Category Archives: Orange County Board of Supervisors

Guns in the OC – Will New Rules Turn the OC into the Wild West?

CCW briefcase-flexibilityBy now, you have probably heard that the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned the longstanding law in California concerning concealed weapons permits. A ruling of a 3 judge panel of the Court said California Counties are wrong to require concealed weapons applicants to show “good cause”. Instead, the judges agreed with the majority of states that “self defense” or “defense of the family” are good enough reasons to ask for a permit.

In the past, sheriffs and police have wielded a hug amount of power over who does and who does not get a CCW in their county. While Los Angeles has only issued a handful of permits in the past, usually to judges and celebrities, Orange County’s Sheriff Hutchens has been a bit more liberal with several hundred permits issued. Still, it was difficult for the average citizen to obtain a permit under the old rules and often required the applicant to show they have a substantial danger before a permit is issued.

The 9th Circuit Court has now changed all of that:

“The right to bear arms includes the right to carry an operable firearm outside the home for the lawful purpose of self-defense,” Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain wrote for the majority.

Chuck Michel, an attorney who represented several San Diego County residents who were denied a permit and who filed a lawsuit in 2009, praised the 9th Circuit Court’s ruling.

“This decision is a very dramatic confirmation of the Supreme Court ruling,” Michel said.

O’Scannlain wrote that the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department’s requirement that applicants must provide documentation such as a restraining order to show a “special need” for a permit “impermissibly infringes on the Second Amendment right to bear arms in lawful self-defense.”

The ruling reversed a lower-court decision tossing out the lawsuit and ordered the judge to rule in favor of the applicants.

San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore has a limited amount of time to appeal the decision. He can either ask an 11 member panel of the 9th Circuit Court to re-hear the case or ask the case to be heard by the Supreme Court. It was the Supreme Court decision on the Second Amendment Heller Case that influenced the circuit court judges in their decision.

Of course, Gore can always choose to do nothing, let the ruling stand, and change his policy. That’s not likely considering there are mulitple and conflicting rulings from around the country.

Columnist Dan Walters recently chimed in on the gun control issue from Sacramento, wondering if California politicians zealous hatred of guns and the resulting spate of recent gun and ammunition legislation hasn’t gone too far.

Even Governor Brown pushed back on legislation to ban assault weapons. “I don’t believe that this bill’s blanket ban on semi-automatic rifles would reduce criminal activity or enhance public safety enough to warrant this infringement on gun owners’ rights,” Brown said in his veto message.

As Walters points out, however, Brown did sign other legislation ensuring California’s position as one of the most restrictive towards gun ownership.

Perhaps – as Brown implied in his veto message – it’s going too far, piling on gun restrictions zealously with little thought to their efficacy and even less to their constitutionality.

The era’s four most gut-wrenching political issues have been capital punishment, abortion, gay marriage and gun control, and all four involve either explicit or implicit constitutional rights.

California has been expansive of rights in the first three, and a federal appellate court seems to be telling California that it cannot continue to restrict gun ownership without violating the Bill of Rights’ guarantee of the right to bear arms.

Although Walters believes the Supreme Court will have the final say in how far states can go to restrict guns, it is more likely the issue will be sent back to the full 9th Circuit Court to be heard first. The only thing to push it directly to SCOTUS is the fact there are multiple and conflicting rulings from other courts and maybe it is time to make some hard decisions.

Here in Orange County, Sheriff Sandra Hutchens wasted no time in changing her policy to conform to the court ruling. Saying the Sheriff would abide by the law, sheriff spokeperson Jeff Hallock said:

“Bottom line is the sheriff is going to abide by the law,” said Lt. Jeff Hallock, a spokesman for O.C. Sheriff Sandra Hutchens.

“Before the court’s decision, good cause was something that was evaluated by the sheriff. What she considers good cause may not be same as Los Angeles, Riverside or San Diego as good cause. But in looking at the decision, some of the subjectiveness is taken out of it.”

Hutchens came under fire when she first took the helm of the OC Sheriffs department from disgraced sheriff, Mike Carona. Carona had issued hundreds of CCWs to residents of the county. And, even though many of those were deemed to be of political favor, it was clear that he had a liberal view of “good cause” when it came to applications.

When Hutchens took the reins, she immediately reviewed and revoked hundreds of CCW permits. Under the guise of cleaning up a political issue, it became clear that she was not going to be as loose as Carona had been with CCWs. When the Board of Supervisors called her on the carpet to see what would be done about the issue, Hutchens stood her ground, essentially saying she was not the lackey of the Board that hired her, rather she would run her office as she saw fit. That and a CCW for Supervisor Shawn Nelson pretty much put the issue to rest.

