Thursday, July 07, 2011

FMW Farewell?

Now that it appears that Facilities Management West is apparently no longer in the running to purchase the Orange County Fair and Event Center I took a little time today to reflect on the drama that has been this whole "sale" fiasco over the past couple years. I won't even attempt to chronicle all the twists and turns for you here - maybe someone else will - but it's safe to say that this was very much akin to Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at Disneyland.


From the ver
y get-go, when then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to sell the Fairgrounds and the Fair Board attempted a stealth purchase - a move that was perceived by many as an attempt to buy the site on the cheap and use it as a retirement nest egg - things were messy, messy, messy.


The on-again, off-again sale process; the sale-that-wasn't-a-sale; the various factions attempting to buy the property or stop the sale; the rancor between long-time business partners; the multiple trips to Sacramento by City officials to pitch their plan; the City dancing with FMW, then being left at the altar; the shape-shifting by Jim Righeimer; the stupid voice mail message he accidentally left on Norberto Santana's phone; and on and on and on... You couldn't write this kind of farce if you tried.

When FMW was attempting to partner-up with the City of Co
sta Mesa, I got to know some members of their management including their main spokesman, Guy Lemmon. He's a very nice guy who does a wonderful job representing FMW's interests. I also met several times with other members of their PR apparatus as they tried to sway me to their side of the issue. Here's a good example of Lemmon's pitch for the FMW purchase of the land.

I was
surprised when FMW jilted the City of Costa Mesa and decided to go it alone in the sale process and was amused at the drama spinning around the sale. All along, I tried to carefully listen to both sides of the argument and tried to sort the truth from the fabrications. It wasn't easy.


I think FMW lost me that fateful night when their leader, Ken Fait, stepped up to the speake
r's podium in an attempt to rescue his associate, Richard Dick, from a peculiar grilling he was getting from then-mayor Allan Mansoor. Lemmon was in Arizona for the birth of a grandchild, so the FMW hierarchy was left on their own to deal with Mansoor, who was not part of the negotiating team but acted like he was that night. This short video clip will demonstrate why Fait became the face of FMW from that night on. As you watch it you'll understand why so many people distrust his motives.

So, unless FMW decides to appeal this case to the State Supreme Court, they are done. Unless old/new Governor Jerry Brown decides to move forward with the sale of the Orange County Fair and Event Center, all this drama is finished and now the current Fair Board can move forward with their profit sharing scheme. What a ride!



Don't panic if comments don't get posted promptly... I'll be on the road, away from any computer for a few hours, but your thoughts will, eventually, get posted.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Voice of OC - Appellate Court Says NO to FMW

Norberto Santana, Jr. at the Voice of OC blog, HERE, reports at 3:00 today that the 4th District Court of Appeals denied the Facilities Management West request to re-hear its deci
sion that halted the sale of the Orange County Fair and Event Center.

It's unclear whether FMW will take this issue to the State Supreme Court or not. According to the Voice of OC article, they are mulling that issue over.

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Council Meeting Wrap-up

The Costa Mesa City Council meeting last night was an anomaly when compared to most recent meetings - it was fairly short and relatively sparsely attended. At the peak there was probably no more than 75 people in the auditorium at any one time. And, we were out of there shortly after 9 p.m. Still, after all was said and done and the council disappeared into seclusion for their closed session, there were a few interesting moments. Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer was absent due to illness of his parents in the Midwest.

For example, during the discussion of the reduction of the rates we presently charge for police and fire service for special events, it was alleged that we're "gouging" folks like t
he Orange County Fair and Event Center and the Orange County Marathon for those services. The council eventually agreed to reduce the charges by around 25% effective yesterday. The original proposal was to make the reduction retroactive to April 1st! That would have taken in the last OC Marathon. As one glib observer noted, the OC Marathon is Orange County Republican Party Chairman Scott Baugh's baby and that it's just a little paradoxical for him to be demanding fiscal reforms in Costa Mesa on one hand and becoming the beneficiary of this rate roll-back on the other. One might find it curious that another OC GOP bigwig, OC Fair Board President Dave Ellis, is in the same situation and will also be the beneficiary of this change.

I thought it particularly interesting that non-elected city councilman Steve Mensinger instructed CEO Tom Hatch to investigate having the Orange County Sheriff's Department perform the security and traffic control duties for those events. As he stated, he knows our police like that overtime, but using the Sheriff's would take some of the stress off of them. His exact words were, "I know they like the overtime, but I don't want to put them in that kind of a stressful position." That was just another backhand to the police by a guy who apparently shares the animosity for them with his buddy, Jim Righeimer. Or, maybe he still has that old Mike Carona phony badge and he thinks he can dress up like a Sheriff and do crowd control at the Fair.


The council agreed to the new Massage Parlor ordinance after only a moderate discussion.
That's a good thing for the community because way, way too many of those establishments have been fronts for elicit activities. I'm sorry, I still chuckle when I think of the staff putting together the definitions in the ordinance. Yikes!

