Judge dissolves injunction that blocked Costa Mesa layoffs

With the dissolution this week of a preliminary injunction, Costa Mesa is one step closer to clearing the political battlefield that emerged when the City Council agreed to explore outsourcing city services.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Luis A. Rodriguez on Tuesday ended the 18-month-old order that prevented the city from outsourcing some of its services to private companies.

The injunction took effect after the Costa Mesa City Employees Assn. sued the city.

Attorneys for the Orange County Employees Assn., which represents the CMCEA and its nearly 200 employees, argued that the city didn't go through the proper legal steps before it issued layoff notices and didn't meet with employee groups before issuing the layoff notices, per their contracts.

The number of pink slips slowly decreased from more than 200 in March 2011 to 70 in December, the month the layoffs were negated.

"When the last of the layoff notices were rescinded on Dec. 19, the city had asked the CMCEA to drop its lawsuit, which sought to prevent the outsourcing and related layoffs," the city stated in a news release Friday. "The association has not dropped the suit."

OCEA spokeswoman Jennifer Muir said the case is in the hands of the lawyers from both sides.

"We hope that the work gets done quickly," she said, adding that the associations "hope to get back to the table to begin working with the city immediately on a number of issues."

In December, Mayor Jim Righeimer said he's still interested in pursuing outsourcing for some city divisions, such as the jail, payroll, park maintenance and street-sweeping services.

OCEA General Manager Nick Berardino said in December that he's very happy with the layoff notices now behind them.

"We are looking forward to working with the city," Berardino said, "and we are confident that there are better days ahead for all of us."

jeremiah.dobruck2@latimes.com; bradley.zint@latimes.com

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