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Employees may drop lawsuit against county

Greg Risling

A lawsuit filed on behalf of county employees against El Dorado County may be dropped soon, according to lead negotiators.

Representatives from the county and the El Dorado County Employees Association met yesterday and indicated they are close to resolving the dispute. Chuck Egbert, EDCEA Director, characterized the discussions as cordial and beneficial for both sides.

“Our suit is what brought the county to the table and they have been receptive to our demands,” Egbert said. “Things have gone fairly well and we hope to have a conclusion sometime soon.”

The organization, which represents hundreds of county employees, contends that the hiring of independent contractors has been done unfairly and violates county and state law. The suit, which was filed in October, claims the county ignores in-house help and opts for more expensive, outside contractors.

The union alleges that a 1996 contract with Thresher Enterprises of Dixon for a new computer system in the mental health department grew while the association’s proposals were not considered. Thresher’s services – $65 an hour – could have been provided at $50 an hour by county employees, according to the suit. The final contract inflated to $70,000 but county officials said the extra money was spent on upgrading the system that interfaces with state computers.

While contracting out is the norm for many jurisdictions that have limited resources, the union wants to participate more in the bidding process. Ultimately, the decision will sit with department heads but EDCEA wants assurances that they aren’t overlooked.

“This has clearly required a meeting of the minds,” said Kathy Libicki, director of human resources. “I think the county can respond positively to the issues raised by the union. If there is good faith on the part of everybody, the likelihood this will be settle is imminent.”

Egbert believes the discrepancy between the county and union stems from improper wording in the county charter. The charter is the county’s outline for local law. The union has proposed a change to the charter amendment that would require the county to complete a cost analysis that compares hourly rates of county employees vs. independent contractors. Association representatives and county staff plan to meet within the next month to finalize the charter amendment. The Board of Supervisors must approve the amendment before it is placed on the ballot.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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