Friday, June 30, 2000

Butler officials contest contract

Negotiations pit county engineer, commissioners

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — A battle between the Butler County commissioners and Engineer Dean Foster has erupted over contract negotiations with a union representing 50 of Mr. Foster's employees.

        Commissioners said they have heard rumors that Mr. Foster had offered the employees represented by Teamsters Local 100 benefits and bonuses that are too generous.

        They said he has ignored their requests during the past three weeks for copies of the contract.

        “We have made phone calls, letters and e-mail to him,” Commissioner Chuck Furmon said Thursday morning. “They've gone unanswered.”

Warning letter sent
        The commissioners said they are prepared to go to court to force Mr. Foster to send a contract proposal.

        “We would like to know what's going on,” Commissioner Courtney Combs said.

        Later Thursday, Doug Duckett, county personnel director, received a letter from Mr. Foster warning the commissioners not to “disrupt, interfere with, or otherwise meddle” in the contract process. Mr. Foster said he would send county officials a copy of the contract.

        Charles Martin, management consultant to the engineer's office, said the commissioners will receive a copy of the contract today.

        Mr. Martin, who serves as Mr. Foster's chief contract negotiator, said the commissioners should have requested the information before agreeing to the fact-finder's recommendations on wages on June 8.

        Mr. Combs said the commissioners will not ratify the contract until they know its full terms.

Authority disputed
        But Mr. Martin said that under Ohio law, the commissioners have no authority to ratify or reject the contract. He said the contract took effect June 8 when the commissioners and the union ratified the fact-finder's wage recommendation.

        Mr. Martin said Mr. Foster was out of town at a conference Thursday and was not available for comment.

        Mr. Foster, who is not seeking re-election, has been county engineer since 1994, when he was appointed to succeed his father, who served 20 years in the position.

        The county Republican Party refused to endorse Mr. Foster this year. Instead, the party endorsed Greg Wilkens, executive director of the county Transportation Improvement District. He is running unopposed.


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