Costa Mesa votes to outsource its jail

An Orange County city that made news when it voted two years ago to lay off a large chunk of its municipal workforce has now agreed to let a private firm operated the local jail.

The Costa Mesa City Council voted late Tuesday to outsource its 32-bed jail. City officials said it will save the city $3 million over a five-year period.


Earlier in the day an employees union representing a contingent of Costa Mesa workers tried unsuccessfully to block the move by seeking a temporary restraining order. An Orange County Superior Court judge, however, denied the request on the grounds that the council had yet to vote on a contract with the private firm that will run the jail.

Now that the council has voted to hire G4S Security Solutions, representatives for the Orange County Employees Assn. vowed to return to court.

Unlike the highly contested council decision in 2011 that proposed nearly 200 layoffs of city employees — the pink slips were eventually rescinded — the G4S contract proposes none.

Once the jail is outsourced, the full-time custody officers, overseer sergeant, part-time officers and court liaison officer are expected to be transferred to comparable positions.

The sergeant is a sworn officer, but the custody officers are non-sworn employees.

The G4S contract had received approval from the council in May 2012 but because of a preliminary injunction that stopped outsourcing efforts, the city could not move forward.

The injunction, which lasted 18 months, was lifted in January, after which time Costa Mesa officials began speaking with employee representatives.

Mayor Jim Righeimer said the overall setup with city employee salaries, pensions, sick days and other benefits are too expensive.

"The problem with government and with government employees, as good as they are, is they are pricing themselves out of the picture," he said.