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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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