De Facto Hiring Freeze Imposed By Council, And More
Confirming, once again, that good decisions are NEVER made late in City Council meetings, last night the council ignored CEO Tom Hatch's reasonable solution to Steve Mensinger's earlier request for a hiring freeze until a second pension tier is in place. Instead of permitting him to exercise the judgment they allegedly hired him for when it comes time to consider hiring a new employee, they snatched that authority right out of his hands.
HIRING FREEZE DISCUSSIONS
First Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, in a not-unexpected attempt to micromanage the process, suggested that before Hatch authorizes any new hiring he send an email to the council advising them of his plans. As the discussion evolved it was clear that Righeimer wanted to have veto power over any such decision. The conversation bounced around, with Eric Bever and Mensinger also trying to clarify exactly what the instructions would be to Hatch. Finally, Mayor Gary Monahan cut to the chase with this comment:
"I think the message being try to say over here is to the different departments, if we need, you feel really need help in the department and need to hire some people, we need to, we need to get this second tier done. That's the message I'm hearin' and I'm sayin' and whatever else I seem to be hearin' from everybody else."
A GUN TO THEIR HEADS
That's pretty clear to me. No new hiring until and unless a second pension tier is implemented for the organization needing more staff. There were no exceptions noted and no specific authority given to Hatch to deviate from that statement, so it looks to me like we will be stuck at 440 full time employees - nearly 40 below the budgeted authorize strength - unless the employee organizations open up their contracts and agree to a second pension tier for new hires.
EVERY JOB AT RISK
One can only assume that those frozen jobs include the two management slots in the CEO's office that appear to be earmarked for Dan Joyce and Bill Lobdell. It's also interesting to note that, while every other part of the organization has been asked to slice staff and most have the specter of outsourcing hanging over their heads, it seems like Hatch has been staffing his organization to the hilt.
MENSINGER GOING AFTER MEDICAL AND RETIREMENT BENEFITS
During council member comments Mensinger made it clear that he was going after retiree medical benefits and open-ended pension benefits. He asked the staff to come back with reports on each - just as he had done on the hiring freeze two weeks ago. If I'm a current employee or a retiree I'm really going to be getting nervous now about just what he might have in mind for me. It's not going to be good news.
THREE BARGAINING UNITS HEARD FROM - NEGATIVELY
Right at the very end of the open session, as the clock on the wall approached 11:00 p.m. - contract City Attorney Tom Duarte reported that the Costa Mesa Firefighters Association, which had agreed last year to pay 5% of their PERS pensions costs for a year - an arrangement which expires next month - had not responded favorably to the City's request to extend that payment through the end of their current contract in 2014. Instead, they counter-offered to pay it for three months and asked to open negotiations to discuss layoff procedures. He further stated that, in response to the letter the City sent to each of the six bargaining units, the OCEMA and the Police Management Associations refuse to open up their contracts. No word on the status of the remaining three units, but I've heard grumblings that none of the six will be willing to open up their entire contracts - they just don't trust the council, and who could blame them?
RIGHEIMER'S SLEIGHT OF HAND TRICKS LEECE
Other things happened last night, as well. The three new RFPs were approved for release, although some slick maneuvering was done by Righeimer to make Wendy Leece think she was voting to change the scoring criteria back to an even playing field - removing the 50% weight for Pricing - on two of the three. She was conned and that change only occurred on one of them.
Perhaps the most bizarre piece of business conducted last night was generated by Bever. When it came time to consider appointments to several city committees, out of the blue he expressed concern that we were making these appointments twice a year, and that we had too many members on the committees. This was a truly strange pronouncement following City Clerk Julie Folcik's observation that we had received a bumper crop of applicants for each of the committees.
MAJOR POLICY CHANGES - WITHOUT ADVANCE NOTICE
Bever went on to propose the council realign the city policy in question with the following changes: 1) reduce each committee to only 9 regular members; 2) permit ONLY Costa Mesa residents to sit on City committees; 3) accept NO late applications and 4) only recruit for these committees once a year - in the spring.
TOO MUCH WORK FOR BEVER
One had the feeling that he felt it was too much trouble to do this twice each year. Of course, since he's a part-time, part-time council member with an attendance record that would get him a place in the corner with a dunce cap on his head in elementary school, it's peculiar that he would complain about this stuff.
REAPPOINTED ONLY INCUMBENTS
So, the council voted, 4-1, with Leece voting NO, to simply reappoint all the incumbents, make the changes to the policy mentioned above and deal with the problem in the spring. They chose to blow off the three dozen applicants for spots on the committees without so much as a "thank you" for applying. This is a stupid, incompetent way of dealing with issues, but not surprising these days.
FEENEY APPOINTED TO SENIOR CENTER BOARD
The only person they DID appoint was Ernie Feeney, to the open position on the Senior Center Board. That one came as no surprise.
MORE INFO ON MEETING MINUTES
After much discussion, the council agreed to retain the current methodology of recording meeting minutes with one exception. For speakers in the Public Comments segment, they agreed to permit a brief - 5 word maximum - description of the subject, along with the person's name, city and location on the Granicus video record where their comments can be found. This may have been their most sound decision of the evening.
OCEA FINANCIAL REVIEW REJECTED
The council concurred with Finance and Information Technology Director Bobby Young's assessment and response to the Harvey M. Rose Associates financial review. The City rejected every suggestion and voted to receive and file the report, 5-0.
HUNTINGTON BEACH HELICOPTER REPORT
Costa Mesa Police Captain Les Gogerty gave a brief report on the use of the Huntington Beach helicopter for the past three months. He indicated that they are averaging 82 calls for service per month, 35 hours of flight time, which includes 13 hours of calls for service. We are presently negotiating a 6-month extension with Huntington Beach, through the end of our current fiscal year on June 30, 2012.
A SHORTER, STRANGER MEETING
Although the meeting didn't stretch into Wednesday, what it lacked in length it more than made up for in strange decisions. The agenda the majority of this council has becomes more clear after each meeting. They want to destroy the bargaining units and don't really care about how service levels may suffer in doing so. They preach "transparency" and produce the window dressing to support their claims, but where the rubber meets the road - in their official actions - they deal in subterfuge and deceit. Our city is being poorly served by this crew.