ALFRED – The relationship between the union representing York County Sheriff’s Office deputies and senior management at the sheriff’s office has been described as acrimonious, hostile and tense by the Maine Labor Relations Board.
The MLRB, in a July 24 decision regarding grievances filed by the Fraternal Order of Police, referenced the sour relationship five times and the grievances were dismissed for lack of evidence.
“The events described here build upon a narrative of hostility and distrust in the labor relations of this county office which, if continued, may do harm to the effectiveness of the vital public service the office provides,” the three-member MLRB wrote, in part. “ We strongly encourage both sides to make a more strenuous effort at compromise in order to avoid this potentiality.”
Both York County Sheriff William L. King Jr. and FOP Labor Specialist Jack Parlon said service to the public has not and will not be affected.
“Even though management and the union may not be completely on the same page on all matters, the one thing that I believe both sides can agree upon is that any differences in that regard have not and will not affect the delivery of policing services to our communities in York County,” King said. “The hardworking and dedicated professionals that comprise the Sheriff’s Office would never allow that to happen. “
Parlon said he doesn’t believe the unrest affects the quality of the service deputies provide to York County citizens.
“Anytime you feel your employer is not treating you fairly, it causes issues,” said Parlon in a telephone interview last week. “I don’t think it affects the work, because (deputies) have a job to do.”
Parlon said that the deputies have been working without a contract for the past two years.
“It’s not hard to get to a reasonable agreement, and they just don’t want to do that,” said Parlon of management.
He said the union has no interest in filing grievance after grievance and pointed out that it is the York County Manager Greg Zinser who negotiates union contracts.
“I think if the average guy in York County knew what the issues were, they would fall on our side,” said Parlon. “The sheriff is an elected official. He’s not a bad guy; he’s a politician. There are legitimate issues in dispute. He has one view and we have another and all funnels back to the county manager, he sets the tone.”
King said while some have struggled, most deputies have adapted quickly to cultural and organizational changes he made when he took office in January 2015.
“We’ve emphasized the importance of accountability and transparency of each deputy and that in turn has become the hallmark of the York County Sheriff’s Office,” said King in a written statement.
King said the department’s self-initiated police tasks like checking buildings, making traffic stops, and similar efforts have increased and that those community policing efforts have paid off in fewer major crimes.
“This change in approach has increased productivity and ensured that taxpayer dollars are being spent efficiently and wisely,” he said.
He said that management continues to recognize a number of staff employed by the sheriff’s office for their work, including two deputies who testified in support of the prohibited practices complaint.
“While the decision noted a “tense and unhappy” relationship between the deputies and management, I think that observation needs to be placed in context,” King said. “Management and the union in any organization do not always agree on everything that takes place and it is no different here. This dynamic sometimes becomes more of an issue when the leader of the office, the sheriff, is an elected position. As we all know politics for some people can be divisive in today’s day and age.”