all the statutes cited in the case are taken together, Haas said, the framers of the Indiana constitution and the General Assembly intended for elected officers to be able to perform the functions of their office free from interference.

The collective bargaining agreement “usurps and impairs the elected officers’ authority and independence with respect to their deputies and employees,” Haas wrote. “Therefore, the statutes, to the extent they might be read to conflict, must be construed to forbid such impairment.”

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 9, 2013 09:51 AM
Posted to Ind. Trial Ct. Decisions | Indiana Government