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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. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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