We recently reported on the progress, or lack thereof, of the Orange County negotiations with employees represented by the Orange County Employee Association. After two year, the county finally gave the ultimatum of the “Last, Best and Final” offer to OCEA General Manager Nick Berardino. That generated an alleged response that was less than cordial.
Shortly thereafter, OCEA took to the airwaves with a new commercial and a website that would hopefully enlighten the public on the issues at hand.
Berardino has also issued a number of essays to OCEA members regarding the negotiations and what will happen next. Today, he sent out this missive, explaining that Mediation Day is here:
Dear OCEA member,
As you know, OCEA members recently rejected the County’s last, best and final offer, standing together against the Board of Supervisor’s attempts to threaten and intimidate us into taking a bad deal. The next step in the negotiations process is to go to mediation, where an independent third-party professional will work with the County and OCEA in an attempt to help us reach an agreement. We are scheduled to be in mediation Tuesday, Feb. 18.
Meanwhile, we continue to stand together against the corruption and culture of intimidation that has been poisoning our County for far too long. We truly believe that nobody—not taxpayers or County workers—will be treated fairly here until all the issues laid out by the Orange County Grand Jury last year are resolved. It is wrong that the Board of Supervisors attempted to cut the Grand Jury’s pay in retaliation for standing up for transparency and accountability, and it’s wrong that they’re doing the same to us. We stand with the Grand Jury and with our community to clean up this County.
In addition, we were treated to former OC Register Reporter and current OCEA Spokeswoman, Jennifer Muir (always a pleasure) facing Rick Rief on SoCal Insider. The video shows Muir not pulling any punches while Rief tries to “guide” the conversation. In the end, Muir gets her point across and an apology from Rief for trying to mute the discussion.
The video is only about 5 minutes but very interesting:
There is a busy session for the City Council coming up this week. The highlight of the evening is the approval of the Federal Court Order regarding the design review for the T-Mobile West wireless facility in Cedar Grove Park. The residents of Tustin Ranch have battled this issue for several years and, it looked like they would win when the City Council approved the appeal to deny the design review in October of last year. That was thwarted when T-Mobile sued the city, saying they had no right to deny the design review. And, faster than Jerry Brown’s hi-speed rail project, the city agreed to a stipulation that allows the whole project to proceed. I am sure Jerry Amante is thrilled to death that he won another one for his cohorts at ATS. Did I say ATS? Why yes, I did. ATS is the city consultant that developed the cellular overlay plan for our town. It appears they are the big winners as, for their efforts in this particular case, they will receive 25% of the proceeds or $86,444 from a total contract for this single location of 345,776. That’s fiscal responsibility at its best.
The other big ticket item the city council will look at is Item 18 that would offer an early retirement incentive to current employees. The idea is that the city would save money by leaving vacant position unfilled and by filling some of the needed positions with new hires who, by coincidence, would have lower tier benefits. The Agenda Report for the item shows some pretty significant savings as well as some pretty hefty retirement incentives of 7% of an employee’s salary on top of their regular retirement. This is equal to 3 years of service, by the way. A nice way to reward employees and subjugate others who did not play ball with the establishment. Also, no where in the agenda report did we see the cost of administering this program. Frankly, this smells of another one of the Gang of Three’s programs to shift money to their private sector friends while fleecing the taxpayers of Tustin. Until savings can be demonstrated in writing, there should be no agreement.
The Closed Session has plenty to offer as well. This is the super-sized negotations with nearly all of the city’s represented employees in the mix. We hear things are not going as smoothly as the city would like. While they laid a five percent raise on the Chief of Police, they are claiming a two million dollar budget deficit will require drastic cuts and layoffs. Oh, and let’s not forget in the midst of all of this, the city still keeps our favorite retired former city manager, Bill Huston, as well as his former assistant, Christine Shingleton on the payroll. There is definitely fat-trimming to be had. But the executives and electeds should be looking toward the top and not the bottom.
Hopefully, one of the councilmembers on the left of the dais will have sense enough to pull Item 9 from the consent calendar. This is one time I would strongly suggest the city council spend a few extra dollars and go outside the city attorney’s office to have lawyers who understand the term, “conflict of interest” and “or the appearance thereof”. Unfortunately, the city council is supposedly the “reviewing body”. So, I doubt there will be much to discuss.
- Conference with Legal Counsel – One each for exposure to litigation and initiation of litigation.
- Labor Negotiations – All of the associations representing city employees.
- Conference with Legal Counsel – City of Tustin v. Tustin Unified School District (two lawsuits), Mira Properties v. City of Tustin, T-Mobile West v. City of Tustin (Federal District Court)
- Conference with Real Property Negotiators – MCAS property
- Consider levying of Annual Assesments for the Tustin Landscape and Lighting District 2012-2013 – Consideration a change of levy fees on the district (Tustin Ranch area) to cover a projected deficit in costs of maintenance.
- Item 6, Award Construction Contract for Frontier Park Energy Efficiency Improvements – Staff recommend the contract be awarded to the lowest bidder, Global Power Group.
- Item 8, Tustin Sports Park Baseball Diamond #2 Renovation – Staff recommend the contract be awarded to Lehman Construction as the lowest bidder. There is no discussion in the Agenda Report as to the “construction credits” to be authorized as the lowest bidder came in higher than projected estimates.
- Item 9, Review of City’s Conflict of Interest Code – Biennial review of the code. This action will authorize the city manager or designee to review and report back to the city council. We strongly recommend the city manager utilize the services of an outside attorney to make recommended changes.
- Item 13, Adopt Resolution to Approve Plans and Specs for Construction of Tustin Legacy Fire Station – Authorizes the City Clerk to advertise for bids for the new (relocated) fire station near the District.
- Item 14, Federal Court Order Approval of Design Review…T-Mobile West at Cedar Grove Park – Formal adoption of the design review to allow T-Mobile West to pursue construction of the wireless facility in Cedar Grove Park. Sorry, Tustin Ranch.
- Item 15 Approve a Modified Project Funding Approach and Award the Construction Contract for Tustin Ranch Road Phase 2 – Due to the demise of Redevelopment Agencies and the inability to pay for the improvements as originally planned. Creative financing at its best.
- Item 17, Second Reading and Adoption of Ordinance Regulating Various Forms of Solicitation on Certain Public Rights of Way, and Private Property and Acts of Trespass on Private Commercial Property – This is an anti-homeless ordinance carefully crafted to keep you and me from also soliciting money on major roadways throughout Tustin.
- Item 18, Offering the Public Agency Retirement Services Early Retirement Incentive Program to Eligible Employees to Achieve Budget Savings – PARS is a private entity the city would contract with to offer early incentive bonuses to eligible employees as an inducement to retiring. The plan would allow the city to keep unfilled vacancies caused by the program and also reduce salary and benefits by offering new hires lower tier benefits.