Defending outsourcing could cost Costa Mesa $250,000 in legal fees

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COSTA MESA — It could take two years in court and cost the city more than $250,000 to defend its proposal to outsource multiple city jobs, according to court filings by Costa Mesa’s attorneys.

The city has spent more than $10,000 defending a lawsuit from the Costa Mesa City Employees Assn. and is tapping law specialists to handle the matter in the future, Assistant City Attorney Harold Potter, who is with the Jones & Mayer law firm, wrote in a July 14 court filing.

Jones & Mayer is passing the case over to San Francisco-based Hanson Bridgett LLP, which charges between $295 to $325 an hour — an amount “reasonable within the community due to their labor specialization,” Potter wrote.


In contrast, Jones & Mayer bills $175 an hour.

The city has already spent hundreds of thousands in its outsourcing effort.

Earlier this year, the City Council budgeted $250,000 for consultant contracts and has since extended some of the contracts for interim department leaders, experts to handle departmental cuts and a communications director to supply transparency and handle an inevitable backlash from workers and members of the public.

Though the city is looking to outsource more than 40% of its municipal government jobs to save money, other city departments are expanding. The city increased its budget for legal costs, with city officials attributing some of that to the lawsuit with CMCEA.

“It is anticipated that the total attorney fees and costs incurred by the city of Costa Mesa in defending this matter, through trial, will crest $250,000,” Potter wrote. “It is further anticipated that this action will take two years to reach its final determination.”

CMCEA attorney Richard Levine agreed that the lawsuit would have to go to trial because the issue at hand — the legality of outsourcing Costa Mesa’s services to private companies — is without a middle ground.

“That’s why the association was compelled to seek a judicial intervention,” he said. “My feeling is it’s likely this case would be brought to trial well within two years.”

The Costa Mesa city attorneys’ office did not return multiple calls for comment.