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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,, 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.

On The City Council Agenda, July 2, 2013

transparent governmentAfter eight days on the road, it is good to be home. New Mexico and my brother send their felicitations. The road was (mostly) smooth and the temperatures hot as Julie and I traversed Arizona and New Mexico searching for the lost remnants of the mother road, Route 66. We found and rode quite a bit of it and you can read about our adventures here. Give me some time to catch up and post some pictures as well. Eventually, we’ll have the whole, sordid story posted. Now, on to the politics of the day…

The highlight of the upcoming Tustin City Council meeting is the agreement of the police and police support unions to new contracts. Also up for a vote in the regular session are amendments to the Deputy City Manager and the Chief of Police employment contracts. Both positions will begin paying additional contributions toward their retirement in CALPERS. Unfortunately, the city manager has seen fit to adjust the salaries of both to cover the added cost of the contributions by adding a top step to their respective salary ranges. This, in effect, gives Chief Jordan a total of a 10% salary increase over the past year as he was previously given a sham 5% raise supposedly to keep him from taking employment elsewhere. The contracts are a win-win for both executives as the Tustin taxpayer, once again, gets the shaft. Just another example of the Republican giving to Republican cronies, letting the public pay.

Not leaving himself out of the Tustin City Gravy Train, City Manager Jeff Parker has decided to further consolidate his power base by “clarifying” idi amin parkerhis hire/fire authority and ability to adjust the salaries of any employee (particularly his executive cronies) without need to bring it into public light by having the city council authorize it. Understand,this goes far beyond the normal merit raise system. Remember the new step in Deputy City Manager Charles Robinson’s pay scale the council is being asked to approve? He doesn’t get it right away. But, under this particular move, Parker is left open to “adjust” Robinson’s pay anytime he desires after the city council approves this resolution. We suspect it will take about a week before Parker “awards” a $22,000 pay raise to Robinson.

Parker, in the same breath, also claims there was an “error” in the calculation of the original number of leave hours for Robinson when he was hired. He now wishes to rectify that through resolution. However, if the original calculation was truly in error, why would Parker need council authority to fix it now? Hopefully, someone on the city council will question this, and all of these issues, and -hopefully- in open session rather than behind closed doors.

Oh, and by the way, Parker, through the city attorney, has recommended himself for a raise of nearly five thousand dollars a year to offset his increased pension payments as well as a one-time payment of $24,000 to reward him for settling contracts with the “majority of the city’s represented employee groups (except the largest, TMEA, which they have reached impasse). He further justifies this through his constructive firing of former city PIO, Lisa Woolery, and ostensibly taking on those added duties. Parker will also receive increased health and welfare benefits.

It seems that Tustin Municipal Employees Association chief negotiator, Frank Flavin, is on to their tricks as I am told the TMEA and the city have declared an impasse in negotiations for the rank and file employee. Rank and file employees, along with the public safety unions, previously stepped up to the plate and began contributing more to their pensions last year. To my knowledge, not one union member has received a raise while virtually all senior and executive managers have received substantial increases in pay and benefits. This is the typical haves/havenots form of perverted leadership that Republicans in Orange County have shown from the highest ranks of the county. And, unfortunately, the Tustin City Council is either asleep at the wheel or decisively ignorant of what is going on around them. So, don’t expect Chuck Puckett or the Podiatrist Councilman to do more than hide their head in the sand and vote yes. We wonder if Beckie Gomez isn’t now wishing she had shown stronger support for Worley-Hagen and Waldram, both of whom supported true open government.

Closed Session

Conference with Legal Council – Two Items each, Initiation of and Exposure to Litigation.

Public Employee Performance Evaluation – City Manager & City Attorney.

Labor Negotiation – All union represented and unrepresented employees.

Conference with Real Property Negotiators – Two issues, including the Army Reserve Base located on Barranca Parkway adjacent to the District.

Public Hearing

Public Health Goals 2010-3012 Report – Report and Hearing on the health of the water supplied to customers.

Consent Calendar

Approve Agreement for Information Technology Services Network Infrastructure – upgrade of computer and VOIP services in city buildings and maintenance contract with Govplace.

Declaration of Surplus Property – Assorted computer equipment.

Amendments to Deputy City Manager and Police Chief Employment Agreements – Amends contracts to provide additional compensation and leave hours in the case of the deputy city manager.

Amendment to the City Manager Employment Agreement – Increases city manager’s pay by 5%, increases employee retirement contributions, increases health & welfare benefits.

Regular Business

Resolutions Regarding Memoranda of Understanding – TPOA, TPSSA, TPMA (public safety unions) Approval of 2-year MOUs making changes to compensation by adding an additional salary step and accelerating increased employee contributions to pensions.

Salary Resolutions for Unrepresented Executive Management, Supervisory and Confidential Employees – Eliminates employer paid pension contributions of members, adds step to salary range resulting in increase of $324K in employee costs for management.