Russillo at county board

Mark Russillo, FOP Representative (left), addressed the Shelby County Board, Chairman Bruce Cannon (middle), and Shelby County Clerk Jessica Fox, in their outdoor meeting on Wednesday.

Changes in past procedures in Shelby County are still grinding along. On Wednesday, the county board voted 9-8 to change the payroll procedure.

The big topic was a pay-period change in May. Mark Russillo, the Fraternal Order of Police representative, spoke against the change at this time. Erica Firnhaber, the County Treasurer, explained why it needs to be changed.

Some of the employees of the county are represented by AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) and some by FOP (Fraternal Order of Police).

Russillo had a statement signed by all 30 FOP employees from the county. The statement asked for the pay-period change, set for May, to be postponed. The two reasons given were the COVID-19 crisis and the collective bargaining decision.

“We ask the county to wait until after the pandemic,” Russillo said. “Le’s wait until the smoke clears from the pandemic.”

The FOP and the county are also awaiting a decision on their collective bargaining agreement that has dragged on for over a year.

“Let’s get the contract settled, first,” Russillo said. “We can have a gradual approach like other places have done.”

“I agree it should be changed,” said County Board Member Kay Kearney, the former Law Enforcement Chairperson. “But we need the right procedure. I think we missed a step somewhere.”

Again, there was terminology that confused the issue. Some the change would be a loss of income and others stated that it was not a loss of income, just a delay in being paid.

“It will not be a loss of income,” Firnhaber said. “They will be paid six days in a arrears. We are just pushing it back six days. To say it is a loss of pay is misleading.”

Firnhaber said there were incidents where, under the current system, people were paid for work they hadn’t done yet and then left the county’s employ.

“How do we get that money back?” Firnhaber said. “We can’t constantly be making payroll adjustments after we paid them. This affects me, too. Should we wait until we get sued from the public? I’m trying to cover my rear end. I’m a sitting duck if there’s a lawsuit from the FOP or a citizen of the county.”

Firnhaber reported that since bringing this issue up, she discovered an adjacent county went through a similar change.

“This exact same change was done in Christian County,” Firnhaber said. “I have stood my ground, because it’s not legal and not in compliance with the law.”

Russillo contended that Christian County handled it differently.

“In Christian County it was targeted,” Russillo said. “Some were right away and others were up to a year. The chief deputy worked a separate deal.”

County Board Member Gary Gergeni spoke.

“You are asking us to keep violating the law for six more months,” Gergeni said.

Russillo replied, “And we are asking you not to violate another law, the Labor Relations Act.”

County Board Member Dale Wetherell called for the question. The question was to approve the resolution by the county treasurer to change the pay-period in May.

Wetherell made the motion and Gergeni seconded it. A vote was taken by roll call, which passed 9-8. After the vote totals were announced and the motion passed there was a smattering of applause.

After the vote, there was an amendment to the AFSCME contract, in connection with that decision, that needed to be passed.

The amendment to the contract was an agreement that the county and AFSCME would accept a 1-time cash out benefit for employees during the payroll procedure change.

Although the benefit cash out would be offered to every county employee, the AFSCME employees needed to cite this 1-time amendment to their contract. That motion passed with just two nays.

John Curtis can be reached at john.curtis@shelbyvilledailyunion.com

John Curtis can be reached at john.curtis@shelbyvilledailyunion.com

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