Wednesday, April 23, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Court employees picket over pay cuts

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EL DORADO COUNTY court employees pickets through the Courthouse parking lot Tuesday in downtown Placerville. Democrat photo by Shelly Thorene

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From page A1 | May 17, 2013 | 39 Comments

About two dozen court employees stood outside the Main Street Courthouse late Tuesday afternoon, picketing to raise awareness of their impending pay cuts.

The employees face between 8 and 18.4 percent pay cuts, depending on location and seniority, said James Britton, a representative of the International Union of Operating Engineers, Stationary Engineers Local 39, or up to a $683 pay cut each month. This includes the courts no longer paying 7 percent into employee retirement funds.

Negotiations began last August, Britton said, but ended last month after four meetings. A single day was spent with a mediator, but no agreement was made. The employees offered to do some fact-finding, but the court administration “refused to participate,” Britton said. “We offered cuts to mitigate” the losses in budget, “but if it wasn’t their idea, they didn’t like it.”

Instead, the court informed the employees that the last, best and final offer would be imposed on May 18.

Britton said the employees are still interested in meeting with the court if “they are willing to be realistic.” But, being realistic, Britton said it’s likely nothing will change unless the budget changes.

“It’s unfortunate,” he said. “We’re the lowest paid group in the state” who is suffering a “drastic” cut while the state recovers from recent budgets, even though the budget is “bounds and leaps” improved from what they believed the budget would be.

Shelli Tuttle, a court reporter, called the offer “devastating” to the employees. One employee, she said, would qualify for food stamps after the cuts. A few were worrying about losing their houses.

“It’s a lean state of staffing,” she said. “They can’t lay off, they physically can’t lay people off” because “there would be nobody to meet the needs of the court.” As it is, she said, pro tem reporters have to be scheduled every day for other courtrooms, including Departments 7 and 9.

Meanwhile, she said, Court Executive Officer Tania Ugrin-Capobianco has been “bragging about her new car, her diamond ring” and looking into property in the area. “We hear that stuff.”

Tuttle noted that, in her 13 years working for the courts, she only received a single raise — a meager 1 percent. Which, she added, she gave up, along with the other employees receiving the raise, to pay for retiree benefits.

Larry Tomblin, who has worked IT for the courts for 16 years, said that after Ugrin-Capobianco took over, the employees got the impression “that the axe would fall fairly soon.” She took over two years ago, and in the past two-and-a-half years, 17 employees have been let go or voluntarily retired, he said. No replacements were found. He noted in the two years, there have been 12 furlough days with more suspected to come.

With a deficit of $275,000, he said, a cut of the assistant court executive officer would save the court between $160,000 and $180,000, more than half of what the court is trying to save. “Why do we have two CEOs, yet we pay? Why?” Tomblin asked. “It is unfair. It’s all unfair.”

Both Tomblin and Tuttle believed that answer is in the new proposed courthouse, planned to be built near the county jail. Although Ugrin-Cabobianco could go to the state and request more money, Tuttle said, it’s likely that she fears the fund to build the new courthouse will be affected. It is meant to be her “legacy,” Tuttle said, and she does not want it to be adversely affected.

In the meantime, the group marched around the courthouse, one employee yelling, “What do we want?” with a response from the rest of “Chop at the top.” The answer of “When?” was “Now,” which, if anything is to be done before the May 18 imposition of the offer, is when something will need to happen.

