Two unions representing Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department employees have split on whom to endorse for sheriff come the June election.
Now, they're in court bickering over a name.
According to a complaint filed Tuesday in federal court, the groups both claim a legal right to call themselves the Stanislaus County Deputy Sheriff's Association.
Until recently, most sheriff's employees were represented by one labor union.
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But a schism took place several months ago when 180 sworn deputies, including detectives and patrol officers, split from 220 jail officers. The latter group — the Stanislaus Custodial Deputy Sheriff's Association — supports Sheriff Adam Christianson, and the former — the Stanislaus Sworn Deputies Association — recently endorsed challenger Rob Jackson, a captain with the Turlock Police Department.
For more than 20 years, the custodial union did its day-to-day business under the Stanislaus County Deputy Sheriff's Association name. In June, the union's corporate status was suspended after it failed to pay taxes, according to the lawsuit. The patrol union stepped in and incorporated under the name.
Custodial union officials characterized the alleged name grab as harassment. They filed a complaint against the patrol deputy union last week at the U.S. District Court in Fresno.
"We believe they wish to hold our name ransom in an attempt to gain access to funds they walked away from by starting their own association," custodial union President Mark Cardoza said.
"I feel for the members of the patrol association whose hard-earned dues have to now be spent on unnecessary legal fees." Cardoza said. "That money should be used to provide services to the members or support to their families in a time of need."
Patrol union President Vince Bizzini did not return calls for comment.
Christianson declined to comment.
"I have absolutely nothing to say about it," he said. "I don't have any position with respect to union business."
The custodial deputy lawsuit seeks to bar the patrol group from using the original union name, an unspecified amount in compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorneys' fees.
Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org