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Disheartened deputies get their union

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After a year of legal haggling and many more years of internal grumbling, a faction of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department has been granted a split from the Deputy Sheriff’s Association (DSA).

The new bargaining body, the Association of San Luis Obispo County Deputy Sheriffs—commonly referred to as ASLO—will represent the department’s sworn officers, which include 141 sergeants and deputies. The DSA will continue to represent 211 dispatchers and county jail employees.

Of the 126 sheriff’s deputies eligible to vote on whether or not to split, 80 chose to go with ASLO, while 35 voted to stick with the DSA. Nine of the 15 eligible sergeants opted for ASLO, while five voted to stay.

The union battle has gone back and forth for more than a year, and has been fought in county buildings and courthouses.

In January 2009, the burgeoning organization petitioned and received approval from the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors to form the new union. On Jan. 5, 2010, the DSA appealed that decision to the board, only to lose by a unanimous vote.

The DSA then took the fight to the courts,
filing a temporary restraining order to Judge Charles Crandall over the results of the ballots on Feb. 24. Crandall denied the request and the following day, the results of the vote were filed
with the county clerk.

Neither DSA Associate President Dale Strobridge, nor ASLO spokesman Patrick Zuchelli could be reached for comment on the split.

Over the past two years, a number of public scandals and political differences had reportedly raised tensions within the sheriff’s union.

In September 2008, former Chief Deputy
Gary Hoving was awarded a $660,000 settlement after he was secretly tape recorded by Sheriff Patrick Hedges.

The DSA endorsement of left-leaning Adam Hill over conservative incumbent Jerry Lenthall in the 2008 Board of Supervisors election also reportedly didn’t sit well with many in the department, nor did the perceived conflict of interest between County Administrator Gail Wilcox and former DSA executive director Tony Perry, whose relationship became a public embarrassment for both the county and the sheriff’s union.

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