Claiming Threats, Deputy Sheriffs Association Sues Four Contra Costa Supervisors

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Four-of-five Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors have been named in a federal lawsuit over allegations of intimidation and threats of retaliation after a petition drive helped repeal the board salary adjustment.

The lawsuit was filed January 20, in the United States District Court, Northern District of California. The lawsuit seeks actual damages and injunctive relief as well as punitive damages against the individually named members of the Board of Supervisors.

In the 12-page suit, the Deputy Sheriff Association (DSA) claims “ In retaliation for the DSA participating in the petition process, members of the Board of Supervisors delivered direct threats to retaliate against the DSA by undermining future collective bargaining efforts with the DSA”

The lawsuit claims of violations of the deputies’ constitutional free speech rights and a state law requiring public employers to bargain in good faith in employee contract negotiations.

The lawsuit, which named Supervisors John Gioia, Karen Mitchoff, Mary Piepho and Federal Glover, does not include Candace Andersen who voted against the raise. It also provides examples of statements made by Supervisors Mitchoff and Piepho which the union is perceiving as “retaliation” or “threats.”

On Page 5:

On December 11, 2014, former ASSOCIATION President Ken Westermann met with Defendant PIEPHO. Westermann wanted to explain why the ASSOCIATION was involved with the petition and referendum process. Westermann explained to Defendant PIEPHO that the ASSOCIATION was exercising its constitutional right of free speech and petition to express its opposition to the exorbitant pay increase the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors approved for itself. In response, Defendant PIEPHO told Westermann that the ASSOCIATION “made a bad decision and it is not going to end well for you guys.”

Westermann believed Defendant PIEPHO was threatening the ASSOCIATION with retaliation in an effort to dissuade the ASSOCIATION from continuing with the petition and referendum and to chill the ASSOCIATION’s exercise of protected speech in the future. Westermann asked Defendant PIEPHO what more she and the other Board members could do to make working conditions less attractive for the ASSOCIATION and its members. In a very dismissive tone Defendant PIEPHO said “we can always make it worse.”

 On page 6: It claims Piepho made a statement about “Chuck Reed type pension reform” which is a reference to an alteration in pension and retirement benefits.

On page 6: it also highlights a conversation between Supervisor Mitchoff and Local 1230 President Vince Wells and another firefighter, Vito Impastato. The lawsuit alleges Mitchoff told Wells and Impastato to deliver a message to the Deputy Sheriffs Association

Defendant MITCHOFF told Wells to deliver a message to Westermann and the ASSOCIATION. The message was that the referendum sponsored by the ASSOCIATION to reverse the salary increase Defendants had granted to themselves was going to end badly for the ASSOCIATION. Defendant MITCHOFF said the supervisors would be “coming after” the ASSOCIATION in the next round of bargaining for terms and conditions of employment for the County employees represented by the ASSOCIATION. Defendant MITCHOFF stated that the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors would present their own referendum and reiterated Defendant PEIPHO’s threat, made during the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors’ meeting on December 16, 2014, to bring “Chuck Reed type pension reform” to Contra Costa County employees. Defendant PIEPHO was nodding her head in the affirmative, concurring with

Defendant MITCHOFF’s threat. Defendant MITCHOFF said she would gladly be the swing vote in support of such a referendum.

Wells asked Defendant MITCHOFF if the Defendants would voluntarily rescind their salary raise if the ASSOCIATION was able to pull the signatures supporting the petition. Defendant MITCHOFF scoffed and said, “No. That would be extortion.” Wells replied, “Well, isn’t that what you are threatening to do to them?” Defendant MITCHOFF responded that the Firefighters and other labor unions could become collateral damage in this fight and that the Firefighters needed to convince the ASSOCIATION to stop the petition and referendum. Wells regarded Defendant MITCHOFF’s statement as a threat against Local 1230.

On Page 7: it highlights a phone conversation between Supervisor Mitchoff and Jim Bickert, the ASSOCIATION’s retained labor representative.

