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.
Suffice it to say, the water in Tustin may taste terrible but it is healthy, according to the Public Health Goals 2010-2012 report as presented at the July 2nd Tustin City Council meeting by Water Services Manager, Art Valenzuela.
It seems we aren’t the only ones who are unhappy with the five percent raise being considered for Police Chief Scott Jordan during this session. Councilmember Beckie Gomez pointed out that, last year, Jordan received a five percent raise that was supposedly for a two year period. She let the cat out of the bag (sorry it took so long to get to this) and said the chief, in spite of the raise that was supposed to keep him here, has now chosen to leave the city.
So, the city decided to give him a parting gift of another five percent raise….. for what? Gomez, as the only true fiscally responsible person sitting ont he dais, pointed out the absurdity of this. Saying that her comments were not about his work performance, she said the raise reflects a ten percent raise in less than a year. “I think it would be inappropriate to add another five percent because that would be ten percent in just over a year, and that’s not what we’ve done in respect with our other employees.”
Gomez made a motion to bifurcate the item in order to vote separately on Jordan’s raise. Surprisingly, Councilmember John Nielsen provided the second for Gomez’ motion. Now, here is where it gets interesting.
First, Gomez had to explain the motion to the Podiatrist Councilman because he has trouble understanding anything that isn’t drawn in pictures. They also had to wake up Chuck so he could vote with the block. I’m not sure if Nielsen was just being nice or if he really agreed with Beckie on this one. In any case, Nielsen and Gomez were the only votes in favor of deciding these issues separately.
In a moment of absurdity, Councilmember Chuck Puckett showed his ignorance in moving the entire item saying, “We have an excellent city manager and city police chief.” Yes, Chuck, we did until the police chief decided to leave. So, where does it make sense to give him a parting gift of 5 percent? And, where was the public discussion of the proposed raises for the deputy city manager and the departing chief? Apparently, that is not part of the open government plan in the City of Tustin. Of course, that doesn’t matter to Puckett who, again, showed he either doesn’t read the material presented or he doesn’t care when he thought they were discussing the city manager when, in fact, the proposal included the Deputy City Manager.
The other item we would like to have seen called out by Gomez was subitem 3 of item 6 that further cements Parker’s ability to abridge employment hiring rules at his discretion. However, the item was pointed out to the city employee’s union and they were not concerned either. Good luck when new hires are no longer represented by the union.
The final items on the agenda were the agreements with the unions representing the Tustin Police Officers, Police Management and the Police Support Services. The union representing the rank and file employees in the city, Tustin Municipal Employees Association, have reached impasse (although the city won’t admit it) and talks have been suspended as far as we know. Apparently, they are the only ones ticked off about the shenanigans between the corrupt city council and the executive managers over their incentive pay.
Although no one is talking the sticking point, we think, may be the city’s desire to accelerate the increased payments by employees to pay their full share of the cost of their pensions. Previously, they had agreed to a timetable for coming to full payment. But the city, impressed by non-existent data that puts the city at risk for pensions, asked for employees to pay their full share beginning this year. Of course, this is without the benefit of a raise to offset the cost, such as Chief Jordan received last year and Deputy City Manager Charles Robinson will receive just as soon as Parker can sign the papers. And, don’t forget, now that Parker has full authority, he does not need to notify the city council or anyone else about Robinson’s raise.
To their credit, the city will increase the Flexible Benefits payments in the second year. However, with the expected increase in costs for healthcare, this is probably a wash.
Regardless of the kudos the city council lavished on the staff and employees for coming to resolution, don’t expect the TMEA to roll over any time soon. My sources tell me they are prepared to sit it out as long as necessary. They are not happy about the lack of leadership shown by the conservative council who continue to lavish raises and benefits on executive and mangerial employees while ignoring the rank and file. This council meeting showed their continued disdain for employees in the city and for labor in general.