COSTA MESA — Six months after more than 200 city workers were told they could lose their jobs to outsourcing, the City Council took its first concrete step in that direction Tuesday night.
Officials put the first batch of city services out for bid.
In three 4-1 votes, with Councilwoman Wendy Leece dissenting on each, the council approved soliciting bids for the city's jail services, building inspection and video production services.
Leece said she didn't vote in favor because she thinks the process is politically motivated. Leece opposes the planned layoffs of more than 200 city employees.
Though City Hall is barred from privatizing any city services while a lawsuit by Costa Mesa employees works its way through court, there is nothing stopping them from receiving bids just to assess its options, council members said.
A court order over the summer limited the council's option to outsourcing jobs to other public agencies, for the time being.
The bids, or requests for proposals (RFPs), come more than six months after city workers were told in March that their jobs could be outsourced.
That decision continually bubbles to the surface of every council meeting, with regular council observers routinely criticizing the move and accusing the council of pushing a Republican agenda against organized labor.
The council majority argues that workers' pensions are eating up more and more of the city budget, leaving little for city maintenance — a high priority for this council.
City workers have agreed to pay more toward their pensions, though the city has had to increasingly contribute more as the recession hit the state's pension fund and passed the losses onto municipalities.
The council's plan was to inform workers they could be laid off in March, put the services out to bid and have cheaper services in a relatively short turn around. But with the city overlooking its own policies on how to do that, and the pending litigation, the process is only getting off the ground now.
"Your process has worked very well," Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer told union representatives at the meeting. "Your job is to drag on the process, to run out the clock … that's not going to happen."