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Discussion | 39 comments

  • francescaduchamp@att.netMay 17, 2013 - 9:29 am

    good for them--remember economic groups got 350,000 in one shot....more after that...pay attention--READ or your county will go the path of stockton

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  • francescaduchamp@att.netMay 17, 2013 - 9:48 am

    pay cuts vs. bikes and trails...I acused the Economic development groups of not caring through their arrogance--some people will have less on their table. The New Economy --READ

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  • oh brotherMay 17, 2013 - 11:58 am

    Wow I just read another article about how much Vern Pierson makes in comparison to the attorney general for the state of california. wow wow wow

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  • francescaduchamp@att.netMay 17, 2013 - 12:07 pm

    My friend works for the county--hasnt had a raise in 8 yrs--yet they just gave CEDAPP $5,000 dollars--her program comes from the general fund as well. I believe they had the audacity to offer some possible paint to her--she lives in the area where the CEDAPP person said "well if they wont paint--we will." Do your homework before you insult someone who works really hard in a program that she believe s in. This is the group that is being supported by the BOS. I suggest to some of our leaders--read...and walk away from Harper and CEDAPP--they will take you down as well.

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  • James E.May 17, 2013 - 6:02 pm

    OK, I'll bite, how much does Vern make in relation to the California Attorney General?

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  • EvelynMay 17, 2013 - 7:13 pm

    James: Can't find the Calif. AG's salary. But HERE are 2011 salaries and benefits for "Justice, Department of (Attorney General)". The person at the top of that particular heap costs in excess of $400,000 pa.

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  • EvelynMay 17, 2013 - 7:18 pm

    HERE are El Dorado County's 2011 salary packages. Vern Pierson comes in at around a paltry $220,000. But don't forget the additional (I think it is) ~$100,000 for being in charge of IT.

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  • EvelynMay 17, 2013 - 7:21 pm

    Interesting comparisons. For some reason the Mental Health Director is the most "valuable" (by salary) employee. $331,393.

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  • EvelynMay 17, 2013 - 7:22 pm

    I'm going to take time out now for a brief weep.

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  • Phil VeerkampMay 17, 2013 - 7:23 pm

    Mental Health Director = $331,393? That's crazy!

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  • EvelynMay 17, 2013 - 7:29 pm

    "Crazy" you say?!!!

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  • EvelynMay 17, 2013 - 8:02 pm

    HERE for Placerville, 2011.

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  • oh brotherMay 17, 2013 - 10:03 pm

    On Tuesday, two dozen court employees stood outside the Main Street Courthouse picketing to raise awareness of their impending pay cuts. The group marched around the courthouse, one employee yelling," What do we want?" with a response from the rest of "Chop at the top." Meanwhile, the El Dorado County District attorney enjoys generous pay offered to top elected officials. DA Vern Pierson earns wages of $174,920 to manage 61.2 employees while the California Attorney General gets only $147,189 to manage 4,783 employees. However, this is only 4.6% above his maximum salary. Other EDC Elected officials earn much more. James I got this information from the Placerville Newswire website.

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  • Barbara RogersMay 17, 2013 - 10:32 pm

    Don't the courts fall under the state now? I believe so. Court employees face new employment terms Article from Tahoe Tribune 5/17/13 After labor negotiations with El Dorado County Superior Court employees failed, the court will impose new terms and conditions on the employees, including having them contribute to their own retirement plan. After eight months of negotiations with a neutral mediator, no agreement was reached, a press release stated. As such, the new terms and conditions will be imposed as of May 18. The changes are the result of statewide cuts to trial court budgets, about $1 billion in the past five years. This fiscal year, El Dorado County’s court budget was reduced by $2.6 million. “This is a challenging time for all employees serving the public,” Court Executive Officer Tania Ugrin-Capobianco said in the press release. “Our court employees are valued professionals who provide an important service to the community. We regret having to take such drastic measures to meet the economic challenges created by the reductions to trial court funding.” She noted that the number of staff has already been reduced to a “critical number” and that any further reduction could have an impact on the services provided by the court. Neighboring courts have either closed locations or reduced hours in response to the fiscal hardship. The amount of savings sought from the 52 represented employees was $275,000, the press release states, a little more than 10 percent of the total cut from the court’s budget. Personnel costs represent about 78 percent of the overall court budget. On May 18, employees will have to contribute 3.5 percent towards their own retirement, with another 3.5 percent effective July 1. The court had previously paid the employees’ 7 percent towards retirement. Other changes will also take place on May 18. Among them, the court will no longer pay for retiree health care for new employees; longevity pay, a benefit for employees committed to careers in public service, will be reduced from 10 percent to 6 percent over 20 years; and an end to the $92.30 every two weeks pay differential for employees doing the same work as other employees at the South Lake Tahoe Courthouse. Non-union employees, including management and the court executive officer, had agreed to these terms and conditions in February. Meetings began in August 2012 with the court and the International Union for Operating Engineers, Stationary Engineers, Local 39 and arrived at a tentative agreement. It was rejected by employees. The two parties went back to the table, assisted by a state mediator, but the results were still unsuccessful. The court then presented its “last, best and final Offer.” Employees rejected this, too.

