Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson Jr. fired back on Thursday at the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) a day after the union accused him of violating labor laws for sending a letter to Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) employees.
On Wednesday, the PBA released Watson’s letter laying out his collective bargaining agreement (CBA) details. PBA North Central Florida President Jody Branaman criticized the move in a press release, stating:
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result,” he said. “Now that Sheriff Watson is facing a lawsuit over his unfair labor practices, he is re-sending our members the very same deal they voted down just a few months ago with the hope that they’ve forgotten how disingenuous the first offer was.”
Branaman added that Watson continues to violate labor law, “which prohibits a public employer from bypassing our bargaining unit by directly negotiating with our members. Our members will not be fooled nor divided. We will continue to fight for a fair and equitable benefits package that invests in retaining the best men and women to keep our County safe.”
On Thursday, Watson released a statement addressing Branaman’s comments.
“The letter I sent yesterday was shared with the entire agency, including deputies, supervisors and civilian employees,” Watson said. “The purpose of the letter, in the interest of transparency, was simply to inform all employees of the benefits I have worked diligently to get for the employees of the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office and to reassure my employees that I will continue to support and work tirelessly for them.”
Last week, the PBA filed a grievance against Watson over unfair labor practices that included failing to give eligible ACSO personnel step increases last fall and reversing a step increase on Feb. 25, saying it violated the collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
The current CBA ends on Dec. 31, but the union voted down Watson’s current offer.
In a letter sent by PBA general counsel Stephanie Webster to the ACSO, she accused Watson of “continued defiance of the law” and called his actions “extremely discouraging.”
“As a PBA attorney for the last 11 years, I have never seen the issues at the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office that I am seeing under this current administration,” she said.
Watson pushed back on Webster’s comments in his Thursday statement: “I disagree with Ms. Webster’s position in the PBA’s correspondence and will continue to pursue goals that benefit all employees of the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office and the citizens of Alachua County.”
In his Wednesday letter to employees, Watson opened by saying that this period of transition has been a challenge and he thanked the ACSO employees for their dedication.
“As your Sheriff, I pledged a twofold responsibility: excellent service to the taxpayers and diligent care to the employees,” he said. “I am committed to both and pleased to bring you good news on these fronts.”
The letter went on to lay out his plans for pay raises, education allowances, additional paid holidays and addressing the take-home vehicle policy.