INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — It could be more than a month before the special magistrate makes a recommendation to the county commission about higher wages for new and veteran sheriff’s deputies.
Arbitrator Dennis Campagna met with representatives from the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office and the International Union of Police Association, which governs 149 sworn officers, on Friday morning. The union and the sheriff’s office discussed the deadlock regarding offers and counter-offers presented from both sides after the two parties failed to reach an agreement on salary increases.
A decision was not reached Friday. Both parties will have 20 days to file summaries of their findings to Campagna after they receive transcripts from the meeting, according to attorney Wayne Helsby.
Campagna will then send his recommendation to the county commission.
Undersheriff Jim Harping and Helsby spoke on behalf of the sheriff’s office. The Indian River Deputies Association – under IUPA – was represented by Associate General Counsel Ryan W. Burton and Secretary Treasurer Katheryn Gibson.
The issue arose last year when the union began to negotiate for higher pay for deputies. In August 2018, the sheriff’s office gave the union a proposal, which included a starting salary increase from $38,950 to $42,000, Gibson said.
Also under the offer, deputies hired after May 1, 2018, would have their salary increased to $42,000, Harpring said. Deputies hired between May 1, 2017, and April 30, 2018, would be moved to $42,500.
“We can’t have our deputies who have been here more than a year making less than brand new deputies,” Harpring said.
All other deputies would get a 5 percent raise. Deputies at the top of the pay grade would get a $1,500 increase in pay.
The union, however, argued the offer would actually give employees who have worked at the agency for less than a year a 7 to 9 percent raise. That would be more than the 5 percent other deputies would receive.
“The bigger raise would go to the new guys,” Andrew Bartuccelli, vice-president of the IUPA, said. “We didn’t think it was fair.”
The union presented the sheriff’s office with two counter-offers, which were both turned down.
The first offer included raising the starting salary to $41,000 and giving all other deputies the 5 percent increase, Gibson said. This would exclude the 15 deputies – who would be getting a top-out pay of about $63,000 – who have been with the sheriff’s office for at least 20 years.
The second was similar to the sheriff’s initial offer, except it included a $3,550 increase in pay for all deputies, Gibson said.
“With the new guys getting so much of a raise increase, it doesn’t make us feel valuable,” said sheriff’s Deputy David Rodriguez, who has worked for the agency for 11 years. “He wants to make the agency look good by raising the starting salary, but not taking care of employees who have been here. We all want the starting pay raised, but not at the cost of ours.”
The sheriff’s office had an annual budget of $51,900,000 for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, sheriff’s officials said.
Gibson said 12 deputies with experience have resigned in the past five years. Those deputies accepted jobs with higher pay in other locations, Gibson said.