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  • francescaduchamp@att.netMay 17, 2013 - 10:43 pm

    I feel bad for any one that ends up making less each year--yet each year works harder. I feel that any extra money from any where should be invested in people and jobs--without money--no one can go to any events--events used up all the money...give up the events--no the right time. Economic groups--pay attention--when it all falls down--we will be looking toward you

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  • francescaduchamp@att.netMay 17, 2013 - 10:46 pm

    not the right time to be giving free money away--how could 350,00 dollars have helped this issue? (remember 350,00 dollars was given to economic dev. committee

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  • JoeMay 17, 2013 - 11:18 pm

    Why is there so much talk about the County and the DA? I thought the courts were no longer a part of the county? These are big cuts and I feel bad for the employees, but the first 7% for their retirement makes perfect sense to me. Why should I pay for court employee's retirement? Let's hope things get better and this can be straightened out soon. (But I still think they need to pay their own retirement, even if the court hits the PowerBall Jackpot!)

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  • cookie65May 18, 2013 - 6:17 am

    How did they come to the conclusion that they would be spared from what everyone in the private sector has been dealing with since pelosi and reid took over congress in 06? The courts do not contribute 7% to their retirements, the taxpayers do. MOST of those taxpayers cannot afford their own retirement. I don't know anyone who feels sorry for the public sector. The public sector in this state has been giving the taxpayers the shaft for a very long time. Ever since gov moonbeam made it legal for them to unionize the last time he was governor.

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  • Ken SteersMay 18, 2013 - 7:24 am

    WE, all of us, are living in tough times. The people who work at the court house did not create the system. But now are suffering because of it. The union only works if there is income coming in to pay the worker. When the money is gone then a union is of very little use. Oh Brother's post regarding the DA is a calculated stunt by the stooges to create subterfuge as he goes after those who have bilked our county. I have faith that our county's citizens are smart enough to see that.

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  • DB SmithMay 18, 2013 - 7:43 am

    Times have been bad for most folks but not all. While most are struggling, Obama's corrupt government keeps on doing what it does best. During the last 4 years Obama approved BONUSES in the amount of $103,390 (taxpayer monies) for the top IRS official who will oversee OBAMACARE and the 15,000 new IRS TAX BULLIES who's charge will be to ENFORCE OBAMACARE. Government officials should never receive taxpayer bonus money for doing their job and if they are found to be in dereliction of duty then they need to be FIRED and receive NO taxpayer benefits. There is absolutely no accountability.

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  • cookie65May 18, 2013 - 8:46 am

    obama's new math. Subtract from the taxpayers. Add to the entitlements. Multiply the size of government. Divide the people.

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  • RickyMay 18, 2013 - 5:49 pm

    These people that are picketing are all over paid entry level clerks that most of the time are very rude to you instead of working as the public servant they are suppose to be. They act like the I.R.S..

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  • RickyMay 18, 2013 - 6:01 pm

    From what I can see in the photo none of the people are doing without... Every adult in the photos is Very Obese....

