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New Jersey contractual dispute: Court stalls signing of contract

The Bergen County Sheriff's Office contract with its officers has been put on hold by a New Jersey appellate court yet again. The contractual dispute does not necessarily lay with the Sheriff and the union, but instead with the Bergen County Executive's Office. The Bergen County Executive Office won't sign off on the contract since it had no part in the contract's negotiation.

The contract has been awaiting approval for about a year. An official from the Executive Office has continued to refuse to sign the contract since her office had no part in the negotiation. She contends that it is her job to represent the taxpayers in the contract, and she is unable to do that if she is not at the bargaining table.

Last August, PBA Local 134 filed suit in the New Jersey courts in an attempt to force an approval of the contract. The Public Employee Relations Commission, or PERC, agreed with the county official that her office should have been involved in the contract negotiations. However, a trial court judge ruled that the Sheriff was the only person required to be present at the negotiations. It is that ruling that is now on appeal.

Regardless of whether a contractual dispute involves provisions of the contract or who should be present at the negotiations, problems are bound to arise when the approval of an employment contract is delayed. Some disputes are unavoidable, but others are not. Before beginning any contract negotiation, it may be a good practice to be sure that anyone who will be required to approve the contact is represented at the negotiation table. This will help to ensure that when it comes time to sign on the dotted line, everyone that needs to sign will have had a chance to participate in the drafting of the contract.

Source:, "Bergen sheriff's office contract on hold until legal dispute is settled, court rules," S.P. Sullivan, March 1, 2013

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