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August 12, 2022

Shelby County – The Public Needs To Listen And Read!

By Kirk Allen & John Kraft

On June 21, 2022

Shelby Co. (ECWd) –

We covered the misinformation being spread by County Board Member Jeff Slifer in this article.  The political hysteria being pushed claiming the county treasurer caused union grievances are not only filled with misinformation, but also omissions of some very important facts, and in one case a total misrepresentation and omissions to the court by the current State’s Attorney Nichole Kroncke.

The grievances filed by the FOP Union in January of 2020 all point to the Sheriff changing vacation issuance dates to come into compliance with the contract.  The treasurer was not the one who changed the policy as some are claiming.  The public should know what is being grieved by the union in this case, in short, is a demand to issue their vacation time in violation of the contract rather than what they agreed to originally.  Said another way, they want it to be OK for them to break the contract they agreed to when it benefits them.

The grievance filed by the FOP Union in April of 2020 is based on the county board adopting a payroll policy, which again has nothing to do with any actions or inactions of the treasurer as many have claimed.

Part of these matters were discussed in a closed session of the county board, and the recording of that meeting is most telling in light of some of the lies being told about the treasurer. Most, if not all, of the information being spread about the treasurer and union grievances are lies or contain a minor element of truth wrapped in fabrication.

Pay particular attention to the following portions of the closed session audio linked below.

  • 32:32 – “No Contract was Broken”
  • 37:24 State’s Attorney Gina Vonderheide – Suggests ignoring the remedy agreement and informing the FOP they can’t execute the remedy they came up with. “..I think I can do that without board action 
  • 38:34They have grieved before and dropped it when the Treasure challenged them knowing there was no valid grievance.
  • 40:04The remedy for now is she sends them a letter

After speaking with the treasurer and board members who were present for the meeting in question, all agreed the best step was to have the State’s Attorney inform the union they can not execute the remedy agreed to the month before as they did not know the truth of the matter when the agreement was made.

Why didn’t they know the truth?  Because they never spoke with the treasurer to get all the details. Only after inviting her into a closed session did they finally realize the employees were whole, no contract was broken, and they should ignore the agreement they came to the month before.

How do we “know” this grievance was not the fault of any actions or inactions of the treasurer as is being claimed this election cycle?

“Erica, You are correct. If the payroll department would have been involved there would not have been a grievance. Gary”

The paper trail tells the story but that requires some reading and time to listen to the actual discussion on the union grievances.  The above quote from Gary Patterson can be found on page 21 of the email chain at this link.  Note the numerous times the Treasure spells out the employees are whole so there is nothing to pay them.  Also note the complete failure of her legal counselor at the time, Gina Vonderhied.

We find it most interesting that States Attorney Nichole Kroncke failed to include the closed session recording in her motion to have a prosecutor appointed to represent the county.  The information in that recording tells far more of the story than what Kroncke included in her filing.

For example, item number 6 of her motion:

“Erica Firnhaber, the Shelby County Treasurer, did not pay the reimbursement checks.”

That statement is 100% true, but if you don’t know the backstory, it sounds as if the treasurer did something wrong, when in fact one only needs to read the emails linked above to see the truth of the matter.  The treasurer did not pay reimbursement checks because there was nothing to reimburse them for, as was spelled out in the prior communications.  (See page 3 of the email chain)

Note item number 7 of her motion:

“During closed session, according to the minutes, the treasurer stated that the employees at issue “are owed nothing.” Two grievance committee members, according to the minutes, stated that the matter would be proceeding to arbitration. “

How special that she left out the verbatim recording of the meeting in which a county board member states there was no contract broken, or that it was clear the plan was to ignore the remedy agreed on and let it go to arbitration because they are whole and owed nothing.  That fact alone proves any alleged arbitration costs to the county are not the fault of the treasurer but rather the county board who chose to ignore the resolution they approved the month before.

