It looks like there won't be any expensive arbitration hearing regarding clothing purchases for Klickitat County Sheriff's Office (KCSO) detectives.
Moving to end the dispute, the Klickitat County Board of Commissioners agreed to reimburse two KCSO detectives who had purchased "formal" attire for appearances in trials and for plainclothes operations.
The agreement settles a grievance filed by Washington State Council of City & County Employees/Local 1533, and grievants Steve Shields and Fred Kilian, both of whom are detectives with KCSO.
The purchases, made at J.C. Penney's in March of this year, totaled approximately $850 between the two detectives.
Union representatives claimed the formal attire was part of the uniform for detectives, who needed to conduct plainclothes operations and represent KCSO in court.
However, the County Commissioners contended that there was no provision in the existing bargaining agreement "for the expenditure of funds to reimburse the purchase of non-uniform clothes for deputies."
"Internal policies and/or procedures which may have been adopted by the sheriff which are not supported by budgetary authorization by the Board of County Commissioners are not enforceable nor fiscally valid," read an excerpt from a March 12 letter the commissioners sent to Sheriff Mace, the two detectives, and the union representing the KCSO employees.
In the recent "settlement agreement" that ended the grievance before it went to arbitration, the county agreed to the following provisions:
The county agrees to purchase or provide reimbursements for the purchase of one suit jacket, two pair of slacks, two button-down shirts, and two ties per each deputy assigned as a detective. Only purchases from the Sheriff's Office recognized uniform vendors shall be allowed.
Grievants (Fred) Kilian and (Steve) Shields will be reimbursed for costs incurred for the purchases submitted resulting in this grievance.
Any purchases/reimbursements described in No. 1 shall be eligible from the date of signature of this settlement through Dec. 31, 2005. The parties have full knowledge of the disputed issue and will address it in the upcoming labor agreement negotiations.
Sheriff Chris Mace said he was happy with the decision reached by the County Commissioners.
"I'm glad they decided to reimburse these guys. The commissioners did the right thing. I'm glad they stepped up and settled it," Mace said.
Mace had estimated that the cost of arbitration could have run as high as $8,000 between the union and the county.
"Basically, the commissioners felt it was going to be too expensive to take it to arbitration as opposed to just paying it," Mace explained. "All the detectives wanted was their money back. Sometimes you can get these slacks and shirts for a lot less through a retailer, but if the commissioners are more comfortable getting them through our regular uniform vendor, we can sure do that."