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Teamsters union bid cost county $45,000

November 15, 1998|By SCOTT BUTKI

The decision by Washington County water and sewer employees to consider joining the Teamsters union this summer has resulted in more than $45,000 in bills by the county labor counsel, according to county billing records.

The union organization failed when only 11 out of 39 eligible employees voted to join the Teamsters in an Aug. 25 election.

The effort still cost taxpayers a chunk of money.

Since July 1, county labor attorney Frank Kollman's law firm, Kollman & Sheehan of Baltimore, has billed the county $56,510.

Of that, $45,577 was for labor matters in July and August, while the rest was for unrelated expenses, according to records.

Kollman's bill to the county for the last 18 months was $204,406. Kollman charged $225 an hour.

The bulk of the expenses came in 1997, when Kollman negotiated a contract for the approximate 85 county union roads, landfill and County Commuter employees. The commissioners approved the new union contract on March 3. The union's last contract with the county had expired June 30, 1996.

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As Kollman's expenses grew, Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers questioned the wisdom of not taking bids from other labor lawyers. That had not been done traditionally because the annual cost of a labor counsel did not usually exceed $25,000, County Administrator Rodney Shoop said.

The commissioners agreed to take bids after the union matter was settled, Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said. However, the commissioners later decided to use Kollman for the Teamsters vote because he was already familiar with the matter, Snook said.

Once that issue was resolved the county advertised and accepted bids and commissioners found they could save about $75 an hour by switching law firms.

The commissioners unanimously decided Tuesday to award the labor counsel services contract to Semmes, Bowen & Semmes, of Baltimore. The county will pay $150 per hour for their principal attorney associate and $120 per hour for the associate.

However, Shoop said he does not expect much need for a labor counsel until the union employees contract needs to be renegotiated. The contract expires June 30, 2000.

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