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Mediator to Talk to County, Deputies

November 21, 1998|HOLLY J. WOLCOTT

With contract negotiations between the county and a union representing sheriff's deputies at an impasse, a state negotiator has been called in to help resolve disputes on money and operations, officials said Friday.

Talks between county human resource officials and the Ventura County Deputy Sheriffs' Assn. broke down Thursday after nearly a year of meetings. The contract for the county's 750 deputies expires Nov. 28.

"I'm not looking at this as the end of the world," said Barbara Journet, the county's human resources director. "Bringing in the mediator is not an unusual situation."

Journet said the mediator will arrive in Ventura on Wednesday to meet with negotiation teams from both sides.

The deputies and the county both have agreed compensation should be increased, according to Donna Clontz, general manager of the deputies' association.

Sheriff Bob Brooks has insisted, however, that any deal hinge on giving him unilateral authority to make changes in the overtime system and certain working conditions, she said.

"We are fighting with the sheriff about these managerial power changes and we don't know why," she said, contending the present system has worked well. But the county maintains that allowing the sheriff to make certain changes without union approval would allow him to better run the department, Journet said.

Officers in city and county departments in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties and those working for Ventura, Oxnard and Simi Valley have an annual average package of salary and benefits totaling $71,372, compared with $67,139 for Ventura County sheriff's deputies, Clontz said.

In salary alone, it's the difference between about $52,000 a year for a five-year officer in the other departments and $48,000 for Ventura County's deputies, Clontz said.

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