Blog Archives

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.

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.

On The City Council Agenda, June 18, 2013

SnafuMS_0277Sorry for the late post but, after all, I am on vacation this month. Julie and I are planning to head to New Mexico later this week and it has been a chore getting the new motorcycle ready for the trip. One doesn’t realize the number (and cost) of accessories they have accumulated over the years until they have to replace them. If you would like to see what and where we will be up to, you can read about it here.

Other issues are hindering my posting as well. It seems the software plugin I relied on for so many years to assist me in making accurate posts has stopped working and the designers are no longer supporting it. It’s kind of like going back to tubes from ICs in respect to the ease and speed of posting articles. Bear with me.

This week’s Tustin City Council agenda is pretty full. It may take a while to get through and I may just show up for the meeting just to get a glimpse of our city council. I, for one, would like to see if this boring bunch is actually still breathing.

Topping the agenda on the Closed session are the labor negotiations with all of the city’s employees, including the police. Most of the city’s staff are represented by the Orange County Employees Association (OCEA). My sources tell me the city is refusing to negotiate any kind of raise for the rank-and-file and is looking  to get the employees to pay more into their retirement than they already do. Hopefully, the employees’ chief labor negotiator, Frank Flavin, is aware of the recent antics of the city council giving Chief of Police Scott Jordan a 5% raise supposedly to keep him from moving on. The joke in that is, where would he go? Almost every city in the state has diluted their public safety retirement benefits to the point where it would be downright stupid for Jordan to think of leaving.

We also hope Flavin knows of the recent changes and creation of several high level positions that allowed City Manager Jeff Parker to effectively hide raises for many executive and managerial positions in the city. Most of these, of course, have been in the Community Development Department. It would be interesting to see how many new hires have been employed by Parker using his 21st Century Hiring scam. Of course, this in itself is something that should be challenged by the unions as an illegal tactic to get around the city hiring rules.

Also on the Closed Session is the usual exposure to litigation and Real Property negotiations with Cushman Wakefield, Pacific Standard Homes, the US Army and one private party. The discussion with the US Army concerns 15 acres of property in a swap that will allow the city to sell off the current Army Reserve Center on Barranca Parkway for further expansion of the District. It’s curious that City Manager Jeff Parker is acting as the chief negotiator for the city on this. Could it be we are seeing the OJT for his next job as a real estate consultant for local government?

The city budget is also scheduled to be adopted by the city council. It’s doubtful that the Podiatrist Councilman has the faintest idea of what is involved in budgeting so don’t expect him to do anything but nod and follow the lead of his mentor Chuck Puckett. Puckett probably has better knowledge of the budget but my bet is on Councilmembers Nielsen and Gomez who, with the experience they have with the city, are the best experts behind City Manager Jeff Parker, to determine if the numbers add up. Assuming these two have thoroughly vetted the proposed budget, don’t expect any fireworks over the issue.

Close Session

Conference with Legal Counsel, Initiation/Exposure to Litigation – 2 cases each.

Labor Negotiations – TMEA, TPPSA (both by OCEA), TPOA & TPMA, public safety, Unrepresented Employees.

Conference with Real Property Negotiators – 4 items including one private party for the Tustin Housing Authority

Public Hearings

Consider Levying of Annual Assessments for the Tustin Landscape and Lighting District 2012-2014 – Recommendation is to adopt a resolution setting the annual levy amount for the district.

Consent Calendar

Approve the Annual Measure M2 Eligibility Submittal Package – Annual report certifying the city’s compliance for eligibility for transportation funds.

Approve Plans and Specifications and Authorize Advertisement for Bids for the McFadden Avenue and Irvine Boulevard Rehabilitation Projects – Both items have been budgeted and funded in the amount of $358,000 plus funding from Santa Ana and M2 funds. Projects should be completed by the end of the year.

Regular Business

Adopt 2013-2014 Budget – Adopt the 2013-2014 city budget including all anticipated revenue from Special Revenue Funds and Water Enterprise Funds in the amount of $130, 612, 228. Also included is an adoption of the Tustin Housing Authority budget of $265, 800. The housing authority budget includes personnel costs of $155,000. We will be dong an in-depth analysis of the budget in the near future.