Bickert telephoned Defendant MITCHOFF on the evening of December 19, 2014, and spoke to her for over an hour about her conversation with Wells. Defendant MITCHOFF repeated her threats of retribution many times, including mention of “Chuck Reed type” pension reform. When asked how she would vote on such “reform” if the ASSOCIATION withdrew the signatures supporting the referendum, Defendant MITCHOFF replied that she would “probably vote against it.” Defendant MITCHOFF told Bickert there would be ramifications for the ASSOCIATION pushing the referendum to rescind Defendants’ salary raise and it would ruin the next labor negotiations. Defendant MITCHOFF said human nature says there will be negative ramifications for the ASSOCIATION as a result of this action. Defendant MITCHOFF said the county supervisors are all on board with her threats and would not change their minds. Defendant MITCHOFF also said the ASSOCIATION is “stupid” if they think the petition to place the referendum on the ballot would turn out well for them. Defendant MITCHOFF added that the county supervisors were previously committed to increasing compensation for the county employees represented by the ASSOCIATION, but as a result of the referendum, the ASSOCATION and its members would not receive what they would have gotten. Defendant MITCHOFF said she has nothing to lose by “coming after” the ASSOCIATION, adding, “I’m only going to be around for the next four or eight years. But the DSA is going to suffer for many years to come.”

Although named in the lawsuit, no attributions were provided of incidents involving Supervisor Gioia or Glvoer.

Here is the press release from the Deputy Sheriffs Association via Rains Lucia Stern:

Contra Costa Deputies file federal lawsuit over intimidation and threats of retaliation by members of the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors.

On behalf of the Contra Costa County Deputy Sheriffs Association, Rains Lucia Stern attorneys Timothy Talbot and Zachery Lopes filed a federal lawsuit against the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors.

The lawsuit was filed today, January 20, in the United States District Court, Northern District of California.

The lawsuit seeks actual damages and injunctive relief as well as punitive damages against the individually named members of the Board of Supervisors.

On October 28, 2014, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors voted to give themselves a 33% pay increase with a formula for future increases. Viewing that raise as being egregious, and unfair to all County employees, the Contra Costa County Deputy Sheriffs Association (DSA), along with other county labor groups, participated in a petition campaign to place an initiative on the ballot that would allow voters to determine pay increases for the Supervisors. The petition drive was exceedingly successful, gathering nearly 40,000 signatures by the end of December.

In response to the public’s overwhelming support for the petition, on January 13, 2015 the Board of Supervisors began the process to rescind the raise they had approved for themselves.

In retaliation for the DSA participating in the petition process, members of the Board of Supervisors delivered direct threats to retaliate against the DSA by undermining future collective bargaining efforts with the DSA.

Shawn Welch, President of the DSA stated that:

  • “Government employees do not give up their 1st amendment rights just because they are government employees. Public employers cannot threaten to compromise their legal duty to bargain in good faith and put communities at risk when citizen/employees exercise their right to speak against the excesses of governmental waste and bad policies.”
  • “It is an outrageous abuse of power for elected officials to threaten and attack the very employees sworn to protect our communities solely because those politicians want to fatten their paychecks.”
  • “The DSA will not stand idly by and suffer the loss of civil rights and collective bargaining rights through threats and intimidation by politicians who believe their economic self-interest is more important than their employees’ constitutional and statutory rights.”

Rains Lucia Stern, PC, with offices in Pleasant Hill, Fresno, San Francisco, Ontario, Sacramento, San Jose and Santa Rosa, specializes in defending public safety employees.

Here is a PDF copy of the lawsuit: CCCDSA Complaint File Endorsed


27 COMMENTS

  1. This is so expected from the two greedy supervisors. Lucky for the two supervisors is they have the DA in their pockets. All this proves how crooked and self-serving Piepho and Mitchoff are. They should be recalled. That may very well be the next union step is to move forward will a recall and put these two out of office where they belong. I bet the deputies association regrets helping Piepho to be elected now that she has stuck them in the back like everyone else.

  2. those quotes attributed to Supervisor Piepho….that doesn’t sound like Mary, does it? Sounds a lot like “Buy a Clue” though. Strange….

    I wonder if Mr. Wells, Mr. Impastato, Mr. Westermann, and Mr. Bickert mixed up Mary with Buy a Clue. Just a case of mistaken identity.

