Friday, March 09, 2001

Engineer staff has contract

Revision is one Butler officials can live with

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — The Butler County Engineer's employees have ratified a new contract, ending eight months of legal battles over the so-called “sweetheart deal” proposed by the former engineer.

        The new county engineer, Gregory J. Wilkens, on Thursday announced that Teamsters Local 100 had agreed to the pact. The contract, a first for the new bargaining unit in the engineer's office, takes effect immediately. It runs through July 2003.

        The union ratified the deal by a vote of 37-2, said Commissioner Chuck Furmon.

        “I think the new engineer's off to a good start,” Butler County Commission President Michael A. Fox said Thursday, after the commissioners approved the new pact. “It's good to have this old business behind us.”

        The new contract removed “numerous indefensible provisions” that had been advanced by former Butler engineer Dean Foster, who left office at the end of last year, a statement from Mr. Wilkens' office says.

        Mr. Foster — who stirred controversy in 1998 by blatantly opposing the employees' unionization efforts — shocked the county commissioners by offering an extraordinarily generous package to the workers last June.

        “He came to the table and offered them things they would not have thought to ask for in their wildest imaginations,” Mr. Fox said. “Then he tried to get it approved surreptitiously. He just sent us half the contract. It was a get-even contract.”

        The commissioners have claimed Mr. Foster was trying to saddle them with a budget-breaking deal to retaliate because the three commissioners, all Republicans, had criticized Mr. Foster's management style. And, in a maverick move, the county Republican Party endorsed Mr. Wilkens instead of the incumbent, Mr. Foster, in last year's election.

        Mr. Foster's proposal included 2 percent pay increases every six months, fat retirement fund increases and other perks. The commissioners sued; a judge voided the contract last August.

        The new contract will provide about 50 union employees with a lump sum pay settlement retroactive to January 1999; the employees hadn't received a pay increase since before then.

        The workers will receive 3 percent pay increases this July and in July 2002 — a percentage that has been standard for most other Butler County employees in recent years.


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