Sheriff seeks greater oversight

The King County Charter is currently open for a review that occurs once every 10 years. The Charter Review Commission has been gathering information and deliberating, and will soon forward amendments they endorse to the County Council. The Council will consider those recommendations, then decide which amendments will be placed on the ballot this fall. The voters will have the final say.

The King County Charter is currently open for a review that occurs once every 10 years. The Charter Review Commission has been gathering information and deliberating, and will soon forward amendments they endorse to the County Council. The Council will consider those recommendations, then decide which amendments will be placed on the ballot this fall. The voters will have the final say.

The current charter language gives the King County executive authority over Sheriff’s Office labor matters. It’s a holdover from the past, when the sheriff was an appointed department head under the executive’s office. In 1997, citizens voted by an overwhelming majority to make the sheriff an independent, elected official, directly accountable to the voters. However, the language giving the executive authority over sheriff’s office labor issues was not changed, creating an untenable situation that defies basic management sense.

I have proposed an amendment that gives the sheriff, rather than the county executive, the authority to bargain and manage the labor contracts with Sheriff’s Office employees. Under my proposal, the sheriff would have authority over management rights and working conditions, and the county executive would retain authority over wages and benefits. In simple business logic, this aligns the authority to manage the labor agreements with the responsibility the sheriff has for those employees.

Unions represent all 750 commissioned deputies and most of the 350 civilian staff of the Sheriff’s Office. I am the elected official accountable to the voters for the conduct and work of those employees. Let me give you an example of how the current system is problematic.

Last year, the County Council passed an ordinance creating an independent oversight program for complaints made against Sheriff’s Office employees, a move I strongly support. Some very limited aspects of the program are subject to bargaining, but not the entire program. The union filed an unfair labor practice complaint. Without my knowledge or input, the executive met with the union and agreed to settle the complaint. Implementation of the entire program was stopped until all aspects of the program could be bargained – a process that has dragged on for more than a year and remains unresolved.

The irony is that the citizens of King County hold the sheriff responsible for not having implemented independent oversight. They are not aware that the executive has the final authority over bargaining management rights that currently don’t exist in the Sheriff’s Office, including: performance evaluations, performance standards, overtime limits and term limits in high-risk undercover assignments.

I’ve worked diligently for the past three years to create a more professional, accountable and transparent organization. Many of those changes have to be bargained, a process under the control of the executive. No sheriff can effectively implement reforms when the labor unions have direct negotiating rights with another elected official – one who has different priorities and philosophy for dealing with labor issues. The existing environment is the result of a structural deficiency in the charter that we have the opportunity to correct.

To date, my proposed charter amendment has been endorsed by: the Sheriff’s Blue Ribbon Panel, former county executives Randy Revelle and Gary Locke, the Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Seattle Chamber of Commerce.

In Washington state, 28 of the 39 elected sheriffs, as well as the King County prosecutor and court systems, have the authority to manage their labor unions as I have proposed. It’s a process that has proven to be legal and effective.

If you agree with my proposal, I encourage you to contact the County Council with your input.

Sue Rahr

King County Sheriff

More in Opinion

To expel or not to expel Rep. Shea, that may be the question

Results of a private investigation could put the fate of GOP lawmaker in front of the House in 2020

Drones planting trees in burned wildlands

While drones are coming of age in firefighting, they are also establishing… Continue reading

Bouton delivered an influential pitch | Nuttman

Author and former major league pitcher Jim Bouton recently passed away at… Continue reading

Dozen advisory measures on the ballot will tax voters’ attention

OLYMPIA – If you’ve lost count of how many new and higher… Continue reading

America’s renewed interest in the moon

Today’s space race not only has China and India competition, but private sector investors as well

In tough month, an ally becomes a competitor for Eyman

After getting signatures for a measure that didn’t qualify, Restore Washington wants to do its own.

Nothing cheesy: Apollo missions brought us more than just the moon

America needed something to bring people together. Apollo 11 accomplished that.

2020 Census and the importance of being counted

Census affects everything from government representation to federal funding.

On the road to recovery to ride again | Dinsmore

A dad never likes to be awakened by a 6 a.m. message… Continue reading

China’s mighty migrating mandate

Country has to get serious about its trash problem as its fast-paced economy expands

KCLS forges partnerships for broader public benefit

The King County Library System strives to create meaningful partnerships with other… Continue reading

Yes, Virginia, lawmakers did raise a lot of fees and taxes

They passed 51 bills to bring in more money. Democrats pushed major tax hikes past a resistant GOP.