Deputies level labor complaint against Knezovich

SPOKANE - Spokane County deputies have filed an unfair labor practice complaint against Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich claiming the sheriff violated their contract and was intimidating members who complained about the situation.

Last week the Sheriff?s Deputies Association filed an unfair labor practice complaint against Knezovich. Deputies say the sheriff is using supervisors to fill manpower shortages on certain shifts that by contract should be awarded to rank and file officers even if it means paying them overtime.

?This was an agreement we were trying to reach with the union to preserve promotable positions for them, create a better dynamic for the citizens and keep our overtime down,? Sheriff Knezovich said.

The association also claims Knezovich has also been using his hiring and firing authority to intimidate members who complained about the manpower changes.

?If you take a look at some of the people that have lodged those complaints or talked to a former sheriff you would find some of them are under some very serious disciplinary investigations,? he said.

The former sheriff Knezovich alluded to is Mark Sterk, who some members of the sheriff?s office are courting to run for the office he once held.

Sterk is actively seeking the endorsement of the Sheriff?s Deputies Association and had hoped to spend Wednesday afternoon addressing 220 members of the association at a meeting in Spokane Valley. Sterk wants ? and needs ? their endorsement if he?s going to run against Knezovich for sheriff.

Unfortunately for Sterk he was denied access to that meeting because his request was refused by the labor group?s executive board, who said Sterk waited too long to ask to be invited.

This means that Knezovich can claim he has the association's endorsement in the upcoming primary election.

?I believe I do have the support of the rank and file that do the work more importantly I think have the support of the community,? he said.

Meanwhile the Public Employment Relations Commission will now review the labor complaint leveled against Knezovich, the first one he's received since taking office as sheriff.