By SEAN BATURA
In one of Hays County’s first steps towards instituting civil service rules and collective bargaining for sheriff’s deputies, the Hays County Commissioners Court voted unanimously Tuesday to recognize the Hays County Law Enforcement Association (HCLEA) as the bargaining agent for those peace officers.
Voters approved the move to civil service and collective bargaining in the November election. HCLEA circulated a petition in August to gain support for collective bargaining under Texas Local Government Code Chapter 174, which provides penalties for employees who engage in strikes or lockouts. The HCLEA petition raised more than 1,700 signatures of Hays County residents, allowing it to be placed on the November ballot as Proposition 1. The proposal received 84.61 percent approval from Hays County voters.
Sergeant Sam Stock of the Hays County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) submitted petition for recognition in early March. Hays County staff, including attorney Mark Kennedy and Human Resources Director Dee Dee Baen, certified. The petition includes the names of a majority of officers in the HCSO. Kennedy said two names could not be matched up with existing HCSO personnel.
Under a section heading on HCLEA’s website entitled “What are the issues that the HCLEA will address,” is the following item:
“The HCLEA cares about our right to work. At this point, the Hays County Sheriff’s Office is an ‘At Will’ Agency. This means that if for any reason, the Sheriff isn’t pleased with the work of any of his employees, he can simply tell them to turn in their badge and equipment and send them looking for another job. The Sheriff doesn’t have to show cause for the termination or even document a valid reason why he feels the employee(s) is not longer a valuable asset to his Department. We feel as a professional association that our members deserve to be shown cause for any type of termination. We feel our people are worth “due process” and a valid investigation prior to outright termination.”
Stock, who said “right to work” is an “industry standard” Hays County currently does not meet, said no one in the HCSO has been terminated for no reason, but he warned that “it could happen.”
“We’re aware that there’s people that are going to need to be terminated for some reason,” Stock said. “The grievance process isn’t to keep those folks around. It’ll make it evident that they are folks that need to go.”
The San Marcos Police Department and Fire Rescue were granted “meet and confer” rights by the city council less than two years ago. Under meet and confer, agreements between parties are not legally binding.
Constables, as public officials, do not usually have collective bargaining rights, though Precinct 1 Constable David Peterson said it is something that “definitely could be looked into in the future.” Peterson said he is working to get collective bargaining rights for deputy constables in Hays County.
“They deserve that,” Peterson said. “We’re out here in all these precincts doing just as — almost just as much work as other (counties’) constables. You just have some constables that basically are more busy in rural areas. It just depends on where the rural areas are.”Email | Print