Olympia – October 24, 2001 - A settlement with the state will require King County to change its payroll deduction procedures, provide training on the new procedures, educate other public employers on proper payroll deduction procedures and pay a monetary penalty to settle claims that it illegally withheld money for political activities from employees’ paychecks.
"I’m pleased that we could reach an agreement with King County that saved the taxpayers the cost of a lawsuit on these issues," Attorney General Christine Gregoire said.
The union that requested the payroll deductions involved in the case, Amalgamated Transit Union, has previously agreed to reimburse any illegally collected assessments to employees who requested it.
The Public Disclosure Commission referred the county’s case to the Attorney General’s Office May 30, 2001, after investigating a complaint that a $50 special assessment had been withheld from King County employees’ paychecks without written authorization.
The PDC investigation showed the union used the money to oppose a state initiative. State public disclosure laws require that employees provide written authorization before any money is withheld for political purposes.
In a previous settlement, the union agreed to notify all employees that they could request a complete refund. The union also agreed to pay a monetary penalty of $10,000, with $7,500 suspended for issuing reimbursements and enacting proper authorization procedures.
In the settlement announced today, King County agreed that whenever a union asks to have employee funds withheld from paychecks, the county will get a statement about the intended use of the funds before proceeding with the payroll deductions.
If the funds are to be used for any political activity, the county will require the union to provide written authorization from each employee before making a payroll deduction. King County has agreed to develop a training program on this system, educate staff on proper procedures, and share training materials with other public employer associations.
In addition, King County agreed to pay a $20,000 penalty, with $10,000 deferred as long as no further violations occur. The county will also be allowed to deduct $2,500 in exchange for providing training to other public employer organizations on proper methods for payroll deductions and compliance with state public disclosure laws.
That means if the county meets all terms of the agreement, it will pay a $7,500 fine.
The Attorney General’s Office negotiated the settlement, which was signed by the PDC Chair Tuesday.
"This agreement cures the problem, puts a system in place to eliminate any future violations and protects King County taxpayers," said PDC Chair Christine Yorozu.
With its emphasis on prevention, the settlement provides motivation for King County to be in full compliance with public disclosure laws and therefore protects taxpayers from having to pay for any future violations.