Free time off for select employees in the District Attorney's office. Our Investigative Unit first broke this story earlier this month when we discovered DA Jeff Rosen was giving time off to his staff to make up for a five person bonus cut.
After the Investigative Unit first reported Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen gave free time off to make up for a five percent bonus cut, the Board of Supervisors asked county attorneys to give a legal opinion on the giving of administrative leave. The opinion is a confidential document but Thursday, NBC Bay Area learned from sources close to the investigation, that opinion has been submitted to the board and it does not seem positive for the DA.
If one group of county employees gets a special perk, should everyone get something equivalent?
It's the question several unions are asking after the Investigative Unit first exposed District Attorney Jeff Rosen giving free time off to a select group of employees to compensate them for a five percent bonus cut.
In an interview April 4, Rosen told NBC Bay Area he directed time off requests to use vacation and sick time be swapped for administrative leave, thus allowing employees to bank those days which they can cash out later.
Unions are now reaching out to the county, asking it to investigate if a part of their contracts called the "me too" clause is applicable.
It's a section in many unions' county contracts that states if one union does not fully live up to their promised budget concessions, the other unions cannot be held responsible for giving up that same percentage. If true, the county could owe other unions millions of dollars.
"There's a lot of animosity toward Mr. Rosen right now," Lance Scimeca, president of the Santa Clara County Correctional Peace Officers Association told NBC Bay Area. "We had an understanding, a trust, an agreement, a contract and we did not expect to be sitting here today."
Scimeca wrote a letter to the county after his union made drastic cuts to help the county's bottom line back in 2011; the same time some DA employees took that five percent bonus cut. He believes Rosen's giving of free time off to make up for a concession isn't fair.
"It's a public gift that the public didn't know they were giving away," Scimeca said. "For us, it's a huge slap in the face."
The Registered Nurses' Union, the Building and Construction Trades Council and The Deputy Sheriffs' Association have all contacted the county about the same issue: asking the county to investigate if Rosen abided by his employees' union's contracted concessions.
"Because you are an elected official doesn't put you above the law," Dennis Moser, President of the Deputy Sheriffs' Association told the Investigative Unit.
Moser said if the county doesn't discipline Rosen, it has no other recourse but to pay back the other unions.
"Understandably it could be a financial crisis to the county," Moser said. "We are not out to ruin the county but we are out to make sure we are given the fair share."
County Executive Jeff Smith told the Investigative Unit that Labor Relations will have discussions with all concerned unions to determine a course of action.
District 3 County Supervisor Dave Cortese also has expressed concern over the potential financial impact of the "me too clause" in regards to the DA's giving of administrative leave.
"It was very important that we kept those contracts buttoned up and nobody did something like this," Supervisor Cortese told NBC Bay Area in an interview earlier this month.
"That's really what this issue is about: fairness," Cortese said.
It's a value at the center of the controversy.
"That's not fair to people," DA Rosen told NBC Bay Area in the April 4 interview, referring to the bonus cut taken by some of his employees. "Fairness is an important value in the DA's office."
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