Firefighter union president seeks apology

COSTA MESA — Tim Vasin, president of the Costa Mesa Firefighters Assn., has demanded an apology from Councilman Eric Bever for insinuating that the union members are "tone-deaf" when it comes to reforming the city's ailing budget.

"In the 13 years I have worked for the city of Costa Mesa I have never felt so insulted as a city employee as I have this last week," Vasin told the City Council during Tuesday's meeting.

The association recently renegotiated its employee contract and was able to find more than $600,000 in savings over 12 months.

Bever and Mayor Allan Mansoor voted against the contract changes.

"On Oct. 7, 2010, Council Member Bever made a conscious decision to unnecessarily attack me and the members of the Costa Mesa Fire Department with childish accusations of being tone-deaf, greedy and ignorant of facts," Vasin said.

The comments were written by Bever and County Supervisor John Moorlach in a Daily Pilot Community Commentary.

Moorlach said Vasin might be forgetting what the city agreed to a year ago.

"I think it's a little disingenuous for someone from the Fire Department to say they've been helping out, especially when they just recently negotiated 3% at 50," he said.

Allen Rieckhof, president of the Costa Mesa Police Assn., said he stands beside Vasin and the firefighters in asking for an apology.

"I don't think any council member should be degrading any of the employees or union members — that's totally unprofessional and unnecessary," he said.

Bever also made wrong assumptions regarding Measure L, the proposed hotel tax that the city placed on the November ballot measure to help gather more revenue, when he linked the tax increase to the unions in the commentary, Vasin said.

"So let's set the record straight," he said. "The truth is, it was actually this City Council's decision to put the tax increase on the ballot."

Bever also wrote that the union's "bantering and badgering to conclude negotiations before the election, is a bullying tactic that needs to stop."

Vasin reminded Bever that firefighters were the ones who came to the city under no obligation to negotiate their contract and found $633,400 in savings by suspending a scheduled salary increase and by contributing more to their pension accounts.

"Talk about the pot calling the kettle black, how dare you suggest that I am tone-deaf, greedy or ignorant of the facts?" Vasin asked. "The fact is, you chose, once again, to be derelict in your duties and left another closed session meeting without getting vital information about our proposal.

"I will have you know sir, while you were spending time hanging campaign signs for your endorsed council candidate, and skipping out of your required duties as an elected official, I was spending countless, off-duty and unpaid time away from my family, working with city staff to come up with solutions to this city's economic problems," Vasin said.

Vasin's comment drew a round of applause from the audience and Councilwoman Katrina Foley.

Bever did not respond to Vasin's comments during his council comments portion of the meeting.

"I'm not going to dignify that with a response," Bever said on the phone Friday.

However, later in an e-mail, he said, "It is unfortunate that the speaker did not seem to understand the thrust of our commentary. Supervisor Moorlach and I were attempting to communicate Costa Mesa's dire financial situation and the need for union cooperation in solving the problem."

Bever's statements are simply not factual, Rieckhof said.

All city employees and unions have not just been cooperating, but have been more than willing to help the city with its financial difficulties, he said.

"I think all employee groups should get an apology from Mr. Bever for making such inflammatory statements," Rieckhof said.

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