ROCKLAND, Maine — The union representing the Knox County Sheriff’s Office deputies has filed a grievance over the county’s rescinding of pay raises granted to the officers.
The grievance was one of two filed last week with the county administrator over the March 15 decision by the Knox County Budget Committee and Knox County commissioners to cap raises at 9 percent, reversing a Dec. 1 vote that granted pay raises in excess of 9 percent to 23 people.
Jack Parlin, a labor specialist with the Fraternal Order of Police which represents the Knox County deputies, said the county and deputies had reached a memorandum of understanding on pay with the county after negotiations. The deputies began receiving the higher pay in their paychecks that were issued at the start of the year.
“When compared to the pay of other sheriff’s departments in Maine, Knox County is on the low end,” Parlin said.
The labor representative said that officers made purchases based on their new pay rate and now they are stuck with the purchases but are receiving lower pay. The lower pay rate was effective in their most recent paychecks.
Parlin said in addition to the grievance filed last week, a complaint will be filed with the Maine Labor Relations Board alleging the county violated labor law. He said a lawsuit is being considered.
A second grievance over the rescinding of the pay hikes was filed last week, although County Administrator Andrew Hart did not specify who filed that complaint.
The original budget approved by the county budget panel, and commissioners awarded raises as high as 40 percent. The raises went to department heads and other nonunion employees as well as the patrol deputies. Those raises followed a pay study commissioned by the county.
The increases, however, were met by a storm of criticism. The opponents challenged the process used by the county to adopt the budget, noting the public notices did not meet the requirements in the charter. That led to another budget hearing and vote on March 15.
At that meeting, the raises were capped at 9 percent for 2012.
If Hart sides with the parties who filed the grievances and reinstitutes the pay raises, the grievance process will be completed. If he rejects the grievances, the next step would be for a hearing before county commissioners.
At the March 15 vote, County Budget Committee member William Jones had commented that rescinding the raises would create new problems.
“We’re in an extremely messy situation,” Jones said.
Hart said he did not know when he would make a decision on the grievances.
Parlin said that the action by the county will cost it money since the county now must pay for legal services to defend taking back pay increases that already had been approved and paid.