Deputy contracts at issue in two-way race for Monroe County sheriff
It's now a two-way race for Monroe County sheriff. Late Monday afternoon, the Republican Party nominated Sheriff Patrick O'Flynn for re-election. He's served in the position for 16 years. On Saturday, former Greece Police Chief Todd Baxter announced he had switched parties and would run as a Democrat.
The two will face off, but will likely also face a key issue in the campaign involving contracts for deputies. The jail deputies last ratified a contract in 2013. The road patrol deputies say the one they were forced to accept hurt citizens because so many seasoned veterans left the force.
"You had an extremely knowledgeable police department walk right out the door," said patrol union president John Auberger.
It was more than just a salary issue. The road patrol contract also changed the way deputies would qualify for pension and other benefits. Those with the most experience had the most to lose, so 41 of them walked away. "The residents of Monroe County should have the best police officers come to their door in their time of need. These were our senior deputies," Auberger told 13WHAM's Jane Flasch.
The decision to impose the contract was made by an arbitrator. Sheriff O'Flynn says he was not part of the negotiations but is now trying to rectify what happened by working on a new contract. "We want to be able to recruit and retain people. So we're working behind the scenes," he said. "It serves no purpose to air out the contracts in the media. We're working behind the scenes closely to get this contract done," he added.
Baxter sees it differently. He says the leader of any department could and should have done more behind the scenes. "The fact is there is a need for new vision," he said.
He cites his record: Taking over as Greece police chief after scandal hit the department.
"The union was entrenched based on what happened. We worked with the union, we worked with the town and we came up with good fair contracts," he said.
In 2016, Sheriff O'Flynn received a nine percent pay raise to be enacted over three years. At the end of that, he will be paid ten percent more than the Rochester Police Chief. By contrast, his road patrol deputies earn seven percent less than RPD officers, who are the next lowest paid of all the departments in the county.
"Leadership is a big factor when if comes to who we, as members of the road patrol, are going to support and we're weighing our options," said Auberger.
The 480 members of the jail deputies union are also watching the race and say they intend to make an endorsement.