Note item number 8 of her motion:

“The Shelby County Board took no final action with respect to the grievance remedy following the closed session discussion”

This statement is not true.  The board chose to take the act of ignoring the prior agreed remedy, which was their final action.  While there was no formal vote, it’s clear both from the recording and inaction to do anything that such a position was in fact a final action.  One that resulted in this matter going to arbitration.

Note item 14 in her motion:

“On January 14, 2021, a grievance remedy was entered into by Sheriff Don Koonce, Shelby County Board Chairman Robert Orman, and the FOP.

Another true statement that omits the fact the county chairman does not have the authority to enter into such a remedy without a vote from the board according to the attorneys we have spoken with.  In fact, the chairman at the time asked some very important questions after this issue that to date have not been answered.

“One, has the employee been grieved and therefore not whole? Second, can the 1st step in the FOP grievance process remedy this when the violation has been perpetrated
by a union, employee processing payroll and accepted by the Sheriff?”  (Bobby Orman’s Letter at this link)

Additionally, why would the State’s Attorney advise they allow continued violation of the contract?  What good is a contract if the employee can change it without any approval? As Orman pointed out, the county did not violate the contract so there should be nothing to grieve.  It was the union that violated it and the State’s Attorney basically said it’s OK since they have been violating for so long, (past practice).

In closing, the most disturbing of all claims by the States Attorney on this matter is found as an exhibit “J” to her claim number 19:

“To present date, the Shelby County Treasurer has not paid C/O Haynes and Durbin as directed by the Sheriffs Office and the Shelby County State’s Attorney for awarded and unused vacation and compensatory time.”

The exhibit Kroncke points to does not indicate she ever directed the payment to be made.  In fact, the exhibit clearly points to an opinion of the State’s Attorney and what appears to be failing to respond to the very important requests from the treasurer, not to mention false information.  For example, the first sentence in the exhibit is not true and the very documents she included in her filing prove as much.

“On January 14, 2021, a Grievance Resolution was reached between the county and the FOP in response to union grievances filed in pursuit of Article 17 of the collective bargaining agreement”

That statement appears to be 100% false as there has never been a memorandum of understanding or any grievance resolution on this issue presented to the county board for such approval.  The grievance resolution was between the Sheriff, county chairman, and the FOP, not the “County” as claimed.

The treasurer, just as she has been asking from her first day in office, requested critical supporting documentation and direction before making any possible overpayments as found on page 2 of exhibit J at this link.  

“I would also like to request documentation to support the 479 hours of comp time accumulated. I have documentation from May 17, 2020, when timesheets started tracking time. I know there is also questions into all hours worked that are part of the payroll audit.  I would like supporting documentation as the cash out of this time will be $9,700.00 plus dollars.”

“l do not plan to process this time on this payroll as we are on a deadline to get the file to the bank. I will plan to process this in 2 weeks should the State’s Attorney and Beard give the legal direction to do so.  If you have any questions regarding this issue, please contact me.”

Reading Kroncke’s response it is clear no such documentation was given but rather an opinion. We must also note the County Board never took any action to address this very matter even though they all received the communication from the treasurer.

The paper trail and recordings tell the truth.  The treasurer is not the one failing to do their job and costing taxpayers money.

 

 

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2 Comments
  • Droopy: Master Detective
    Posted at 15:39h, 21 June Reply

    The political games are disgusting. The very ones causing taxpayers money and taking unearned taxpayer dollars are trying to blame the one who has attempted to put a stop to it. It is no wonder so many FOP union employees have Haynes signs in front of their houses. Sadly it seems that Nichole Kroncke is about protecting corruption than she is taxpayers. Perhaps she should loose her taxpayer funded paycheck if she treats them with such contempt!

  • Mike Gorman
    Posted at 08:25h, 22 June Reply

    At first glance, I saw those in the photo wearing orange and thought inmates were actually running the Shelby County Asylum.

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