BREAKING: Town/County Halts Talks with Fire Union

By on March 21, 2016

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Earlier today, the board of county commissioners signed off on a letter drafted by deputy county attorney Keith Gingery that effectively halted the current collective bargaining process underway between the joint government boards and the newly formed Local 5067 Fire/EMS. New information became available via a Sunday story in the Gillette News Record chronicling a brewing lawsuit between Campbell County officials and their local fire department union.

The state attorney general weighed in on that issue strongly urging that fire unions formed without the participation of all paid members, including volunteers, was likely illegal under state statute. Local 5067 was formed after a 14-4 majority vote amongst fulltime salaried employees in Teton County. Some 60 to 100 volunteers were never consulted.

Both Gingery and town attorney Audrey Cohen-Davis said the AG’s opinion was more than just a suggestion. “The AG was pretty clear,” Cohen-Davis said. “Sometimes AG opinions are more of the recommending type language, but this one seems pretty clear: It doesn’t appear that 5067 is the proper entity to enter into exclusive bargaining.”

Gingery admitted to the council that they were already fairly far down the road with negotiations and any inclusion of volunteers could put more of a budget crunch on the town and county. He also said it was within the realm of possibility that one or more volunteer firefighters could later file their own lawsuit against the town and county for fraudulently contracting with Local 5067.

Unions reps called the AG’s recommendation little more than that and said nothing had been decided in a court of law.

Gingery said the Campbell County case was most certainly headed to litigation and Teton County would likely be dragged into or willingly participate in it’s own lawsuit against the union.

Fire chief Willy Watsabaugh found the article in the Gillette paper and passed it on to Gingery who called Campbell County attorneys for clarification. On short notice Gingery was able draft a letter which he presented to the BCC this morning stating that it was the county’s desire to break off negotiations. The letter was signed by the BCC chair.

At the town council meeting, Jim Stanford said he would like more time to read documentation before he was comfortable with signing off on anything. After brief discussion it was agreed unanimously that the town would also sign the letter and cancel further talks with union representatives, scheduled for tomorrow.

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