NEWS

Dale asks for Harris' resignation

Robert Blackford/Editor

Operator's Union 150 representative Jeff Dale addressed the Mercer County Board for about 20 minutes at the board's March 3 meeting, culminating in a request for Tom Harris' resignation as the chairman of the Mercer County Board.

Harris gave Dale eight minutes to address the board and at the end of that allotted time period attempted to gavel him down to no avail. Dale kept reading his prepared statement.

Dale's statements came in front of a packed house. More than 70 people, many of them county employees, crowded into the boardroom. At the beginning of the board meeting Harris attempted to move the location to the courtroom but it was already in use.

Dale said he was there to clear up some misinformation that the union was the cause of the county's financial woes.

Dale blamed the county board's mismanagement as the source of its woes.

Dale felt Harris was taking on the role of county administrator and felt he was "disrespectful" toward the union members.

Dale repeatedly spoke of the union's lack of trust of the county board. He criticized the choice to purchase two new squad cars and a transportation van near the end of 2008 with money the sheriff was told was being held for back pay for sheriff's department employees.

Dale questioned the fairness of the county when it was giving raises and market rate adjustments to non-union employees when union employees did without.

Dale said up to seven people from the sheriff's department would have to be laid off to reach the desired four salaries from the general fund, not four, which is the number of employees the county has been talking about.

He complained about county employees being put on an emotional roller coaster after being served layoff notices and then given a six-month reprieve. The motion the hospital finally passed was for a three-month reprieve.

Dale accused Harris and board member Terry Elliot of violating bargaining ethics by asking for a show of hands, at a recent board meeting, to find out if employees would be willing to take voluntary days off without pay to save jobs.

Dale said the county's union employees have made concessions in the past including shifting from eight-hour shifts to 12 hour shifts in 1994 to save the county money. Dale reminded the board that this was a proposal employees brought to the county.

Dale said the county saved approximately $20,000 in 2008 alone because patrol deputies stayed home on call for the 14 holidays. Over the past 14 years Dale estimated the county has saved over $200,000 by having employees on call during holidays.

Dale claimed the real reason the county is out of money is because its auditor made an error in estimated revenue. Revenues or reimbursements from the state have been coming in and the county has spent too much money.

Dale reminded the board that the employees from the sheriff's department generate the majority of the county's budget annually.