We also received a very professional presentation by auditor Steve Foti, the fellow who conducted the audit of city finances at the request of the Orange County Employee's Association recently. Unlike the previous meeting where Righeimer was aggressive with the union official who stood-in for Foti, the council was respectful of Foti and his explanations of his audit. It was agreed to permit the staff to continue with its analysis of the report so they can respond point-by-point at a future meeting. They are apparently also doing a similar analysis of the presentation made by a much less credible source - Colin McCarthy's Costa Mesa Taxpayer's Association, a group of right wing ideologues with a very specific agenda guided by and supported by the OC GOP.

Almost no
mention was given to the bombshell that exploded shortly before the meeting - the ruling by Judge Barbara Tam Nomoto Schumann placing a Preliminary Injunction on the City in its outsourcing and layoff scheme. As mentioned in my previous post, there's a difference of opinion about what that actually meant.

This morning I spoke with Harold Potter of Jones & Mayer, the lawyer representing the City in the case. He told me that the City is free to continue with its "research and development" - the preparation and distribution of the Requests for Proposals for the several units/functions within the city government. The judge will present a written ruling early next week, following review of Potter's objections to the current ruling and the OCEA's review of his objections. Seems like it takes FOREVER for something to snake its way through the legal process. I was unable to reach Richard Levine, lawyer for the OCEA, for his take on this issue. More on that when there's more to tell.

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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Spinnin' The Judge's Ruling And More Lopez

After the battle of press releases Tuesday afternoon, there is no doubt in my mind why the City of Costa Mesa and the Orange County Employee's Association, representing the
non-public safety Costa Mesa employees, are in court. They can't even agree on what the judge said Tuesday, for goodness sake!

Judge Barbara Tam Nomoto Schumann issued a ruling from the bench, which apparently will be follow
ed up in writing soon. So, what to do the opposing sides think? Well, you tell me!

Below are two press releases issued shortly after the ruling. The first, sent out by OCEA spokeswoman Jennifer Muir just after 4 p.m. today, gives us one view.


Judge stops Costa Mesa layoffs

SANTA ANA, CA – Expressing concern about a looming layoff date, a Superior Court judge this afternoon told attorneys she would issue a preliminary injunction precluding the mass layoffs of municipal employees within the City of Costa Mesa.

Nearly half the City’s 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.

“This is a positive outcome, but it is only one step toward holding this Council accountable,” OCEA Communications Director Jennifer Muir said. “It will prevent the City from laying off employees to outsource to the private sector. At least temporarily, it removes a dark cloud from over the heads of City employees, their families, and the entire community. ”

The second one, fired off by Costa Mesa's Bill Lobdell an hour later, gives us his take on it.


Judge rules Costa Mesa can continue outsourcing process, but can't lay off employees until after all 'proper procedures' are followed

COSTA MESA, CALIF.—Orange County Superior Court Judge Tam Nomoto Schumann ruled today that the City of Costa Mesa can continue its exploration of outsourcing many of its services, but can’t lay off employees until all “proper procedures” were followed.

The Court didn’t make a finding that the City wasn’t following “proper procedures.”

The preliminary injunction was sought by the Costa Mesa City Employees’ Assn., which filed a lawsuit in May to stop the potential outsourcing of 213 employees. In March, Schumann denied a temporary restraining order to stop any potential layoffs.

Schumann didn’t specify what exactly the proper procedures were, but Costa Mesa City Attorney Tom Duarte said the City has and will continue to follow the law and provisions in the employee association contract while it explores the viability of outsourcing services. The association’s contract mandated a six-month notice if City jobs were outsourced. The City began issuing the notices in March.

“We are following the proper procedures,” Duarte said. “This ruling doesn’t affect the City’s ability to research outsourcing possibilities and, if it’s prudent, to outsource City jobs down the road.”

Under the judge’s 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’ Assn. on the impacts of the outsourcing and, with the “proper procedures” followed, lay off the affected workers.


So, I guess we're left to our own devices to figure out just what is happening. I will, however, follow-up with lawyers from both sides tomorrow if at all possible to see if they will, or can, slow the spin down just a little bit so we laypersons can try to figure out what happens next.


In the meantime, Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez gives us his third in what looks like a mini-series on Costa Mesa's travails with his column in print on Wednesday, HERE. He gives us some pretty provocative quotes to contemplate and kind of affirms how we got here in the first place - meetings at Skosh's bar, sipping suds and designing strategy.

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Employees Win Preliminary Injunction!

According to a press release generated by Orange County Employee's Association spokeswoman Jennifer Muir this afternoon, Judge Barbara Tam Nomoto Schumann of the Orange County Superior Court today granted a Preliminary Injunction to Costa Mesa Employee's Association in the case of the potential layoffs for 100 employees who are their members.

According to early reports, this means the City MAY NOT proceed with any layoffs as a result of the notices given earlier this year having to do with outsourcing of city services. She will issue her written ruling later this week. It's unclear whether the existing Requests For Proposals - which have taken more than 3 months to prepare and have still not been released to the public for bidding - may still be processed, although it is assumed that process will be able to continue.

