Monday, November 1, 2010
Court of Appeal Rules for Dissident in Suit Against ADDA
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
A local prosecutor who sued the Association of Deputy District Attorneys for violating the Corporations Code and its own bylaws did not have to exhaust administrative remedies because the matter related solely to internal union affairs, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled Friday.
Div. One affirmed a writ of mandate directing the union to hold an election for its board and declaring amended bylaws invalid. It also affirmed a $60,000 attorney fee award to Deputy District Attorney Peter Burke under Code of Civil Procedure Sec. 1021.5, the private attorney general statute.
The ADDA, which had previously existed as a social organization for deputies, was certified by the Los Angeles County Employee Relations Commission in 2008 as the bargaining representatives for deputies in grades I through IV.
Later that year, members voted for several amendments to the association’s 1998 bylaws, including one that extended the terms of then-current board members from one year to the earlier of three years or 12 months after the approval of a new collective bargaining agreement. (The ADDA ratified its first CBA in September of this year.)
Another amendment allowed the board to increase annual dues, then $30, without a vote of the members. The board subsequently raised dues to $50 for deputies in grades I and II and $75 for those in the higher grades.
Burke, a member who was an assistant head deputy in grade IV, alleged in his petition that both the failure to hold annual elections and the procedures by which the bylaws were amended violated the 1998 bylaws. The association responded that Burke failed to exhaust administrative remedies by not presenting his claims to the ERC, and that he lacked standing because he was a “confidential” head deputy and thus prohibited from joining the union.
Judge James Chalfant granted the writ, holding that Burke’s membership in the union gave him standing, that his claims were outside the ERC’s jurisdiction and thus not subject to the exhaustion doctrine, and that the union violated the Corporations Code by extending the terms of sitting directors rather than holding an annual election for 2008.
The board also “violated public policy in favor of fair corporate elections,” Chalfant ruled, by stating in its ballot information for the election that members of the bargaining unit who had not paid the $30 dues for 2008 could only join by signing a deduction authorization, meaning they could not join and could not vote if they were unwilling to pay a higher amount in the event that the dues amendment passed.
Presiding Justice Robert Mallano, writing for the Court of Appeal, agreed.
Employee Relations Commission
Mallano rejected the argument that Burke should have directing his complaints to the ERC. That body deals with matters of collective bargaining, including union representation elections, but has no authority over director elections, bylaws amendments that do not deal with employer-employee disputes, or other purely internal affairs, the presiding justice said.
As for the fee award, Mallano said the trial judge acted within his discretion in rejecting the union’s argument that the suit did not serve the public interest because it sullied the union’s reputation and undermined its bargaining position with the county.
“If, in fact, the ADDA’s negotiating power was compromised, the union has only itself to blame,” he wrote. “As the trial court correctly ruled, the officers and directors had unlawfully remained in office, and Burke did not have to exhaust administrative remedies. Burke’s entitlement to attorney fees should not be denied on the ground that the ADDA’s wrongful conduct, and the litigation Burke undertook to correct it, tarnished the ADDA’s reputation.”
The ADDA was represented on appeal by Matthew G. Monforton, a former deputy district attorney who is now a practicing lawyer and part-time municipal court judge in Bozeman, Mont. Burke was represented by Christopher W. Katzenbach of Katzenbach and Khitkian.
The case is Burke v. Ipsen, 10 S.O.S. 6164.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company