Hutchens claimed that she was approving ninety percent of applications for CCW. However, by her own numbers, her first year showed that she approved only eighty percent, or about 400, of the approximately 500 applications for a permit. And, in case you are wondering, over 3000 peace officers call Orange County home so you are more likely to meet an off duty peace officer who is carrying concealed than a private citizen.

Now, we see that Hutchens will follow the law. The Sheriff, who by consensus holds sole authority over CCWs issued in Orange County, has seen an increase in the number of inquiries into obtaining a CCW. Since the decision by the court, the sheriff’s office has received 500 applications. That is as many as the department received in all of the previous year. The rate of applications will probably drop as time goes on. However, the department is saying that, with the current number of applicants, those applying today will not likely see a permit for six months. OC Supervisors have suggested augmenting funds to allow for more interviews, the main issue with the applications at this time.  And, in the end, most people are not likely to want to bother with the cost, background check and 16 hours of training.

Will all of this turn The Real OC into the Real Wild West? We think there will be a significant increase in the number of permits issued, at least in the beginning. The ruling means California joins 38 other states that either have no restrictions or shall-issue permits. And California, with it’s previously restrictive CCW law, has the same or higher murder rates as Texas and other less restrictive states. That should be an indication that, although there may be more permits issued, they do not contribute significantly to the crime rate. And, states like Arizona with open carry allowed, are not more prone to violence. This lends creedence to the saying that criminals aren’t going to bother with a permit.

What lies in store for Californians who would like to obtain a permit is unclear. If the ruling stands, it is likely the ultra-liberals in Sacramento will go into overtime to craft restrictive laws that will keep guns out of the hands of law abiding citizens while doing little to stop criminal activity. You can bet that Darrel Steinberg, the author of the recent assault ban attempt, and Leland Yee, a rabid anti-gun Senator, are already working hard to find ways to eliminate guns in California. Their efforts, like those of past legilsators, have done little to protect the citizens of California.

Perhaps it is time to let citizens protect themselves.

County Cuts a Deal With Employees

contracts_sjpg380(We erroneously implied that TMEA employees were in negotiations this year. As it turns out, this is just a reopener on scheduling for the yard employees. Sorry for the confusion-ed.) The news is finally out and it isn’t as bad as some thought. Orange County Employees Association, the largest public employee union in the county, has announced the mediator’s proposal and is recommending the employees accept. The union has been in negotiations for nearly two years over wages and benefits.

Last year, the County got serious, making threats against the employees and running a successful campaign to paint rank-and-file workers as living generously on the public dole. Saying that a 2.7 at 55 benefit was unsustainable, county management also attacked the sacred peace officer pillar by forcing deputies into paying their own way on pensions. The hyperbole rose in the latter half of last year.

OCEA General Manager Nick Berardino, finally countered with a website that cracked open the real issues and problems in Orange County – the Supervisors themselves. The website, www.therealocsupervisors.com, shows a video outlining the corruption and pay-for-play policies that have become de rigeuer in county politics. The video also ran on local TV stations in front of thousands of Orange County taxpayers.

Both the website and ad have had an apparent effect on negotiations. Late last year, the county said they would tender their “Last, Best and Final offer”, meaning exactly what it says, to the union. As the deputies and management unions had already either settled or had terms imposed, the county believed they had the upper hand. That, of course, was before Berardino’s campaign. When the county did make their final offer, it sparked some fireworks and a criminal investigation. Union members soundly rejected the county offer. For several weeks there was no communication until the impasse triggered state-mandated mediation.

A few weeks ago, after both sides met with the mediator, it was clear, according to sources, that an amicable agreement would not be reached. Using his authority as a mediator, a recommended resolution was sent to both sides. The Board of Supervisors discussed the proposed agreement and voted in closed session to accept.

Today, Berardino sent an email missive to union employees.

With that in our hearts, last week your OCEA Bargaining Team and the County met with a neutral third-party mediator pursuant to state law in an effort to reach an agreement to prevent the County from imposing its Last, Best and Final Offer. After a day of hearing from both OCEA and the County, the mediator used his authority to issue a “mediator’s proposal,” which includes a 1.25% base salary increase (effective first pay period after adoption)  and a one-time  1.25 % lump sum cash payment (effective first pay period in April 2014).

