O.C. Approves Contract With Deputies Union
Orange County supervisors have approved a labor contract with the sheriff’s deputies union that allows the board to monitor how $13.3 million in county healthcare contributions are spent by the union.
The issue surrounding those contributions was the most contentious element in negotiating the contract, which expired in October. The new contract, approved unanimously by the board Tuesday, gives 1,800 deputies and district attorney’s investigators raises totaling 8% over two years.
But the contract, which expires in October 2006, doesn’t limit how much the Assn. of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs can keep for administering the healthcare fund, which two supervisors said concerned them. The supervisors said they worried that some of the healthcare funds may have been spent on union business not related to healthcare.
According to tax reports, the administrative fee has grown to $532,000 from $166,000 in 1996. That amount does not include the salary paid to the union’s health fund administrator.
An agreement between the Orange County Fire Authority and the Orange County Professional Firefighters Assn. limits its healthcare administrative fee to $28,500 a year.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Campbell said administrative costs were among several elements of the trust fund to be examined by an independent accountant, who will report to the union and the Board of Supervisors by Oct. 1.
The board insisted that the labor contract, for the first time, require a detailed independent financial review of the union’s healthcare fund. Last year, the county contributed healthcare payments that exceeded the trust fund’s expenses by about $2 million.
Union general manager Bob MacLeod would not discuss how the money was spent, saying it was a negotiated benefit approved as part of the contract. Any excess county contributions were set aside in the trust fund’s reserves, he said.
The union reported taking no administrative fee when the trust fund was established in 1990. Tax forms for 1991 through 1995 couldn’t be located by the Internal Revenue Service at its Utah records center.
Last year, Supervisor Chris Norby and then-Supervisor Chuck Smith said they wanted assurances that the county’s excess healthcare contributions weren’t being used to support other union activities.
“Public trust funds are not the private playgrounds of those who administer them,” Norby said this week after voting for the new contract.