    I hate to think they all conspired to present false allegations against Mary Piepho and her pal Karen. If that happened then the DA needs to prosecute them. There’s no place in our public service for people who would do such a horrible thing.

    I think we can ALL agree on that!

    Stop the Lies!

    • Donnyboy, is that new tinfoil hat you’re sporting from the winter collection?

      I see a gathering group of fiscal Einsteins who are so enraged over $250k that was never spent, that they now want to drop a couple of million on a recall. Perhaps a renewed opportunity for parking your azz on a 5 gal bucket outside Safeway! Witch hunt campaigns are always needing a well qualified leader.

      Never a risk of common sense creeping in over there at the haters club, huh?

      Let me publicly admit here I was wrong. I thought for sure after the rescinding of the pay raise all the East County Trolls would have to go back under their respective bridges……but NOPE! The DSA just busted open a big, new bag of candy for them to get sugared up on!

      Indulge while it lasts, fellas. Hater sugar highs crash fast and hard. You’ll be looking for something new to be pissed off about before the month is out.

  3. Geezzzz give me a break! Instead of WASTING TIME, by filing a lawsuit, how about the association worry about the community. Do not introduce this BS to the public. Instead of a law suit, this association should give in MORE time to find BETTER ways to connect with the members of the community. A suggestion to the The association and COCO S.O.- Read “Becoming An Exemplary Peace Officer” published by POST. Stop embarrassing the Law Enforcement community with a dumb law suit!

      • Anon. Unless you wear a babge then you should not open your mouth. And if Greg does not wear a badge then I would tell him the same. Speak for yourself and not an entire community. Especially if you don’t have a clue to what you are talking about. This is not about the badge. This is about protecting ones right to question government and be free from intimidation or retaliation.

        • Wait….

          So you’re trying to make a stand for free speech by denying others theirs??

          Maybe you should sanity check those before hitting the post comment button?

          Because it appears you’re having trouble figuring it out, it’s the DSA Union leadership that is speaking in the filing. The rank and file hasn’t weighed in. So unless you have privileged inside baseball stuff from the Deputies, I’d suggest you’re swinging with a broken bat with your analysis.

          And if you think this is purely or even primarily about free speech………Homie………..you just got played.

          • Sounds like you may have insider info if you know that the rank and file haven’t weighed in. Are you part of the DSA because I am not and have no ties to them. Simply put, the DSA has a right to question a ridiculous raise and be free from retribution.

        • Antioch, apparently you are overlooking the Supervisor’s right to free speech.

          Not only is it their right, it’s their duty.

          I don’t need to be in law enforcement to know the DSA is embarrassing those that wear the badge. I have many friends on the force and in other departments. They are not pleased. People are actually worried that sheriffs would behave in this manner. It’s about free speech and retaliation that is coming from the DSA not vice versa. You see it is a very common tactic to project your behavior on others. What is important is that judges know this.

          So far the Supervisors have taken the high road by not filing an identical counter suit. All of the allegations would apply including threats made by the DSA.

          Need proof? Just ask.

          • Freedom of speech does not cover threats or intimidation. If you know something, p!ease share. It is not their right nor their duty to do this. Again, if you have proof, please enlighten us. The BOS has a duty to look after the people they serve amnd not themselves. 33% raise is not serving the people, it is serving themselves. Contra Costa County is a joke. The entire county is a shit hole and will continue to go down the drain. Antioch is currently at the helm of the turd train. Choo choo, All aboard and good luck to those who have tickets.

  4. Recall! This outrageous greed when they couldn’t find any money to give their public servants a raise.. How many engine companies are out of service? 7? How do these public servants do their job when they are so short on employees it is dangerous. ?

  5. J Brown, you should do your homework. Fire dept just took a very substantial raise and graduated a academy of new firefighters. Fire stations have begun to re-open (Clayton for example). The Sheriffs department’s contracts are not open for at least another year.

    You should look at the whole picture, not just a snapshot.

    • anon, Thanks for the information that we do not need an assessment on fire. If the money is flowing put it to more fire and sheriff instead of sticking it in an overpaid supervisors back pocket. You should look at the whole selfish greed anon.

