SAN ANTONIO (CN) - Union deductions from the paychecks of Bexar County, Texas, sheriff's deputies are not illegal political contributions, an appeals court ruled.
The Deputy Sheriff's Association of Bexar County had sued the county after it stopped processing deductions in its favor in excess of $40. That is the minimum amount of monthly dues that the deputies contend is required to maintain association membership.
Deputies have the option of contributing an additional $10 per month to a general purpose political action committee the association established, totaling $50 in deductions per month.
The association became the exclusive bargaining agent for all deputies in 2006. Though the county agreed to deduct association dues from deputy payrolls under the collective bargaining agreement in place, it believes the Texas Local Government Code does not authorize payroll deductions to be made for such PACs.
Judge Martha Tanner nevertheless granted the deputies declaratory judgment, and a three-judge panel with the Texas 4th Court of Appeals affirmed Wednesday.
Bexar failed to distinguish that the $50 deduction from membership dues because the PAC reports the $10 portion in the member's name and possesses the character of a PAC contribution, according to the ruling.
"The statute concerns only the character of a payment at the time of the payroll deduction, not at the time of some subsequent disposition," Chief Justice Catherine Stone wrote for the court. "Here the funds are membership at the time of the payroll deduction. The association then makes a PAC contribution from its account after membership dues are deposited there by the county. It is undisputed that a union has a right to make PAC contributions from funds derived from its membership dies. Whether or not state law also imposes a particular reporting requirement for that transaction is not determinative of the character of a deduction."
County resources are not used to facilitate the contributions, and the transaction is an "internal matter" handed by the association's treasurer," Stone added.