Walworth County deputies file lawsuit over county benefits
ELKHORN Walworth County sheriff's deputies suing the county over benefits will have to convince a judge that one portion of state statutes outweighs another.
In October, the deputies association filed suit, saying its members' rights were violated by the collective bargaining process.
On Monday, the issue was taken up in closed session by the Walworth County Board Executive Committee.
Walworth County Administrator David Bretl said after the meeting that he couldn't comment about an ongoing lawsuit.
In a Dec. 11 letter, association attorney Thomas Halloran outlined its complaints:
-- During the last bargaining process between the county and the deputies association, the Walworth County Board amended the ordinances relating to health insurance.
-- The amended ordinances "effectively reduces the wages and income" of association members by increasing health care premiums, co-pays and deductibles.
-- The county told the association that state statutes prohibited bargaining on the issue and refused to do so.
Halloran could not be reached for comment Monday.
Act 10 exempted police and firefighters from collective bargaining restrictions imposed on other public workers.
What's not so well known is that another part of state statutes says municipalities are "prohibited" from bargaining over "The design and selection of health care coverage plans … for public safety employees, and the impact of the design and selection of the health care coverage plans on the wages, hours, and conditions of employment of the public safety employee."
The issue already has been debated in the courts and has been decided both for and against local units of government.
The lawsuit filed by Walworth County deputies will be heard in Racine County Court, according to online court records.
In other business, the executive committee Monday considered a resolution from Sheboygan County to "Require Law Enforcement Employee Pension contributions."
The resolution would have been sent to the state Legislature as an advisory resolution.
"I don't thing the Legislature is going to touch this with a 10-foot pole," Bretl told the committee.
Sheriff David Graves weighed in on the issue with Jan. 10 memo.
"As the present exempt deputies retire, the new ones are paying the contribution. In a few years, the law enforcement contribution will not be an issue," Graves wrote. "Act 10 is probably headed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Hopefully, the court will answer any ambiguity in the law."
The committee took no action on the resolution.