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St. Charles Analysis Part 3.

St. Charles vs. The Sergeants;
Special Analysis and Commentary
Part 3
By Rich Trzupek
  How much does it cost to engage in a pointless battle to deny a duly-certified bargaining unit their rights under the law? To date, more than $41,000 in attorney's fees with the firm of Davis & Kuelthau, S.C., in the case of the City of St. Charles' battle with its sergeants.
  Interestingly, the mounting legal bills include a line item for $480 covering Ms. Susan M. Love's time to "Finalize and file brief" on June 23, 2008. Had such a brief been filed on June 23, 2008, the Illinois Labor Relations Board (ILRB) would have had to take a second look at the case. Alas, the ILRB found that a brief supporting "exceptions" was not filed within the proscribed 14 day window (which encompassed June 23, 2008) so one must wonder what exactly this line item on the invoice means.
  The $41,000 tab also does not account for "soft costs" that the City, and the thus its taxpayers, are footing. All of the time spent in preparing for testimony, gathering evidence (such as it is) to support the City's case and in phone calls and correspondence with Ms. Love has to be worth something. This is particularly true at the highest levels, which brings us to the testimony of Human Resources Director Kathy Livernois.
  Reviewing the transcripts of the ILRB hearings held last fall, it is remarkable to learn how little Livernois appears to know about what personnel policies and procedures are actually written down. It's all kind of management by the seat of her pants, if her testimony is to be believed. If Commander David Kintz was thrust into the role of the amiable fall guy during his testimony, Livernois (much like Police Chief James Lamkin, whose testimony we'll look at next week) went more for the befuddled figurehead personas. Don't ask. Don't tell. Haven't got a clue. Either that, or she was lying, and we at The Examiner would never accuse someone of that.
  To paraphrase the City's position once more, it is St. Charles' belief that Sergeants are supervisors, with the authority to hire, fire, discipline, spend money, etc. As such, they are not entitled to engage in collective bargaining, or to enter into labor agreements. Based on that, one would not expect that the City -- which has always considered Sergeants supervisors -- would ever contemplate negotiating with them on a collective basis, right? In that light, the following exchange between Livernois and Joseph Mazzone, the lawyer representing the sergeants, makes for fascinating reading:
  MAZZONE: "Now ma'am, again, this is directive out of the police department's manual of directives. And it talks about compensation evaluation. And I think the second sentence reads that: "Police sergeants and officers shall be compensated in according with the provisions of the respective labor agreements. "Is that right?"
  LIVERNOIS: "That's correct."
  MAZZONE: "That's what it says?"
  LIVERNOIS: "Yes."
  MAZZONE: "Okay. Now, there is a labor agreement between patrol officers. You've got it, you've seen it, sign(ed) resolution, council action, all that stuff. What labor agreement is there between the City of St. Charles and the sergeants?"
  LIVERNOIS: "There is none."
  Livernois obviously could not be expected to have any knowledge of this directive. "I didn't write it," she explained. Of course not, for whatever is in HR policy manuals in St. Charles, the contents don't seem to have much to do with Human Resources, at least where sergeants are concerned. She claims that sergeants have the authority to hire people. Mazzone wonders if that's in writing somewhere. "No," Livernois replies. Odd, how about the authority to fire, which Livernois says sergeants also possess. Is that in writing? "No."
  Livernois also testifies that traffic sergeant Brad Griffin had personally hired eight crossing guards. This came as quite a surprise to Griffin.
  MAZZONE: "Now, sir, do you have the authority, as a sergeant, to authorize the transfer of employees?"
  GRIFFIN: "No, sir."
  MAZZONE: "Do you have the ability to independently issue a suspension to employees?"
  GRIFFIN: "No, sir."
  MAZZONE: "Do you have the ability to lay off or recall any of those employees?"
  GRIFFIN: "No, sir."
  MAZZONE: "How about promote or discharge?"
  GRIFFIN: "No, sir."
  MAZZONE: "Okay. Now, you certainly can't hire anyone?"
  GRIFFIN: "No."
  Later Griffin would testify about a crossing guard whom was hired despite his advice to the contrary, the sergeant being told by Human Resources that the crossing guard candidate met the criteria so she would therefore be hired. Apparently the all-powerful sergeants ability to hire employees is a tad limited.
  This seems to be the way it is in the HR Department in the City of St. Charles. There's policy -- sometimes -- and there are written guidelines -- sometimes -- but one can ignore all of that in favor of the "that's the way we've always done things" logic that seems to pervade Livernois' testimony. And, based on Griffin's testimony, even that doesn't appear to hold up.
  As a side note, it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that the two St. Charles sergeants who have been leading the charge for a collective bargaining unit, Griffin and Lin Dargis, now find themselves returned to patrol duty. Sheer coincidence? One would expect the City to say so, but it's one of those moves that reeks of arrogance.
  It sounds an awful lot like retaliatory behavior, which is usually defined as an unfair labor practice. It would not be surprising at all to find that the ILRB agrees with that assessment, and that the taxpayers of St. Charles have some fines to pay, in addition to the tens of thousands in legal fees they have already paid.
      

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