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Looking Behind the Scenes - Probation workers leave Deputy Sheriff’s Association

By: Jim Ruffalo, Journal columnist
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Parked in the middle of the notebook while waiting for my rebate check so I can buy a full tank of gas ... However, not parked but on the move are the Probation Department workers who, after the results of the vote were announced April 21, will no longer be part of the Deputy Sheriff’s Association. By a 43-23 count (with another 25 choosing not to cast a ballot), the probation section opted to affiliate with the Placer Public Employees Organization. Probation workers originally joined the DSA in the hope of having some gravity in the regular battles with county supervisors for raises and improved working conditions, but the move backfired. Earlier columns showed probation workers feeling left behind as sheriff’s deputies would get mandated — although oftentimes minuscule — raises, while there were a very few minimal boosts for probation. How bad did it get? Well, according to a letter penned by “union” business rep Chuck Thiel earlier this year, a county kennel attendant had a maximum salary level of $3,415 (monthly), while a Probation Officer I - Institutional was allowed a maximum of $3,148. The letter also pointed out that there was a difference in educational requirements for probation, yet that branch received lower pay. On the other hand, DSA secretary Laurie Bettencourt thinks the probation department made a mistake in opting to leave, even though her organization “now is in a better bargaining position (without the Probation section).” Bettencourt said the biggest worry for the now-exiting agents isn’t so much insurance, but “the lack of a legal defense fund.” “They’ll still be protected under the Peace Officers Bill of Rights, but not having the (paid-for) attorney on hand will be detrimental.” Bettencourt claimed that by being in the PPEO, probation would now have to initiate any legal defenses with a shop steward “which will not be covered by attorney-client privilege.” According to Bettencourt, products from those discussions would be available for both sides to know and use. ... Race for Sacramento: Politics these days are a 25/8 occupation. Not only does campaigning go on ’round the clock, but so does jockeying for position for the election after that. Case in point is the state’s lieutenant governor’s office, currently held down by John Garamendi, who makes little secret of having a hankering for the governorship. Turns out that our neighboring state Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, has formally formed an exploratory committee regarding a run for the lieutenant governor’s office. The good doctor (dentist, actually) already has my vote, seeing as how he and Dave Cox, R-Fair Oaks, are among the very few elected officials who actually act like real Republicans during budgetary dealings. William Bird, a top staffer for Aanestad, confirmed the committee’s existence, but insisted that all present work efforts are solely being used in the current fiscal crises. “Once we get past that — and we’ll know a whole lot more when the governor’s revised figures come out in a few weeks — then he’ll discuss the idea with his wife and make some decisions,” Bird said. Several other Republican legislators also are looking into running for that office, including state Senator Jeff Denham, R-Merced, and Assemblylman George Plescia, R-San Diego, although Denham has a real crisis on his hands with a politically motivated recall effort staring him in the face. ... Fishing for help: Jack Sanchez dropped by the Meddlers this past week, updating the group on SARSAS, which stands for Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead. Before making his pitch, which admittedly lured me hook, line and sinker, Sanchez appealed to the group for assistance in finding an attorney who would contribute efforts to help SARSAS achieve 501-c-3 (tax deductible) status. The lifelong local resident, who turned in nearly four decades as a Del Oro High teacher, wants to make Auburn Ravine completely navigable for salmon and steelhead. He related anecdotal stories — including one from current supervisor Robert Weygandt — about salmon being caught locally out of the ravine in days gone by. According to Sanchez, the problems are barriers, including both man-made and beaver-built dams, that keep those big fish from local waters. SARSAS is working to find ways around or over those barriers, without disturbing current irrigation efforts. “First the vision, then the strategy,” appears to be his mantra, seeing as how he uttered it more than once. Jim Ruffalo’s column runs Sundays in the Journal. He can be reached at jmruffalo@yahoo.com, or post a comment at AuburnJournal.com.