New layoff date announced for Costa Mesa employees

COSTA MESA — The city will not outsource any of its employees' jobs until March 10 at the earliest, almost a year to the day that workers were first notified of potential outsourcing and six months after employees first expected to be laid off.

"It's nice that we know we have a job until March and not January, but now for the employees in this, it's a waiting game," said Helen Nenadal, president of the Costa Mesa City Employees Assn., which faces the bulk of the potential layoffs next year. "Don't get me wrong; we're still thankful to have a job. But living in uncertainty could've been avoided if they'd done it the right way."

Last week's notice to workers marks the third time the city has pushed back the layoff date.

The first pushed-back date was to November, the second January and third to March 10 — a week short of the one-year mark.

The council majority maintains Costa Mesa needs to reduce its payroll to lower future costs, particularly workers' pensions.

Two of the plan's major proponents, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer and Councilman Steve Mensinger, were not immediately available for comment Tuesday.

Nenadal, among others, argues that the council majority's approach was to shoot first then aim later. Before the city knew which services would cost less if they were outsourced, the city was already telling its workers their jobs would be gone.

"We contracted out our golf course in the '90s and we didn't have this issue," Nenadal said. "They did their homework first as opposed to sending out the notices first."

After the employees sued, they won a temporary court order barring Costa Mesa from replacing employees with private-sector workers until the lawsuit is resolved. The process was again delayed after a city misstep that forced a restart of the evaluation process for its services.

In a letter to city CEO Tom Hatch Monday, Orange County Employees Assn. attorney Don Drozd maintained that he believes Costa Mesa's direction is unlawful.

"Moreover, the contractually required six-month layoff notification under such restrictive circumstances cannot be transformed, as now undertaken by the city, into a perpetual layoff notice," Drozd wrote. "Coming at the beginning of the holiday season, it again demonstrates the total disrespect with which the council majority and the CEO hold city employees and their families."

Twitter: @JosephSerna

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