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  • To RickyMay 18, 2013 - 7:32 pm

    Dear Ricky, I'm sorry you think that these clerks are overpaid. Maybe you would like to do their job. With what they have to deal with on a daily basis they don't get paid enough. These clerks are being asked to do the job of three clerks if not more. And as far as your rude judgmental comment about the clerks physical appearance, I would hope you yourself are perfect. I'm guessing you are not. And no human beings are servants.

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  • cookie65May 19, 2013 - 6:31 am

    To Ricky, while I agree with you that Ricky is out-of-line with comments on physical appearance I also have never understood the argument you make. " Maybe you would like to do their job. With what they have to deal with on a daily basis they don't get paid enough. These clerks are being asked to do the job of three clerks if not more." No one is forcing them to stay. If they feel like they are overworked and underpaid, they are free to seek other employment. And there is a whole lot more to their compensation that what they take home every week. The only people who believe public sector employees are doing the work of three are public sector employees who have never worked in the private sector. You sound like you believe what they do should be easy. They call it "work" for a reason. If it was something everyone wanted to do they wouldn't have to pay anyone. Part of the problem in the public sector is they require 6 people to do the job of one in the private sector. If you throw a union in the number jumps to twelve. Public sector unions negotiate the maximum compensation for the minimum production.

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  • John WalshMay 19, 2013 - 9:58 am

    Welcome to the real world. Cut their pay substantially.

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  • Jim RiordanMay 19, 2013 - 10:03 am

    No government agencies should ever be allowed to "unionize". Government jobs should be "at will" employment and anyone who wants to bid for a job at less money and who has proper qualifications should be able to bid for it and get it.

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  • francescaduchamp@att.netMay 19, 2013 - 10:04 am

    no government should give money to economic boards--when times are this tough...350.00--$5,000 to CEDAPP...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-uPV-R8V9k&feature=share interesting video--I had left for awhile and it heated up

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  • samMay 19, 2013 - 11:42 am

    These crooks are laughing all the way to the bank, and the taxpayers keep on paying their way.

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  • James E.May 19, 2013 - 1:09 pm

    Court employees are crooks laughing all the way to the bank?? Wonder how the courts would work without employees?

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  • John WalshMay 19, 2013 - 2:09 pm

    They don't work!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • James E.May 19, 2013 - 4:11 pm

    Court employees don't work? I don't know any court employees, but I can only believe they work. Could they all just stand around the water cooler 8/5?

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  • James E.May 19, 2013 - 4:15 pm

    Oh, wait, maybe you were saying the courts (civil and criminal legal systems) don't work.

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  • Dink LaneMay 19, 2013 - 6:34 pm

    The County's Court Budget (Dept 22-24) is paid by County's property tax. The court takes in $1 Million in fines, works with a budget of $4 Million where the Sheriff's Budget is around $11 Million (and almost every deputy with more that 2-years experience is paid close to $50/hr) .... Oh I forgot... The court clerks are mostly women ..... That's why the wage difference... Silly me...

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  • cookie65May 19, 2013 - 8:01 pm

    Everyone should take notice how it is the first instinct of a leftist to put people into groups. Hey Dink, have you seen obama's cabinet? OLD WHITE MEN.

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  • francescaduchamp@att.netMay 19, 2013 - 8:30 pm

    Cookie...lololol....because of you--as tired as I am--I had a good laugh...thank you. "old white men" would make a good movie title--followed by "old white women"...I need sleep--

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  • John WalshMay 19, 2013 - 8:53 pm

    No, I meant they don't work. One good person could do what five of them do. They are employed where they are for a reason. Just going for the ride.

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  • ANTI CORRUPTION Protest Monday May 20th 2013 @ high noon El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson | Nevada State Personnel WatchMay 19, 2013 - 9:00 pm

    [...] Placerville court employees protest in May 2013. Click here: http://www.mtdemocrat.com/news/court-employees-picket-over-pay-cuts/ [...]

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Ty RobbenMay 19, 2013 - 9:39 pm

    See more about the Vern Pierson protest here: http://nevadastatepersonnelwatch.wordpress.com

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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