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Sickout Continues Despite Order

October 04, 2003|Jean Guccione | Times Staff Writer

Two days after a judge ordered them back to work, 67 Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies called in sick Friday in an apparent violation of the court order.

Sheriff's officials are investigating whether any or all of those deputies should be disciplined or held in contempt.

"We do think it was part of a work action," said Andrew Lamberto of the sheriff's employee relations bureau. But, he said, officials will try to verify the excuses and doctor's notes provided by deputies and make sure all of the more than 7,000 deputies have been given written copies of the judge's order, a prerequisite for a finding of contempt of court.

Orange County Superior Court Judge John Watson warned deputies Wednesday, when he issued the temporary restraining order, that they faced serious consequences for defying his order: jail time or a fine.

Thirty-one deputies in the Walnut station and 24 in San Dimas called in sick Friday, Lamberto said. So did half of the 24 deputies assigned to the Lancaster Courthouse, forcing court officials to shut down eight of 10 courtrooms.

Court officials juggled cases so that urgent criminal matters took priority over civil and other types of court proceedings.

"We were able to handle all of the time-sensitive cases," court spokesman Allan Parachini said.

Deputies, who are seeking a 6% annual pay increase, say they are frustrated by stalled labor negotiations. County officials have told them there is no money for raises.

The two-week job action created havoc Wednesday when 340 of the 1,275 deputies assigned to county courthouses did not show up for work. Inadequate security forced court officials to close five courthouses and created long delays in opening others.

County supervisors and Sheriff Lee Baca asked the court to stop the walkout because it threatened public safety. Union officials have said they did not organize it.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said the job action did not advance labor negotiations or inspire public confidence.

"A court has said that sickouts and job actions and disruptions to public safety and the courts is not only inappropriate but illegal. That should be enough for any law enforcement officer. They should abide by the law," he said.

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