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Pasco County jail deputies join Police Benevolent Association

Nearly two years after leaving the fold of one union, Pasco's detention deputies voted this week to join another.

The officers at the Land O'Lakes jail will be represented at the bargaining table by the Police Benevolent Association.

Among those eligible to vote, 18 supervisors and 99 deputies opted for the PBA. Five supervisors and 27 deputies cast ballots to return to the Fraternal Order of Police, which the detention staff dropped in March 2008. The FOP still represents Pasco's road deputies.

Five jail supervisors and 17 detention deputies voted for no union at all.

Jim Diamond, director of operations of the West Central Florida PBA, said the jail deputies don't have a gripe with Sheriff Bob White.

"The deputies are not displeased with the sheriff," Diamond said. "They just want to make sure they have a voice and keep their jobs."

That last concern grew out of the rumors this summer that Pasco might consider privatizing the Land O'Lakes jail. But the idea never came up at a county budget workshop, and there doesn't appear to be any support among county commissioners to go in that direction.

White told the Times on Friday that several commissioners assured them they are not interested in privatization. He noted the PBA has a track record opposing the "commercialization" of county jails.

"Knowing that, and with recent commitment of several county commissioners — I think with those two forces working together, I don't suspect a corporation will ever run our jail here," White said.

The sheriff is no stranger to the PBA. Before entering politics, White was a board member for the Florida Police Benevolent Association, whose backing helped him defeat then-Sheriff Lee Cannon. The PBA's current lobbyist in Tallahassee is Ed Collins, a former county commissioner and top ally of White's.

White said he supported the jail deputies' decision to join the PBA: "If that's their choice, I stand behind them."

White has had a strained relationship with his road deputies' union, the FOP, since it formed in 2006. The two sides went through multiple rounds of bitter contract talks, deadlocking over issues like medical insurance for retirees and discipline appeals.

In 2008, as White was running for re-election, union literature criticized his spending decisions and his public support of the revenue-cutting Amendment 1. In March 2008, the sheriff broke an impasse with the deputies and supervisors units when he imposed a labor contract. The union challenged his authority to do so, and a state agency recently sided with the deputies.

That same month, jail deputies voted 132-62 to drop their FOP representation, which allowed them to be solicited by the PBA.

Diamond said the PBA expects to begin contract negotiations with White early next year. And he said the union supports the sheriff and they don't expect to have an adversarial relationship.

"To be candid, we don't have any major points of contention," Diamond said. "The deputies just want to have a voice and get a contract that establishes the working conditions and have a voice in discipline."

Pasco County jail deputies join Police Benevolent Association 12/04/09 [Last modified: Friday, December 4, 2009 8:59pm]
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