In the case of Spicuzzo, Sheriff of Middlesex County et al. v. Barcheski, App Div., 33-2-2859, the Appellate Division approved a final judgment entered in favor of the Plaintiff, the Sheriff of Middlesex County, where in the Defendant in the case was ordered to reimburse the department $8,469.48 pursuant to a written contract outside of the collective bargaining agreement. In the outside contract, the Defendant in the case, Barcheski, entered into a written agreement with the sheriff’s department that if he left employment prior to the completion of forty eight (48) months active service, he would be required to reimburse the Sheriffs department for the full cost of his training and uniforms. The trial court ruled that the contract between the parties was a lawful binding agreement despite the fact that there was no mention of the requirement for reimbursement in the collective bargaining agreement. The Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s decision.
The lesson to take away from this case is simple. Be very weary of "side agreements" or written contracts external to the collective bargaining agreement that are entered into between the department and individual officers. While such contracts may not be binding upon a union, the courts have upheld such agreements as being valid when entered into between individual officers and the department despite the contract differing from the collective bargaining agreement.