Thursday, April 19, 2018
News Roundup

About 25 Madeira Beach employees may vote out union

MADEIRA BEACH — The city's non-administrative employees may decertify their union, opting instead to let the city manager and City Commission decide their future wages and benefits.

Secret ballots mailed out by the Florida Public Employees Relations Commission to the 25 employees represented by the Communications Workers of America are scheduled to be tallied Monday.

The action comes about two years after a change in the City Commission majority resulted in nearly all the city's administrators resigning. Others were fired or had their jobs eliminated.

The following year was characterized by political turmoil as the commission tried to find a new city manager.

After Shane Crawford was hired to manage the city in January 2012, the number of city employees continued to decline as positions were left unfilled, with many permanently removed from the employee roster.

The city now has 65 full- and part-time employees. Of that number, about 25 are represented by the CWA.

Administrators and certain other employees are not eligible, and firefighters are represented by a different union.

Crawford said Tuesday that if a majority of eligible employees vote to decertify the CWA, he plans to immediately begin to restructure both their position descriptions and pay scales.

"I think such a move on the part of the employees not only shows trust and faith in the administration but also in the board of commissioners," Crawford said. "They are looking at the value of the union and seeing that it is possibly not there for them."

He denied reports that he encouraged the decertification effort, but said he is on record as favoring getting rid of the union.

"It wasn't motivated on my part in any way, but I do think not having a union creates a more flexible situation for correcting salary issues,'' he said. "We run a $2 million company, and we should be able to deal with employees as we see fit."

In June 2012, Cheryl Rodde, now Crawford's assistant, filed a petition for a decertification election but withdrew it after she was promoted and was no longer eligible for union membership.

Then in December, two city employees — Heather Lucas, a recently hired building permit technician, and Ken Zongora, public works supervisor who has worked for the city for nearly two decades — petitioned the Florida Public Employees Relations Commission for the decertification election.

The union's actual paid membership is only about four employees, according to the Madeira Beach union representative, Steve Burdick.

Burdick, who is retiring July 1, confirmed that interest in the union has dwindled over the years.

The union was formed in 2003 amid widespread employee distrust and anger with then-City Manager Jim Madden, according to Steve Sarnoff, president of CWA Local 3179.

Sarnoff acknowledged that he expects the union to be voted out of Madeira Beach.

Without a union to represent employees, "there are no guarantees" that employees could not be fired at will, he said. "Madeira Beach has been a real challenge for us. I have heard from employees that they are being threatened with being fired if they did not play along" with the current administration.

Crawford denied making any such threats, and stressed that "no employees will lose their jobs" just because there is no union. His goal is for longtime employees actually to be paid more, he said.

"Having people here for 18 years and topping out at $18 an hour just doesn't seem right," Crawford said.

The city is moving toward outsourcing some of its parks services, but Crawford stressed he has no intentions of outsourcing the city's sanitation service.

Crawford said if employees do decertify their union, he plans to work closely with the Civil Service Commission to develop a new pay scale that would be presented to the City Commission for approval.

Meanwhile, a 3 percent raise for employees negotiated with the CWA last year and scheduled to go into effect Oct. 1, 2012, will be paid retroactively, Crawford said, once the decertification election is complete, whatever the results.

Comments
Tech Data names Rich Hume to take over as CEO

Tech Data names Rich Hume to take over as CEO

CLEARWATER — A longtime IBM executive is becoming the new leader of Tampa Bay’s largest public company. Tech Data on Thursday named Richard "Rich" Hume as its new CEO effective June 6. Hume joined Tech Data two years ago and is currently the chief op...
Updated: 19 minutes ago

Updated: 1 hour ago

Sally Bradshaw, Kathleen Shanahan column: Barbara Bush was role model who loved Florida

Barbara Pierce Bush loved Florida.With a son as governor, she was practically an honorary Floridian! No one was prouder of former Gov. Jeb Bush than his mom, and no one a more honest critic when she felt he needed some constructive feedback! But we t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Hundreds mourn Durant High athlete killed at Brandon gas station

Hundreds mourn Durant High athlete killed at Brandon gas station

PLANT CITY — Many remembered Durant High School football player Grover Wills, 18, for his talent on the field, but almost as many remembered his penchant for bursting into dance and song. After practice or on team trips, Wills would mesmerize those a...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Child, 19 months, hospitalized after being found in New Port Richey pond

Child, 19 months, hospitalized after being found in New Port Richey pond

NEW PORT RICHEY — A 19-month-old child was transported to a local hospital Thursday after being found unattended in a pond, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies said they were dispatched to a pond behind a home in the 4700 block of...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Column: No-win fishery bills would undermine businesses and innovation

The federal government delivered good news for anglers this week. Under newly approved two-year pilot programs, Florida and the other Gulf Coast states will manage red snapper fishing for private anglers. This means states can test ways to improve ac...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Hernando County Commissioner arrested on prostitution charges

Hernando County Commissioner arrested on prostitution charges

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County Commissioner Nick Nicholson, 71, was arrested midday Thursday by the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office on multiple prostitution charges.Nicholson was booked into the Hernando County Detention Center on one count of operat...
Updated: 2 hours ago
St. Petersburg police remove disabled adults from ‘deplorable’ assisted living facilities

St. Petersburg police remove disabled adults from ‘deplorable’ assisted living facilities

St. Petersburg Police on Thursday closed two assisted living facilities, citing "deplorable conditions," including no running water. The facilities are run by Tampa Bay Behavioral Health, located at 3434 Second Ave. S and 3418 Second Ave. S, accordin...
Updated: 3 hours ago
FHP: Distracted driver plunges more than 50 feet off I-275 in St. Petersburg

FHP: Distracted driver plunges more than 50 feet off I-275 in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — A distracted driver from Pinellas Park walked away unscathed after his car plunged 50 feet off Interstate 275.Thomas Highhouse, 61, of Pinellas Park, was driving his 2016 Chevy Camero along Interstate 275 around 11:10 a.m. when he lo...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Bay area has ‘hit show’ again, thanks to USF

Bay area has ‘hit show’ again, thanks to USF

For the first time since its season commenced, the USF baseball team enters a weekend as the Bulls' feature sports attraction.Basketball ended last month, and spring football ended last Saturday, meaning would-be baseball fans no longer have reason t...
Updated: 3 hours ago