If 55 Salt Lake County deputy sheriffs are given back pay to compensate them for years of salary inequities, Salt Lake County Sheriff Aaron Kennard will try to get a similar deal for the deputies who didn't sue.
"The other deputies didn't sue. They put their faith in me to solve their problems," he said.Back pay could be a problem he has trouble solving. If an arbitrator orders back pay for the 55, the county has agreed to come up with the necessary money. But Kennard isn't sure where he would get the funds for a similar deal for the others. "I'm trying to address that myself, internally. I want to be fair to all of my employees. But I can't make any promises."
The men and women who did sue have agreed to drop their suit in exchange for a newly drawn pay scale that kicks $536,000 into the pay pot this year and adds $1.6 million to public-safety salaries next year. The pay scale went into effect Sept. 1.
The deputies' victory is the second such victory this year. Thirty-three Salt Lake County fire-fighters got $160,000 after suing the county for similar pay inequities.
"The county ended up paying us everything we wanted," said Eric Strindberg, attorney for the fire-fighters.
Arbitrator Robert Adams will decide if the 55 receive back pay. The deputies and the Salt Lake County Commission have agreed that his word in the matter is final.
The problem began eight years ago when the county didn't fund several merit-pay increases for deputies. But the county did continue to raise the starting salary for new deputies.
"The new people were hired at salaries above what the present deputies were earning," Kennard said.
He created a pay committee to study the problem after he was elected in 1990. But the commission repeatedly refused to give Kennard the $750,000 his committee told him it would take to fix the problem.
Then 55 deputies sued.
And, lo, the county saw the light.
The new plan "handled all but about 50 or 60 deputies' pay problems," Kennard said. Those, too, Kennard wants to fix.
Although deputies began doing paperwork on their back pay claims this week, the county hasn't formally signed off on the settlement, said Jerry Campbell, deputy Salt Lake County attorney.
"I haven't got approval from the commissioners yet to sign it," he said.
What does he think the county can do to get back pay for the deputies who didn't sue? "I haven't got an answer for you," he said. "I don't know that the others will get back pay."