2017-07-16 / Front Page

Teamsters want ‘sit down’ with prosecutor

BY ANDREW DIETDERICH
810-452-2609 • adietderich@mihomepaper.com


Prosecutor Mike Sharkey Prosecutor Mike Sharkey LAPEER — A “sit-down” to discuss “work assignments” has been requested by the Teamsters local representing unionized county employees in the office of Lapeer County Prosecuting Attorney Mike Sharkey.

Sharkey confirmed the request to The County Press on Friday, adding that he believes it’s likely due to some resistance to change.

He also said he wanted it to be clear that an actual grievance hasn’t been filed.

Because of that, Sharkey said, details are scant about what exactly the union wants to discuss.

“All we have received is a request for a sit down discussion regarding work assignments,” Sharkey told The County Press. “No more than that. I don’t see it as a problem.”

Lapeer County Controller/ Administrator John Biscoe said less than 10 unionized clerical staff work in the prosecutor’s office.

Union members in the office are represented by Detroit-based Teamsters Local Union No. 214.

A message left on Friday with the communications department at the local was not returned by press time.

“There is a request for a discussion with the union-represented workers, and we’re certainly willing to speak with the union and the individuals about work assignments,” Sharkey said.

In last November’s election, Sharkey trounced Democrat Philip Fulks 30,614 to 12,045 for the Lapeer County prosecutor’s job.

Sharkey, who has spent most of his life in Lapeer County, said last year that he decided to run because of his “gut reaction to the circumstances our legal community finds itself in during the last two years. I have personally witnessed the damage greedy, power-hungry politicians have done to our legal system.”

He went on to defeat former Lapeer County Prosecutor Tim Turkelson and disgraced former state representative Todd Courser during the August primary for the Republican nomination for prosecutor.

Biscoe explained that “the prosecutor’s office is a statutory constitutional office” and that whoever is elected to the position of prosecutor manages the office. That includes appointments of the assistant prosecutors, he said.

However, the other clerical positions in the office are union workers who have existing three-year contracts in place that expire at the end of this year, Biscoe explained.

That means they have been involved with previous and current administration of the prosecutor’s office.

“I suspect there’s some adjustment from the prior administration, how things were done,” Sharkey told The County Press when asked about the situation. “Things are admittedly different. My expectations are very high. This office needs to be run as efficiently as possible and I certainly expect everyone here to do the best they can for the public we serve.”

As far as the meeting to discuss “work assignments,” Sharkey said he doesn’t know who initiated the discussion. He also said he doesn’t even know if it was one person or several people.

“I suspect there is some resistance from the way things were done before to new ways, but that is probably fair to anticipate,” Sharkey said. “Anytime anyone is put in charge with an existing staff, they would maybe want to do things their way, but maybe it would be best just to move forward and accept the fact that we have a new administration and the objective is to get the work done and do the best we can for the public we serve.”

Biscoe said such conferences are “a way for the parties to have a kind of informal discussion as to what the issues are, and if they’re resolvable, or determine if it’s a situation where the union needs to file a grievance.”

Throughout its operations, Lapeer County works with 11 bargaining units, Biscoe said.

“I’ve been part of a lot of conferences throughout the years,” he said. “But I don’t know if they’re common. Is it an everyday occurrence? No. We usually have a pretty good rapport with our unions…everybody works hard on that.”

With regard to what can happen with meetings such as the one requested by the Teamsters with Sharkey, Biscoe said “I think it’s fair to say a conference might preclude a grievance depending on what the issues may be and what the parties need to talk about.”

Sharkey said that as of press time, a conference had not been scheduled, and that he’s “not sure (the request for a conference) is even going to go anywhere.”

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