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Costa Mesa layoff and outsourcing lawsuit
COSTA MESA, CaliforniaControversy continues in the outsourcing lawsuit between the City of Costa Mesa and the Costa Mesa Employees Association.
The judge in the case issued a written ruling overruling all of the Costa Mesas objections ot the preliminary injunction against the Citys outsourcing of more than half the city employees.
Earlier this month (July 5) the union convinced Orange County Superior Court Judge Tam Nomoto Schumann to issue a preliminary injunction until the lawsuit is heard. A date for the trial has not yet been set.
Tom Duarte, Costa Mesa City Attorney, claimed the city could continue with outsourcing as long as it followed proper procedures.
The union strongly protested this claim in a press release that said, Judge Schumann rejected a request by the city to allow it to lay off City employees if it followed proper procedures. Instead, the order very clearly prohibits the city from contracting out services currently performed by City employees to any non-local public entity under the Government Code, and further prohibits the City from laying off City employees pursuant to any such contracting out.
After the July 5th oral ruling, Duarte stated, We are following the proper procedures. This ruling doesnt affect the Citys ability to research outsourcing possibilities and, if its prudent, to outsource City jobs down the road.
William Lobdell, city spokesperson, added, Under the judges ruling, the City can continue to request proposals for outsourcing from other agencies and private companies and weigh whether the outsourcing is viable. If the City decides to outsource a service, it would meet with the Costa Mesa City Employees Association on the impacts of the outsourcing and, with the proper procedures followed, lay off the affected workers.
Jennifer Muir, spokesperson for the union, stated, We respect the judges ruling, and we hope the City Council and CEO Tom Hatch will do the same. The ruling has been clear from the beginning, and were hopeful that now that it has been issued, the written order will clear up any confusion caused by the Citys press release.
Lobdell now says the City Attorney had misinterpreted the judges oral remarks.
Lobdell claimed, The written injunction clarified initial remarks made at a hearing on July 5 by Judge Schumann, who said at the time: So as far as the Citys ability to explore other avenues of perhaps fiscal soundness, I do not think that this injunction extends to preventing the City from doing that as long as they do not terminate folks without following the proper procedures.
Lobdell continued, Schumann did not make a reference to halting outsourcing to private companies until a verdict was reached in the OCEA lawsuit (see transcript below). The City Attorneys Office had originally interpreted the judges oral remarks to mean that the outsourcing process—including the potential contracting of jobs to private companiescould continue as long as the City could show that it had followed proper procedures.
Duarte now says, The injunction makes it clear that the judge has ordered the City to not outsource jobs to private companies until the OCEA lawsuit is concluded. We respect her decision and are now looking at our legal options.
Lobdell emphasized that outsourcing to other government agencies, including outsourcing the fire department to the Orange County Fire Authority, is still allowed.
The ruling, Lobdell claimed, doesnt prohibit the City from contracting jobs with the County of Orange, neighboring cities and other public agencies or exploring the viability of outsourcing services to private companies. The ruling also doesnt affect a proposal by the Orange County Fire Authority to provide fire services for Costa Mesa and hire all City firefighters. The Costa Mesa Firefighters Association employees are not covered in the injunction.
Muir points out the judges order also forbids the layoffs.
No date for the trial has been set.
The actual judges order against the city and CEO Tom hatch says that they are hereby enjoined and restrained from 1) contracting out to any entity which is not a Local Agency within the meaning of California Government Code Section 54980 for services currently performed by the Plaintiff Association, and; 2) laying off City of Costa Mesa employees represented by the Plaintiff Association as a result of contracting out to any enity which is not a Local Agency within the meaning of California Government Code Section 54980 for those services currently performed by such City of Costa Mesa employees.
Judge Schumann rejected the citys request that the injunction instead read Defendants are [preliminarily] enjoined from laying off city employees represented by the Plaintiff Association unless proper procedures are followed.
Judge Schumann also required that the union post a $50,000 bond against the potential damages the city might experience. Costa Mesa had asked for a $2-million bond, arguing that delays in outsourcing would cost the city that much money. The union asked for a $25,000 bond, arguing that the citys proposed bond couldnt be justified because the city had no clear plans for outsourcing.
The Costa Mesa City Council voted four to one (with Council Person Wendy Leece dissenting) in March to send six-month layoff notices to 213 city employees, nearly half the workforce, in 18 different departments. Hundreds of citizens complained about laying off the workers before even finding out if outsourcing would make sense.
Muir said, We think [$50,000] is reasonable given that the city hasnt studied any potential savings from outsourcing.
Lobdell said, The Council wanted to explore the viability of outsourcing to stem rising pension costs, among other concerns. Because of contracts with employees association, the City was mandated to give six-month warnings for any outsourced job.
The union replied in a press release, Nearly half the Citys workforce received six-month layoff notices on March 17 after the Costa Mesa City Council majority voted to outsource their jobs. At the time, the City Council had not studied the cost of outsourcing or the negative impacts to community services, and they still have failed to do so.
The Orange County Employees Association, on behalf of the Costa Mesa City Employees Association, filed a lawsuit in May to stop the layoffs. Without the injunction, employees could have been laid off on September 30.