      • @Dave,

        When I mentioned “Fire” I was talking about Con Fire, not East Contra Costa County fire. I thought that was obvious.

        Try to keep up buddy.

  6. I hope your house doesnt get burglarized or catch fire when the county SO has decreased staffing and volunteer fire departments because the board wanted their pound of flesh for having to rescind their 33% raise.

  7. Sacramento pay seems pretty fair. The greed these supervisors (Candace excluded) are showing is totally unacceptable.
    Sacramento – Member, Board of Supervisors District Total Wages
    1 87,244
    2 93,481
    3 93,637
    4 93,305
    5 90,099
    Sacramento has 1.4 million people to Contra Costa 1. million. Sounds to me that the pay for our greedy supervisors should be cut 30% in pay based on Sacramento County that has 30% more residents. Above that to threaten the public employees?
    Recall! Recall! , I would sign one in a flash.

    • @Recall Next, so is your ass glued to the chair? What’s keeping you from pulling those recall papers, Mr. All Hat and No Cattle?

      Talk is cheap. Especially the type served up by our East County Trolls.

      The per capita income in Sacramento County is 28% less than Contra Costa. So either you knew that and conveniently left it out *cough* in a deliberate attempt to deceive people, or you’re just an idiot.

      Brash, perhaps. But factual.

      Come on, I’ve got a double digit number in the pool for how many new aliases you goofs were going to create to run bullshit posts on this topic.

      Step up the pace already, or I’m out a crisp Jackson.

      .

    • @ Recall Next,

      What one of your many screen names would you be signing under?

      Greed? Didn’t they just vote to recind the raise? Maybe you missed that in your petty rage and your not so compreshinsive research.

      Nice to know that you are NOT ok with pension reform and citizen mandates, since that is what the Supervisors are focused on. You might want to keep that to yourself going forward.

      Oh, and since when did Sacramento become a Bay Area county tied to a Bay Area cost of living index? Didn’t quite think that through did you? Lucky for the county employees they already did and refused to accept Sacramento as a “comp”.

      You should relocate to Danville, Candice could use another mindless supporter that knows nothing about her (lack of) political acumen.

  8. Hiring more law enforcement officers is more expensive than giving the board of supervisors raises. SOME Police Associations across the state have become greedy. Those unions are all about money and not policing. Police Officers that serve under those unions, need to model themselves after the literature called “Becoming An Exemplary Peace Officer” that was published by POST. I have heard many police officers say that they deserve a a “top notch” pay because of all the sacrifices that they make. Sacrifices is part of the job. Its part of the job to stay after hours and write paper. Its part of the job to work holidays. Its part of the job to miss family birthday parties. Police Officers should have known these sacrifices before they made an oath to the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics. Com’on guys……

  9. I’m not sure how Piepho and Mitchoff linking the Union support for the petition drive to their own future considerations on wage and benefit levels can be justified either ethically or legally.

    Is anyone defending such a quid-pro-quo promise/threat?

  10. Greg. You forgot about the biggest sacrifice. This is the sacrifice of life for protecting citizens like you who think that they have read a POST article and know it all. You have no idea of the sacrifice that goes into the job. You sound like you went to the academy and could not get hired. Is that what is bugging you?

  11. To where did antioch go wrong: Ive seen and been through countless sacrifices in that profession. If you think that I deserve somthing because of a sacrifice that I made….you’re wrong. It was my duty and I didnt expect anything out of it. I dont deserve anything for saving somones life. I dont deserve anything for performing CPR on an 8 month old infant. I dont deserve anything for missing family time. It was a DUTY! Its a DUTY as a Law Enforcement Officer to make sacrifices. In and outside the uniform. So if youre one of those folks who agree that cops deserve a “top notch” pay because of the sacrifcies. Go into another profession.

  12. You deserve to be compensated for a job done. That is what makes this world go round. Collective bargaining is part of that. To generalize a entire community as greedy and needing to read a book is ignorant on your part. A book is not going to change an entire DSA or CoCo SO. If they have to go back to basics then they should not be cops. There are greedy people in every profession and unlike almost every profession cops dont have the right to walk off the job and protest ( like BART and nurse unions). Do you speak up against those professions as greedy and is there a special book they could read to not make them so greedy?

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