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NCFL PBA suing Sheriff Watson, claiming ‘lack of good faith’ in bargaining talks

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Published: Mar. 28, 2022 at 10:38 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - The North Central Florida chapter of the Police Benevolent Assoc. is suing Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson after what they say is stalled bargaining talks and unfair labor practices.

The lawsuit was filed March 25 after representative’s with the PBA say that the Sheriff has continued to send bargaining deals back to the table after they have been voted down. NCFL PBA President Jody Branaman says the sheriff should not be acting this way.

“Here is the chief law enforcement officer of the county if you will not abiding by the law,” said Branaman.

Some of the stalled talks stem from vehicle access to deputies living outside of the county. According to lawsuit documents, Branaman and the PBA are claiming that Watson wants majority of the deputies representing the county to live in the county. The sheriff also does not think that new hires living 10 miles outside the county should not be able to take ASO issued vehicles home.

“Each of the other sheriff’s offices that we’ve talked to have different programs for what it looks like for taking those vehicles out of county. And we’re willing to talk about that we’re willing to discuss that, come to a compromise and again treat our employees fairly and equitably like they deserve,” said Branaman.

Aside from issues with deputy transportation, according to the previous collective bargaining agreement a 2.5% pay raise was supposed to go into affect on Oct. 1, but that step increase never occurred. That is one piece of evidence union leaders are using for their unfair labor practice claims.

Branaman says he worries about the current understaffing of the sheriff’s department.

“Not being able to recruit and retain the best members and keep those employees here at the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office is creating a public safety concern. It’s going to start impacting and it already has started impacting their staffing levels, where they‘re working at or below minimum staffing requirements,” said Branaman.

TV20 reached out to ASO officials, they say they will respond to the PBA’s claims after fully looking over the lawsuit.

The current bargaining agreement expires on Dec. 31 and it is not sure when talks between the PBA and Sheriff will resume.

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