Terms of the agreement also change aspects of the health benefits most employees receive and will result in slightly higher costs for many rank-and-file employees. Employees are now being asked to vote on the proposal this coming week. OCEA has recommended approval.

Most employees in the county have not seen a raise in nearly seven years. The original proposal from the Board was another two years of austerity with no real end in sight. The news of even a small raise has been welcomed by the rank and file. OCEA management is expecting approval with implementation the first week in April.

We have pointed out before that OCEA contracts with the Tustin Municipal Employees Association for negotiations and representation. Perhaps seeing this, Tustin employees will see past the rhetoric of the city council and City Manager Jeff Parker’s office as they negotiate again this year. It is time for Parker to loosen the purse strings and reward the hard work of more than just a few management cronies by offering a reasonable wage increase and stop further erosion of benefits for the rank-and-file.

Nick Plays Hardball

Credit: The Liberal OC

Credit: The Liberal OC

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.

Nick goes on to promote the website and the association’s Facebook page.

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:

The Real OCEA Employees Expose The Real Supervisors of OC

RealOCSupervisors

Hot on the heels of the recent “Last, Best & Final” offer by the county to its public employees, a new website has been launched to expose what they call the corruption and cronyism of the Orange County Board of Supervisors. The site can be accessed at TheRealOCSupervisors.com. The site is sponsored by the Orange County Employees Association and the Orange County Attorneys Association.

The site graphically illustrates the cronyism and corruption that is rampant in county government and calls for action by the public. Leading the website is a 30 second ad that has reportedly been running on local TV. If you haven’t seen it, you can access it at the end of this article.

The commercial outlines multimillion dollar pay-for-play contracts, rampant cronyism and criminal coverups.

These Orange County politicians have awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts to campaign contributors, including to a company convicted of fraud.

And they’ve allowed special interest lobbyists to write laws to benefit themselves instead of Orange County residents.

The Grand Jury has called out a culture of corruption in Orange County government, and now a FBI Task Force is investigating corruption in government as well.

NIck Berardino, general manager of OCEA has been playing hardball with county ever since the offer. During heated discussions on the last day, Berardino reportedly moved toward county negotiators to escort them out of the building. The county blew the issue out of proportion by claiming the feisty GM had assaulted negotiators. They reported the incident to Santa Ana Police who are conducting an investigation.

In a letter to Leslie Neebe, President of OCEA, county CEO Mike Giancola stated they had written statements of the incident from county negotiators saying that Berardino verbally and physically assaulted county staff.

Supervisor Shawn Nelson added his two cents saying that “multiple witnesses” told him Berardino charged a negotiator and bumped a sheriff’s official. Of course, attorney Nelson should remember the rule on hearsay evidence. Even more interesting is, if Berardino actually did assault anyone, why didn’t the bumped sheriff’s official make an arrest right then and there?

Well, said OCEA Spokesperson Jennifer Muir, that’s because no assault took place. As explained in a an email sent to The Liberal OC:

“Nick never bumped anyone in the room,” Muir wrote in an email Saturday. When contacted by phone, she did not give additional details. Berardino was responding to “bullying and intimidating” by county government leaders when things “got heated” and he told them to leave, Muir said. The county representatives declined to leave, and Berardino went to “escort” Barsook from the room, she added. “When [Nick] told them we have members who can’t afford to put gas in their cars,” Muir says that Barsook smirked, and Berardino told him to leave. “Nick reacted in a way anybody would react,” she said.

In a recent Voice of OC article, Muir stated her belief as to why the county would make outlandish charges:

“Orange County supervisors have a history of bullying and intimidating people who tell them things they don’t want to hear. The grand jury in Orange County said county government leaders have created an atmosphere of fear. That’s what was going on the other day,” Muir said. “Nick was simply standing up for the workers in rejecting the heavy-handed tactics and intimidation by the county government.” “Did it get heated? Absolutely,” she said. “But there was no assault.”

Giancola has said he will seek to have Berardino barred from future negotiations. We’re not sure how that would work but we seriously doubt it will fly with anyone not sitting on the 5th floor of the County Administration Building. More importantly, we’ve known Berardino for more than 15 years and have seen, firsthand, how he operates in a negotiation environment. While Nick has been known to use the occasional F-bomb to emphasize what could be construed as his dramatic approach to negotiations, he has never been assaultive.

On the other hand, the new website is pure Berardino. This is the style the OCEA boss believes in. By focusing on the corruption and unethical actions of the supervisors, he takes the heat off public employees who, over the past few years, have received little sympathy from the public mostly due to bad publicity by the local political machine.

Touche’ Nick.