Successor Agency Resolution Appropriating Funds for the Successor Agency for 6 months of the Fiscal Year – The Successor Agency (to the Redevelopment Agency) budget is $5,144,447 drawn from anticipated revenues of the Successor Agency. Most of this budget ($4.6 million) is for debt service on the old Redevelopment Agency and is paid from the Redevelopment Trust Fund.

That’s it for the week. As I said, we most likely be at the meeting tonight and possibly have coffee afterward at one of the local coffee shops. Watch my Twitter feed @keepdapeace for the location.

On The City Council Agenda – June 4, 2013

agendaSorry for the late writeup of the city clown – uh, council agenda. I’m on vacation for the month and articles may be a bit spotty. I’ll do my best to keep you updated.

Depending on the pontifications of our glorious leaders, the city council meeting should be a couple of hours due mostly to two publich hearings. Prior to that is a presentations to SOCAL Water Polo. I admit, I am a fan and we have a great team at Foothill.

The Closed Session, I am sure, will be dominated by discussions over the pending labor contracts. I understand the city is holding fast on monetary issues. I doubt the union is letting them forget the raise given to Chief Jordan and the raises-by-change-in -title of other mid and high level ranking managers over the past year. All of the unions, including TPOA, worked with the city to reduce pension costs. However, rumour has it, they are looking to get as much up front as they can to pay their obligations. Don’t expect the city council to do anything other than rubberstamp the city manager’s recommendation.

Speaking of, City Manager Jeff Parker will be discussed tonight as his performance evaluation is on the list. I’m sure our city council will speak glowingly of him. The fact is, he has spent most of his tenure consolidating his power and creating allies. His recent move to abolish the pesky hiring process in favor of one that makes it easier to hire his friends and cronies was a major coup for Jeff. It should be interesting to see how many high level managers will be hired under his “21st Century hiring process” over the next year.

Public Hearing Item 1 is a levy on the lighting facilities district that comes up every year. Unfortunately, there was a glitch that did not give adequate time to publish the hearing according to the law. They are recommending a new date be set for the next city council meeting on June 18th. It’s unclear whether they will hear any testimony tonight but the resolution states any protests to the levy must be made in writing. Interesting to note Parker is also calling himself the ex-officio city clerk. I guess he hasn’t found an adequate crony to hire yet.

Public Hearing Item 2 is a much less forward way to lob city obligations onto an unsuspecting public. This time, the city is targeting the first time homebuyer.

When RDAs were abolished by the state Tustin, like other entities, scrambled for every way they could to make up the difference in lost funding (we are still trying to justify lost funding for something that should never have happened to begin with). The latest ploy takes a jab at low income, first time homeowners who bought property under the city’s program. In addition to the usual costs of refinancing a home purchased under the program, city staff are recommending Tustin become only the third city to charge a fee for processing the paperwork. By their own admission, most cities in The Real OC do not charge the “subordination fee”. In fact, Tustin had to reach out as far as Fresno to find a “comparable” city.

Understanding that our city fathers, sans Beckie, are made up of well-to-do Republicans who take a dim view of the riff-raff in housing authority property, this travesty will, in all likelihood slap our new homeowners in the face. One has to wonder if anyone will show up to decry this deplorable act. Certainly, the city council as a body could gain some points here if they were to turn this down. But, don’t hold your breath.

Consent Calendar Item 5 is approval of an agreement to transfer equipment from the Municipal Water Disctrict of Orange County to the city. Money for the 2,000 gallon potable water trailer comes from a grant under the Urban Area Security Initiative and will be used for disaster services. It is a pretty straightforward arrangement and I am not sure why it required an 87 page staff report for justification. Oh, wait… that’s because the contract is 84 pages long. And, you wanted to know why California taxes are so high.

Items 6 and 7 are to approve plans and specifications for revamping the intersection at Enderle and Vandenberg, as well as reconstructing the bike trail along Newport Avenue. The latter is welcome even though the current trail is in very good condition. It would be nice to see an extension of this trail in both directions. Construction of the bike trail is scheduled to begin in August and be completed in two months.

The only Regular Business on the agenda is an item amending the Disposition and Development Agreement between Irvine Company’s Legacy Villas and the city. The only change is to require Legacy Villas to pay the backbone infrastructure fees up front.

That’s it for tonight’s city council meeting. We would attend but we will be at our daughter’s last choir concert for her high school singing career, cheering her on. There is no doubt the sounds of the choir are preferable to the caterwauling to be heard in city council chambers.