It is our understanding that this ruling means that, unless some kind of an agreement can be reached between the City and the Costa Mesa Employee's Association regarding the potential layoffs, the issue will go to trial. In the meantime, the City MAY NOT layoff anyone involved in the potentially outsourced unit. More when we know more.

More news to follow when it's available.

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City Provides Background On Pension Reform Efforts

Interim Communication Director Bill Lobdell issued a Press Release late this morning that listed pension reform efforts accomplished last October. This information will help put the current attacks on the employee groups by the city council majority into perspective and - in my opinion - demonstrate, once again, that Jim Righeimer is pushing his own agenda for purely personal political reasons.

Here's the text of Lobdell's Press Release:

Backgrounder: Costa Mesa pension reform to date

COSTA MESA, CALIF.—To provide journalists and community members with some background information on pension reform in Costa Mesa, here are the steps that the city—with the help of its employee associations—undertook in October 2010 to reduce pension costs.
  • The City’s police officers agreed to pay for the first time a portion of their pension costs. Police officers are contributing 5% of their pension-eligible salary to CalPERS through April 2015.
  • The City’s firefighters agreed to pay for the first time a portion of their pension costs. The firefighters are contributing 6% of their pension-eligible salary to CalPERS through November 2011.
  • The City’s fire management agreed to pay for the first time a portion of their pension costs. They are contributing 6% of their pension-eligible salary to CalPERS through April 2015.
  • The City’s general employees agreed to contribute 5% more of their pension-eligible salary to CalPERS through April 2013 and agreed to a two-tiered retirement system in which new employees will be on a “2% at 60” plan (for 30-year employees, pensions will be worth 60% of their final years’ salary at age 60), instead of a “2.5% at 55” plan (for 30-year employees, pensions are worth 75% of their final years’ salary at age 55).

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Quiet 4th And More Fireworks Tonight (Amended)*

Well, how was your weekend? Safe and sane, I hope. According to Costa Mesa Interim Fire Chief Kirk Dominic this morning, it was a quiet weekend. Except for some trash fires caused by folks discarding hot fireworks in their trash cans, things were quiet from a fire response standpoint. That's wonderful news. There were no structure fires reported.

On the Eastsi
de of Costa Mesa there were lots of illegal fireworks fired-off throughout the evening of the 4th, beginning before dark and continuing until just before midnight.


No word yet from our friends who were selling the safe and sane fireworks around town. Logic would tell you that they'd have more sales than in years past because folks could shoot the fireworks off for three evenings instead of just one.

Kudos to all who used the fireworks for doing so safely.


Tonight the Costa Mesa City Council meets in its first meeting of the new fiscal
year. It looks like it may be a short meeting - a nice change.

The first Public Hearing - scheduled to commence at 7:00 (the meeting itself begins at 6:00), we will hear a proposal to REDUCE income to the city by establishing a new schedule of rates, fees and charges for police department coverage of special/community events. You can read the staff report HERE. The theory is apparently to reduce costs charged by the city for police presence at special events and thereby entice more such events to our city. Seems like a curious tactic at a time when we're struggling to balance our budgets and potentially laying off half the city staff to do so. This is just another affirmation that the current city council's actions are not about finances, they are about politics.

The third Public Hearing (there's another one, but it's being recommended for continuance to the next meeting) deals with a revision of the ordinance governing Massage Establishments and Practitioners. You can read the staff report HERE and the actual ordinance HERE. Certainly, this is a necessary modification to our ordinances since we're told that many such establishments in our city are actually fronts for illicit activities. As I scrolled down through the ordinance I came to the definitions on page 4. Some of the terms used therein snapped these old eyeballs open, for sure. I'll let you visit the ordinance to read them for yourselves.

I forgot to mention that Steve Foti, the man who actually performed the audit recently for the OCEA, will appear before the City Council tonight to explain his numbers. I have no idea how it will play out, but at least this time around we will hear from the horse's mouth, not a Union surrogate who was clearly unprepared for the hand-to-hand combat she was subjected to by Jim Righeimer at the last council meeting.



Over at the LiberalOC blog, writer Chris Prevatt reports that the Orange County Employee's Association (OCEA) will be in court today requesting a Preliminary Injunction to stop the layoffs of more than 100 Costa Mesa city employees. HERE. We've seen this issue on closed session agendas in recent weeks, but were not aware that the court date was today. In fact, it's on the closed session agenda again this evening. We hope that some member of the staff will report the results of the court date in open session tonight.

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Monday, July 04, 2011

July 4th, 2011

As we await the inevitable barrage of legal and illegal fireworks later today I thought I'd give you a little something with which to pass the time.


If you want to spend a few minutes viewing some pretty patriotic stuff, please go to my July 4th 2009 blog entry, HERE.


Or, if you just wish to sit back and listen to Martina McBride, click that little arrow and enjoy.

Happy Birthday, America.

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