Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Reason To Give Thanks


In a decision guaranteed to make Thanksgiving just a little nicer for employees of the City of Costa Mesa, today Judge Barbara Tam Nomoto Schumann rejected a request from lawyers for the City to dispose of two of the four causes of action in the lawsuit filed on behalf of city employees. You can read the Daily Pilot report on this decision HERE.

As might be expected, each side viewed this action a little differently. Orange County Employee Association spokesperson Jennifer Muir, in a press release this afternoon, said the following:

"In another incremental victory for Costa Mesa employees, a Superior Court Judge on Tuesday afternoon rejected the City of Costa Mesa’s motion to dispose of two of the four causes of action in a lawsuit challenging the layoffs of nearly half the City’s workforce.

The employees are grateful that calmer and more reasoned minds continue to prevail over the politically motivated agenda of the City Council majority,” said Helen Nenadal, President of the Costa Mesa City Employees Association.

More than 200 Costa Mesa employees received six-month layoff notices in March after the City Council voted to outsource their jobs. In May, the Costa Mesa City Employees Association filed a lawsuit to block the layoffs and outsourcing. Orange County Superior Court Judge Tam Nomoto Schumann issued a preliminary injunction in July halting the layoffs and prohibiting the City from outsourcing to private contractors.

Judge Schumann’s ruling on Tuesday does not affect a previously ordered preliminary injunction prohibiting the City from outsourcing to private contractors. Trial is scheduled to begin April 9."

A few minutes later this afternoon Costa Mesa Interim Communication Director Bill Lobdell issues his statement, which said in part:

“The judge accepted the union’s ‘interpretation’ of the labor contract between the employees’ association and the City,” said John A. Vogt, special counsel for the City of Costa Mesa. “However, the City maintains the union’s alleged interpretation is not an interpretation at all, but rather a contradiction to the contract, which allows for outsourcing and even provides for a six-month notice for it. Unfortunately, the judge believes that she needed to accept the union’s ‘interpretation’ in ruling on a pleadings motion.

“This ruling doesn’t mean the union’s interpretation will survive summary judgment or trial or otherwise withstand scrutiny on appeal.”

So, unless one side or the other has another card up their sleeves, it looks now like we wait until the trial date, April 9, 2012. In the meantime, based on the injunction in force, no Costa Mesa functions may be outsourced to any private organizations.

In case you've
not already seen it, the Daily Pilot published another of my commentaries today, just in time for Thanksgiving. You can read it HERE. And, for your reading pleasure, here's a very similar version of that message for you all here on the blog.


There are many things for which I'm thankful as we approach Thanksgiving Day this year.

As always,
my wonderful and patient wife of more than 44 years is right at the top of my list. She makes my life very special with her love and support in all that we do.

Of course, I'm very thankful for my family and our cadre of dear friends
who stay in touch with us and offer encouragement when we most need it. And, I'm thankful for the opportunity to present my views of the world around us to the readers of my blog. I'm thankful for their support and comments - even those who disagree with me - because they usually enhance the debate of important issues.

This year, though, I'm especially thankful for a very special group of people - many of whom have become friends. I'm speaking of the employees of the City of Costa Mesa. For the past couple years they've had to endure the uncertainty of this terrible economy, which included making sacrifices to help the City balance the budget. Some have lost their jobs and all have had their wages frozen. They've watched the staff size shrink to levels not seen for more than two decades.


This year, however, has been a real test of their fortitude and loyal
ty, beginning with more than 200 of their compatriots receiving layoff notices on St. Patrick's Day - which may have been the darkest day in the history of our city. Hundreds gathered that sad night to pay their respects to a fallen fellow employee. A few days later more than one hundred residents circled City Hall on a rainy day to stand in a silent vigil of support for the employees.

The employees have endured the chaos that has swirled around the actions of a City Council majority apparently determined, through outsourcing, to reduce the City Staff to a handful of Contract Administrators charged with managing the contract employees who will eventually perform every job in the city - or so it seems.

The employees of Costa Mesa have seen and heard some of the elected leader
s of our city and their appointees chide, vilify, demonize and belittle many of their friends and co-workers. They've seen their revered long-time leader, City Manager Allan Roeder, retire and be replaced - if that is actually possible - by his loyal assistant, Tom Hatch. They then heard Hatch tell a group of their fellow-employees that "they" - meaning the City Council - "don't trust us" - meaning the employees. It must be difficult to stay focused on your job with that cloud of disrespect and uncertainty hanging over your head.

The employees watched as Interim Police Chief Steve Staveley, a man with four decades of law enforcement under his belt and one of the most respected law enforcement leaders in California, abruptly ended his second tour as temporary chief in Costa Mesa in disgust with the elected leaders of our city. As he left he tossed a grenade of criticism of the council over his shoulder, saying, "They are, in my opinion, incompetent, unskilled and unethical."

They've seen the management ranks decimated as many senior staffers chose to move on rather than tolerate the lack of respect and the systematic destruction of the city. Many were replaced by con
sultants - mercenaries, whose fees were mind-boggling and their loyalties unclear.

They've seen some of their elected leaders attempt to break labor agreements rather than seek concessions from the employee groups - actions which forced some employees to court to protect their rights. They've seen themselves castigated in the public press and from the council dais for that action by the men who caused the situation. They've seen their very livelihoods and careers placed in jeopardy to satisfy personal ambitions of a few hack politicians.

And yet they soldier on, doing their very best to provide the kind of service the residents and visitors to our city have become accustomed to. They patch and sweep our streets, provide public safety and recreation programs and perform all the other tasks that make Costa Mesa a great place in which to live, work and play. You have to admire them because it's hard to keep your nose to the grindstone while looking over your shoulder, waiting for the ax to fall, at the same time - but they do it with pride, poise and competence.


So, for all they have done and for all that they continue to do, I am particularly thankful this year for each and every employee of the City of Costa Mesa. Thank you all. We here at A Bubbling Cauldron wish the Costa Mesa Employees and all the rest of you very Happy Thanksgiving.

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