Righeimer: City's restructuring efforts haven't been too fast

COSTA MESA — Rescinding requests to outsource city jobs and a court order barring the jobs' privatization shouldn't be seen as signs that Costa Mesa has moved too fast with its restructuring, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer said Friday.

He suggested, rather, they indicate that things are getting done.

"Obviously when we're doing this big of a change in the city, we're going to have some bumps in the road, but that's no different than the private sector," he said. "It's to be expected. I'm sure there'll be something else."

Finding little success with officials earlier this year when residents and city workers pleaded at City Council meetings to research the proposed outsourcing of jobs before opening them up for bids, employee groups instead have found success in the legal realm.

Their latest victory of sorts came Thursday, when city Chief Executive Tom Hatch acknowledged that employees had raised valid concerns in an Aug. 1 letter about how officials did not comply with City Council Code by formally consulting with workers before putting their jobs up for bids.

"Once again, you and the council have exposed your intention to govern pursuant to ideology-driven predetermined outcomes, devoid of legitimate analysis, and dismissive of policies, rules, laws or any other obstacle to those outcomes," Costa Mesa City Employees Assn. President Helen Nenadal wrote.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified city spokesman William Lobdell.

"It was overlooked," city spokesman William Lobdell said Friday. "Not sure it was [done] intentionally, but it was overlooked and was brought to the city's attention in the Aug. 1 letter."

In response, Hatch rescinded three requests for proposals (RFP) that the city sent out last week seeking bids for animal control, video production and building inspection. A fourth RFP for operating the jail will go ahead, but a Contracting Committee with employee representatives will have a chance to review it and suggest changes, Lobdell said.

"From the outset, the employees have been saying that this outsourcing scheme violates California law and the city's policy, and we're glad the city finally listened," Orange County Employees Assn. spokeswoman Jennifer Muir said. "We've been disappointed with the City Council for politicizing this process from the very beginning. Let's hope for the sake of the residents and city employees that we can all move forward in a constructive and collaborative way."

Both employee groups and city officials have softened their tone since Hatch's announcement, but it likely won't stop a legal challenge working its way through civil court.

An Orange County Superior Court judge last month put the brakes on privatizing city jobs. In response to a CMCEA lawsuit claiming it's illegal for Costa Mesa — a general law city — to replace some of its workers with private employees, the judge limited Costa Mesa's outsourcing options to other public agencies until the suit is resolved, which is months away at least.

"From the city's point of view, we're talking about changes that need to be made to ensure a long-term sustainable budget," Lobdell said. "They knew from the beginning that there would be things thrown in their path."

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