In a suit filed July 31, Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott is accused of unfair labor practices by the International Union of Police Associations (IUPA).
The IUPA announced the suit Monday. The union says Scott's refusal to give bonuses to union members is an unfair labor practice and alleges the bonus was "timed to affect the effort to decertify the sergeants' union." The controversy began in early June, when the sheriff sent an agencywide email promising September bonuses to all members except for those in unions. Scott said they were exempted because of "the IUPA's self-imposed 'status quo'" while the union worked out collective bargaining agreements with the Sheriff's Office.
About a month later, members of the Lee County Sergeants Association voted to decertify their union by a vote of 48 to 25. IUPA spokesman Rich Roberts said members were unfairly influenced by Scott's email and voted out the union because they wanted to receive bonuses.
"That immediately harmed the election," he said. "That's what we consider an unfair labor practice."
The IUPA is asking the Public Employees Relations Commission to order a new election or to void the election and allow the sergeants' union to remain intact. It also is asking the sheriff to "remedy" the charges regarding the bonus offers and to pay attorney's fees and the cost of the election.
Scott said the timing of the bonus announcement was "merely coincidence" and came during fiscal year budget negotiations with county commissioners.
"It is unfortunate," he said, "that the IUPA union does not recognize the decision of the grown men and women that voted them out as soon as they were able to do so."