Nevada County supervisors reject Grand Jury report | SierraSun.com

Nevada County supervisors reject Grand Jury report

Jeff Pelline
Sun News Service

NEVADA CITY – The county Board of Supervisors has rejected the findings of the county Grand Jury that concluded a controversial labor union election held at the Rood Center was unlawful and should be held again.

Though agreeing that the Human Resources director did not “personally” post the election notices as she should have, the board blamed a state election supervisor for not properly instructing her to do so. It made no mention of any disciplinary action.

The supervisors’ response will be made public at Tuesday’s regularly scheduled meeting.

The latest findings exemplify concerns raised for years by some residents that county Grand Jury reports – though raising some legitimate issues in the community by a group of citizens – have little or no legal or even political teeth.

A Grand Jury report last year about Nevada City, dubbed “Asleep at the Wheel,” also was met with criticism at City Hall, though officials are continuing to address the issues that were raised.

“The county’s labor attorneys have advised the county that the Grand Jury, a judicial body, has no jurisdiction over this matter,” according to a letter from the Board of Supervisors to Judge Robert Tamietti, the presiding judge of the Grand Jury.

In January, the Grand Jury released a report concluding that the election involving some county employees to the International Union of Operations Engineers was unlawful. The election was held in August 2007.

Only three days’ working notice was given for the election instead of five, the Grand Jury found. The report also said the county human resources department “did not understand nor appreciate the importance of personal posting of the notices of the election.”

It also said the board should direct that the union fees not be collected or suspend their collection. The board should “make every reasonable effort to secure return of fees.”

The report was titled, “Agency Shop election – Oops.”

In its response, the supervisors, relying on county staff research, said it disagreed with nearly all of the findings.

The five-day requirement was met because the union posted the response in three days, even if the county may not have done so.

The supervisors “partially agreed” that the Human Resources director did not post the election notice but said the state election supervisor could have done a better job of clarifying this point. In addition, the county “said it has been advised by legal counsel that delegation of the posting duties is legally permissible.”

The supervisors agreed that the “county is not 100 percent certain that notices were posted at all 27 sites,” as they should have been. But it pointed to an earlier appeal to the State Mediation Service that upheld the election.

Some proponents of the Grand Jury’s findings wondered if the supervisors could have written a letter to the State Mediation Service highlighting the Grand Jury’s findings. But the information presented in advance of Tuesday’s meeting did not mention any such letter.