Deputies' union leader denies vote on Dahl was political | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

Deputies' union leader denies vote on Dahl was political

Posted: September 28, 2010 - 10:05am

Union leadership with Law Enforcement Labor Services Local 14 provided details on Monday of the Sept. 16 "no confidence" vote in Sheriff Todd Dahl to the county administration.

Jamie Lee, Local 14 union president, said the details were released to answer questions in the community about the union vote. Lee reported 20 members - out of 31 in the bargaining unit - voted. Seventeen deputies voted "no confidence" while three voted "confidence" in Dahl.

Lee said seven of the remaining 11 members contacted him before the meeting and reported they would not be able to attend. The 17 members represent a majority of the 31 membership at 55 percent.

The union presented the vote information to the county in a letter, anticipating it would go before the county board at its regular Tuesday meeting. Tim Houle, county administrator, said he did not plan to bring the letter to the board's attention because the union vote and its vote process provided background but didn't require board action.

The county previously received a letter regarding the "no confidence" vote as an employee complaint and is in the process of setting up a meeting with the union. Houle said the complaint of even a single employee was taken seriously.

"We'll do our best to stay out of the political component," Houle said.

Dahl previously stated the issue, coming with the approaching November election, is suspect in its timing and he believed the action was politically motivated.

Lee said the charge of political motivation was absolutely incorrect.

In his letter directed as a follow-up to the county board Monday, Lee said Local 14 sat down as a group with Dahl in 2007 to raise awareness of problems in the department and subsequent meetings following the chain of command.

"These issues were not simply about issues directly relating to deputies," Lee wrote. "These were issues that affected the service to our community. The problems were not resolved."

Dahl previously questioned if deputies had issues why they didn't use the grievance process in place. Lee said the union has used the grievance process and "tried to resolve the issues within the sheriff's office before it reached this point."

The LELS Local 14 does not include correctional staff, dispatchers, records personnel, sergeants or administration members.

One question raised was how many deputies in the union knew about the Sept. 16 meeting and its topic.

Lee said the union meeting topic was discussed at the union's previous session and notification of the meeting was sent out via e-mail and by phone.

"Despite recent comments to the contrary, all members were made aware of the meeting, meeting date and the topic except for one member," Lee wrote in a letter detailing the vote.

Eric Klang, a deputy and former Crow Wing County sheriff who is running for the office this year, did not attend the meeting. Lee said Klang was not invited to the meeting or advised about the topic to be discussed.

One issue deputies listed in an earlier letter to commissioners was deputies being held accountable for policy issues while supervisors are not. Previously, Dahl said holding people accountable was a key for him since he was elected nearly four years ago and staff is "accountable and expected to maintain a high level of professionalism and integrity."

Lee said the deputies' union did not raise the issue because they didn't want to be accountable to a high standard.

"Everyone is well aware they have to be held to standards and holds themselves to standards as well," Lee said.

In the follow-up letter directed to the county, Lee said the union is working with the county administration to address the issues.

"This was a very difficult decision for members to make," Lee wrote. "Many of those voting have been friends of Sheriff Dahl for many years. I myself have known, been friends with and worked with Sheriff Dahl for about 16 years. This was not an easy decision for anyone involved."

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5852.