Commissioners decided the full court will take part in the negotiations for collective bargaining with the Sheriff’s Department Union for a new contract which will take effect Oct. 1, 2013.

Judge Carl Thibodeaux informed the court they had a couple of options regarding the forming of a negotiation committee. The options were either two members of the court, the county auditor, county personnel director and the sheriff or all five members of the court, the auditor, personnel office and sheriff. The third option was to hire an outside firm to handle the negotiations.

“You automatically have the auditor and personnel director, Jill, on the committee because Jill handles the insurance and retirement and the auditor is the one that brings us up-to-date numbers on a steady basis of what money the county has and the projections for next year.”

Since the options of another firm or just two of the court members would require them to go back and forth to the court for approval, they decided to do it with the full court, which will also make the process transparent through the open meetings requirements by law.

“It’s certainly not out of the ordinary to have all five commissioners negotiating with the Sheriff’s Department Union. I have no problem with that. Let me tell you, when you go into negotiations behind closed doors and you try to hammer out something, it’s a whole world of difference when you have to come to commissioners with five commissioners here and have the total negotiations open to the public and the media. It makes a difference, trust me, it does.” He said as long as it’s announced the meetings can be held in any public building.

They will hold a workshop before negotiations begin so they can decide the starting point for the negotiations.

Commissioners requested the last two contracts so they can see the differences of the last two negotiations. Thibodeaux said they will be in the commissioners’ mailbox this week.

The workshop will be scheduled during the second week of June, the date yet to be determined. Negotiations are required to begin by July 1.

Commissioners also authorized Sheriff Keith Merritt to sign the Cooperative Working Agreement 2013-2015 between Orange County Sheriff’s Office and Rape and Suicide Crises of Southeast Texas. It provides a continuum of services as needed for sexual assault survivors and other victims of crime. Merritt said the agreement is the same with a few minor changes in wording.

Sandra Hoke informed the court that she had been gifted day lilies, larkspur and purple cone flowers from the garden of the owner of Ericka’s Nursery. She feels they should be used to beautify Orange County and wanted to plant some at the Orange County Courthouse with the Black-eyed Susans already in place. She said some of the flowers will also be planted at Vidor City Hall. She also asked for recommendations of other places that could use beautification. Hoke already has volunteers in place to plant the flowers.

In two separate items, Connie Cassidy the county purchasing agent was authorized to advertise for bids on the county’s annual requirements for lubricants and road signs.

About Penny LeLeux

Penny has worked at The Record Newspapers since 2006. A member of the editorial staff, she has "done everything but print it." Most frequently she writes entertainment reviews and human interest stories, with a little paranormal thrown in from time to time.She has been a lifelong member of the Orangefield community.