McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State House

October 14, 2013

Officials: Vote to allow city of Enid workers to unionize will be on the Nov. 12 ballot

It previously was reported city of Enid employees would have to wait until 2014 for a vote

ENID, Okla. — A vote allowing city workers to unionize will indeed be on the Nov. 12 ballot, the Garfield County Election Board has confirmed.

Previously, it was reported that the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees would have to wait until next year for the next election, because there wasn’t enough support on the Enid City Commission to rush a vote to a special election.

On the date of that commission meeting, Sept. 5, officials approved a resolution calling for an election. Then a vote on an emergency clause to have the question come before voters in November failed for a lack of support.

At the time, city staff said that AFSCME’s petition to organize into a collective bargaining unit instead would have to wait until the next regular election in 2014.

An emergency clause removes the regular 30-day waiting mechanism by which resolutions become effective. It was included on the resolution because there was a deadline to file for an election sooner than the 30-day waiting period.

Instead of waiting those 30 days, though, Election Board Secretary Roy Schneider said the city filed the resolution with his office on Sept. 9, the Monday following the commission meeting.

The next day, City Clerk Linda Parks filed a publication notice with the Enid News & Eagle — a necessary requirement after the commission adopts a resolution. At no time, however, did the city publicize the fact that they had moved forward with calling the election.

On Sept. 10, City Attorney Andrea Chism discussed the publication notice with a News & Eagle reporter. She stated that the city wouldn’t necessarily have to take any more public action before a supposed January or February vote.

When reached for comment on this story, Chism said it still was her understanding that the vote wouldn’t happen until next year, “because our resolution wasn’t in force for 30 days.”

“They may have decided to go ahead and call the election,” she said. “They certainly had plenty of time, even though the resolution wasn’t technically in force until 30 days after it had passed.”

Schneider said everything checked out when he received the election resolution. It was therefore placed on the next available ballot: Nov. 12.

“What we do is very, very narrow. If there’s an entity whose elections we do, all they have to do is bring the proper documentation to us and there’s a very narrow checklist,” he said “Everything was fine and proper as far as we know. If they say it’s right, it’s right.”

Enid City Manager Eric Benson was unavailable for comment. Assistant City Manager Joan Riley said that all the election board needs is a legal resolution.

“When they choose to call it, within their time frame, is a question you would have to ask them,” she said. “But as far as they’re concerned and what they told us, they just needed a legal resolution and that’s what we gave them.”

AFSCME president Joey Breeze said his group is moving forward with their original timeline; the group had planned for a November election that could grant them the opportunity to negotiate wages and benefits with the city.

“What I understand is they figured out they didn’t have to have the emergency on that. All I know is they tell us it’s on the ballot,” he said.

One of the commissioners who voted against the emergency said he hadn’t been told that AFSCME will appear on the November ballot. Ward 6 Commissioner Dr. David Vanhooser didn’t believe the resolution met the definition of an emergency, but supports letting voters decide.

“That’s fine. They have their right to get it on the ballot. That’ll get it done quicker for them,” he said. “More power to ’em.”

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