Shelby Co (ECWd) -
For over a year, Shelby County Treasurer Erica Firnhaber has been trying to fix the payroll accountability and fraud taking place in the County for what appears to be years, and resulted in potentially $500,000.00 in overpayments to county employees. Her primary goal of moving the payroll schedule to one where people get paid after they do the work, rather than before, was finally accomplished with a 1 vote margin.
Those "NO" voting County Board members may have been influenced by the misinformation provided to them by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) union representative Mark Russillo during his presentation to the board. Considering the magnitude of misinformation the FOP representative provided to the board, we felt it necessary to dissect it all in a dedicated article.
For starters, Russillo presented a letter signed by all 29 FOP members and the letter was passed out during the meeting. Before we dive into the contents of the letter, note we have redacted all 29 signatures as that is private information and should not have been publicly distributed. The members of the FOP should let their representatives know how inappropriate the distribution of their signatures is. The County Board Chairman had copies made and asked that they be passed around. He also failed to protect people's private signatures from public distribution.
Dissecting the misinformation presented to County Board Members
"It has been brought to· our attention that the County Board intends to update the salary schedule from a "current pay" system to an "arrears" pay system by reducing employee salaries during the month of May 2020. It is also our understanding that employees would be forced to expend hard-earned benefit time to make up this shortfall. It is our considered opinion this act would be a detriment to the economic wellbeing of members of our union, by creating undue financial hardship to us, and to the County economy as a whole."
- The FOP members are not having their salaries reduced during the month of May. Nevermind the fact they get paid hourly. What is happening does not change their wage rate at all. What is happening is they are going to get paid for time worked rather than time not yet worked. This brings them into compliance with the law. On that point of law, how ironic is it that the very people who are supposed to enforce our laws all signed their name to a letter to urge the board to continue violating the law.
- There is no language in the resolution fixing the pay schedule that forces anyone to expend their benefit time. To claim such is a total lie.
- How is getting paid for the time you work a detriment to the economic wellbeing of members of the union? That question was raised during the meeting and the union representative refused to respond, which is most telling.
- Undue financial hardship to the members and the county economy as a whole? How on earth is getting paid for hours worked creating an undue financial hardship to the members? Same question as it relates to the county economy.
"We are a group of first-responders and support staff who are depending on our hard-earned salary to see us through dire economic times, as we are engaged providing safety and security during a pandemic the likes of which this County has never seen. While we agree the issue should be addressed, and we are willing to work on the details of such a transition, we strongly suggest that the time to do it is after we have returned to normal operations in relative economic security."
- Their letter once again provides a glimpse of how they attempted to manipulate the truth to ignore the law and get paid in advance of work performed. Note how he speaks to "earned salary", rather than telling the truth and calling it what it is, advance payment for work not yet performed.
- Dire economic times? While local businesses are currently facing an economic downturn due to the Chinese virus pandemic, that has nothing to do with FOP members who are all still employed and still getting paid.
- They agree the issue should be addressed? How about agreeing that the law must be followed? Instead, they would rather have the county board and county treasurer keep violating the law.
- So if they are willing to work on the details of a transition, where have they been for the last 6 months that the treasurer has been begging to get this matter fixed?
- Are the union members actually implying following the law on pay schedules should be postponed until after they return to normal operations in relative economic security? The very people who took an oath to uphold the laws of our State and country appear to want the taxpayers to ignore those laws since there is a health emergency. I have a hard time believing all those who signed the letter actually believe what the letter says. I suspect this is yet another example of a union representative telling their members to sign the letter and let him be their voice.
The biggest lie of the letter appears to be designed to intimidate and influence those too stupid or willing to actually read the contract.
"In addition, given that the parties await a final arbitration decision, the parties collective bargaining agreement (and its terms and conditions) should remain status quo until a successor agreement has been signed as per Article XX.VIII, Section 28.2 of said agreement. Any deviation from these terms would, therefore, constitute a unilateral decision on the County's part to alter said terms and conditions (a violation of the collective bargaining agreement), and a possible Unfair labor Practice under the Illinois Public Relations Act."
- The action of following the law and making payroll based on time worked is not a deviation from the terms of the contract as they attempted to imply. The FOP contract is still in place and all provisions are intact and there are no changes in wages set by the contract. This entire paragraph is nothing but an attempt to influence the board to allow the violation of the law to continue.
During the meeting, the union representative made a reference to the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act as yet another attempt to influence the board to ignore the law. He cited Section 15(b). Not a single person at the meeting took the time to actually read the law. Had they done their due diligence, they could have outed the union representative for his misrepresentation of the law in an attempt to allow his members to continue to violate the law by getting paid in advance rather than after the work is performed.
(5 ILCS 315/15)
(Text of Section WITH the changes made by P.A. 98-599, which has been held unconstitutional)
Sec. 15. Act Takes Precedence.
(a) In case of any conflict between the provisions of this Act and any other law (other than Section 5 of the State Employees Group Insurance Act of 1971 and other than the changes made to the Illinois Pension Code by Public Act 96-889 and other than as provided in Section 7.5), executive order or administrative regulation relating to wages, hours and conditions of employment and employment relations, the provisions of this Act or any collective bargaining agreement negotiated thereunder shall prevail and control. Nothing in this Act shall be construed to replace or diminish the rights of employees established by Sections 28 and 28a of the Metropolitan Transit Authority Act, Sections 2.15 through 2.19 of the Regional Transportation Authority Act. The provisions of this Act are subject to Section 7.5 of this Act and Section 5 of the State Employees Group Insurance Act of 1971. Nothing in this Act shall be construed to replace the necessity of complaints against a sworn peace officer, as defined in Section 2(a) of the Uniform Peace Officer Disciplinary Act, from having a complaint supported by a sworn affidavit.
(b) Except as provided in subsection (a) above, any collective bargaining contract between a public employer and a labor organization executed pursuant to this Act shall supersede any contrary statutes, charters, ordinances, rules or regulations relating to wages, hours and conditions of employment and employment relations adopted by the public employer or its agents. Any collective bargaining agreement entered into prior to the effective date of this Act shall remain in full force during its duration.
(c) It is the public policy of this State, pursuant to paragraphs (h) and (i) of Section 6 of Article VII of the Illinois Constitution, that the provisions of this Act are the exclusive exercise by the State of powers and functions which might otherwise be exercised by home rule units. Such powers and functions may not be exercised concurrently, either directly or indirectly, by any unit of local government, including any home rule unit, except as otherwise authorized by this Act.
(Source: P.A. 98-599, eff. 6-1-14.)
The changing of the payroll schedule has nothing to do with wages, hours and conditions of employment, or employment relations adopted by the County. For the union representative to attempt to persuade elected officials to ignore the law in the fashion he did is disgraceful. The FOP contract is what it is and none of the content of that contract has changed with the fix the board approved. Of interest is how the union representative chose to ignore the other violations of the contract currently being committed by the Sheriff's office that were raised during the meeting. He chose to claim those raised issues were administrative and then even confirmed payroll is an administrative matter. Hello! We agree, payroll is an administrative matter and the Treasure has the power to make sure payroll follows the law, which is all she has asked for, for months.
We commend the county board members who chose to follow the law. For those that chose to ignore the law, and voted to allow continued violations of the law, they should resign.
The portion of the meeting were the union representative begins his misinformation campaign can be viewed at the 23:38 mark of the video. We urge everyone to watch and listen to the full discussion that took place to grasp the misinformation campaign presented by the union. The applicable portion of the video is found at the 23:38-53:40 mark of the video below.