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Costa Mesa rebuts ad campaign critical of its layoffs plan

Costa Mesa City Hall is fighting back against an organized labor ad campaign critical of its employee outsourcing plan and has launched an information campaign of its own.

"We are trying to make sure the public gets the facts about the Costa Mesa budget and then can draw their conclusions about the best direction to go," said Costa Mesa's interim communications director, William Lobdell, a former Los Angeles Times writer. "We're trying to create an equal playing field for debate based on facts."

In a "fact check" news release Tuesday, Lobdell argued points from a recent TV spot by citizens group Repair Costa Mesa, which said the city laid off half its workers and that city Chief Executive Tom Hatch receives a $10,000 annual car allowance.

Costa Mesa's release said the city has issued layoff notices only, informing 213 city employees — about 43% of the city's workforce — that their jobs will be outsourced in September. Of those workers, nearly 100 are firefighters, who could be employed with the Orange County Fire Authority should the city contract with them. Also, city officials have said the notices were issued to meet a six-month's notice requirement. And if the city cannot find suitable outside companies, some layoff notices could be rescinded.

"Regardless of how the City Council's plans to outsource services materialize, the fact remains that employees received notices that they won't have a job in six months, " said Jennifer Muir, spokeswoman for the Orange County Employees Assn. "The pink slips did not say, 'You might not have a job,' or 'Your job is negotiable.'"

Lobdell said Hatch receives a $477 monthly car allowance, totaling $5,724 annually.

"The fact that the city is spending this much time defending his nearly $275,000 compensation package at a time when they're laying off nearly half the city's workforce is just another example of their bad priorities," Muir added.

According to Costa Mesa's 2010-11 budget, the city manager's office receives an annual $10,800 auto allowance. That total, Lobdell said, includes the assistant city manager.

The organized labor campaign is called Repair Costa Mesa, and spans television, the Web and print. Financed with Orange County Employees Assn. money, the campaign hopes to rally residents against the council's layoff plan and Mayor Gary Monahan. The mayor is one of four council members who voted for the layoff plan.

"Fact check" statements will appear on the Costa Mesa website and Facebook page.

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