Sheriff deputies union removes president

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The Kern County Sheriff’s deputies union removed its president last week after a tumultuous sheriff’s election in June.

17 News has learned Kern Law Enforcement Association President David Kessler has been recalled by the rank and file members of the law enforcement union, and a new election will be held in the fall. 

In a statement provided by Ethan Plugge, secretary treasurer of KLEA, the contentious sheriff’s race that pitted Sheriff Donny Youngblood against Chief Deputy Justin Fleeman led the union members to recall Kessler.

KLEA initially endorsed Fleeman, but then voted to withdraw the endorsement less than a month before the race.

Youngblood defeated Fleeman handily.

KLEA thanked Kessler for his efforts to raise awareness of low pay scales for deputies.

In a statement, David Kessler told 17 News it was his privilege to serve as president highlighting his advocacy for deputies who were quote divided and unhappy with current working conditions.

KLEA is made up of over 500 sheriffs deputies and district attorney investigators.

Wages for sheriffs deputies sure to be an issue at the county budget meetings coming up next week.

KLEA FULL STATEMENT: 

After the contentious Sheriff’s race, a majority of KLEA members, made the decision to recall current president David Kessler and move forward to the fall election of a new president of the board. We thank Sergeant Kessler for his dedication to KLEA and efforts to raise awareness of issues that are important to our members – particularly the lack of deputies protecting the public due to the lowest pay scales in the San Joaquin Valley. In the interim, KLEA vice president Tim Caughron has assumed the role of president and will continue guiding Kern Law Enforcement Association through multiple initiatives including ongoing negotiations with the County to bring deputy pay up to parity with other law enforcement agencies in the Central Valley.

DAVID KESSLER FULL STATEMENT:

It was my privilege to serve as President of KLEA – representing our 500+ members, advocating for the members within Kern County Sheriff’s Office, with the Board of Supervisors, to members of the public and all media outlets as well as other labor associations and business organizations.

I began volunteering as a Board member in 2011, serving as President since 2016. I’m very proud of the KLEA’s accomplishments while President; including KLEA’s growth in the visibility and respect for KLEA.

I conducted successful public meetings engaging the community in Ridgecrest, Tehachapi and

Taft while we grew our online presence on multiple social platforms by 10,000% all while pushing the issues facing our membership of low wages, officer safety issues, and long hours. 

KLEA has known for many years that the membership is divided and unhappy with current working conditions. As President, I spoke on those issues during every interview and opportunity with the Board of Supervisors and media outlets on a regular basis. 

KLEA continues to be divided, as you can see from the outcome of the vote.  I do respect the process and decision of the membership. 

While KLEA does have a challenging road ahead of them. I’m still am a member of KLEA and I will continue to work hard for the citizens of Kern County.

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