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COA: County officials not bound to collective bargaining agreement

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An issue of first impression arose in a lawsuit in which a local union argued that the Madison County assessor and recorder had to follow the terms of a collective bargaining agreement that the county had entered into with UAW.

The county commissioners and county council entered into the CBA beginning Jan. 1, 2009. When newly elected assessor Larry Davis and recorder Angela Shelton terminated employees, the Local 1963 of the United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, UAW filed grievances, arguing that Davis and Shelton had breached the CBA.

Davis and Shelton told the county commissioners and council that they understood they were not governed by the CBA and would not authorize the commissioners and council to negotiate a new CBA to govern their deputies and employees. The two officials believed they had the ability to appoint and terminate their employees.

UAW alleged the county breached the CBA and sought an injunction for the reinstatement of two deputy assessors. The trial court granted the officials’ summary judgment motion, finding the commissioners and council lacked the authority to unilaterally bind non-consenting, independently elected officials to the CBA.

The UAW pointed to I.C. 36-2-2-13 and 5-4-1-1, arguing the trial court misinterpreted them, and that the General Assembly considers the deputies and employees who work for the officials to be employed by the commissioners on behalf of the county. The interpretation of Section 13 is an issue of first impression. The judges rejected the UAW’s claim that because statutes expressly authorize the officials to appoint deputies and employees, the actual “authority to employ these deputies and employees is conferred on the commissioners” by Section 13. This section and Section 1 do not render the county the employer of the officials’ deputies and employees, the COA held.

By statute, the assessor and recorder are able to appoint certain employees. The officials are independently empowered to appoint and discharge their own deputies at their discretion, wrote Judge Patricia Riley in Local 1963 of the United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, UAW v. Madison County, Indiana, Madison County Assessor, and Madison County Recorder, 27A05-1301-CC-40.

The trial court did not err by concluding that the CBA imposes impermissible restrictions on the ability of the elected officials to select, discipline, remove and direct the work of their deputies and employees. The commissioners and council, by entering into the CBA, exceeded their authority and encumbered the officials’ right to appoint and discharge their deputies and employees, the appellate court held.
 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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