Jan. 21, 2014 – A sheriff’s deputy who was dismissed by a grievance committee may appeal to the circuit court or submit the case to an arbitrator, an appeals court has ruled, despite a county’s stance that an appeal to an arbitrator is not an option.
Waukesha County and the Wisconsin Professional Police Association (WPPA) entered into a collective bargaining agreement (CBA), which governed dismissal and grievance procedures. A grievance committee would decide matters related to dismissal.
After an evidentiary hearing, a grievance committee dismissed a deputy. WPPA gave the county notice of intent to file a grievance appeal with an arbitrator under the CBA.
But the CBA also provides that grievance procedures must be consistent with Wis. Stat. section 59.26(8)(b), which says the accused “may appeal” an order “to the circuit court.”
The county argued that the statute controls and redress is limited to the circuit court. It did not accept the grievance and WPPA filed a prohibited practices complaint with the Wisconsin Employment Relations Committee, saying the county violated the CBA.
The county filed a declaratory action to resolve the issue. The circuit court granted the county’s request for declaratory action, limiting the appeal to the circuit court.
But in Waukesha County v. Wisconsin Professional Police Association, 2013AP375 (Jan. 15, 2014), a three-judge panel for the District II Appeals Court reversed.
Joe Forward is the legal writer for the State Bar of Wisconsin. He can be reached by email or by phone at (608) 250-6161.
First, it ruled that the declaratory action was justiciable, despite WPPA’s argument to the contrary, because courts must decide conflicts between statutes and CBAs.
Next, the court ruled that the lower court’s declaratory judgment must be reversed because the Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled that appeals to circuit court are not the exclusive remedy in cases involving deputy dismissals.
In Eau Claire County v. General Teamsters Union Local No. 662, 2000 WI 57, 235 Wis. 2d 385, 611 N.W.2d 744, the supreme court found that a similar statute permitted an aggrieved deputy to file an appeal in circuit court, but it wasn’t the only option.
“[W] conclude that use of the grievance procedure is ‘consistent with’ Wis. Stat. § 59.26(8)(b) because, following Eau Claire Cnty., that statutory provision allows the dismissed deputy to choose to appeal the order of the grievance committee to circuit court or utilize the grievance procedure in the CBA,” wrote Judge Mark Gundrum.