Panel gives green light to unfair labor practices case against Roe

EVERETT — A state commission has found that an unfair labor practices complaint can move forward against Snohomish County Prosecutor Mark Roe.

Monday’s preliminary ruling from the Public Employment Relations Commission did not consider the complaint’s merit, only whether it met specific legal criteria.

Roe has until Sept. 21 to respond in writing. The case could be resolved through settlement, mediation or a hearing.

“I’m happy that the union recognizes that my heart has always been in the right place and that my only goal has always been to protect jobs and public services,” Roe said Thursday. “I don’t think I did anything wrong, but if I did, I’m eager to hear it and ready to learn.”

The complaint was filed Aug. 26 by the Washington State Council of County and City Employees, the AFSCME affiliate that represents more than half of the county government’s workforce.

It focuses on a July 30 letter in which Roe explains why he would not sign off on a tentative agreement with the bargaining unit for about 70 attorneys in his office. Roe said he couldn’t support pay raises that might force him to lay off employees.

The raises were part of a master contract for all of the union’s county employees that Executive John Lovick’s office was then negotiating. In an unusual move, the County Council rejected the deal before receiving a formal proposal.

The union is backing Lovick’s re-election this fall. Council Chairman Dave Somers is running against him.

Union President Chris Dugovich said he agrees with Roe about saving jobs, but thinks the council’s budget fears were played up for political gain.

“At this point, there is no crisis,” Dugovich said. “We’ve always maintained jobs and services. That’s what public employees do.”

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; Twitter: @NWhaglund.

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