Employee group objects to jail outsourcing

The Costa Mesa City Employees Assn. is seeking a temporary restraining order Tuesday morning against an attempt to outsource jobs at the city jail.

The proposed contract with G4S Secure Solutions — which is up for a vote of the City Council the same evening — is expected to save the city up to $3.2 million over a five-year period with the firm's "cutting-edge" technology, according to a city news release.

No layoffs are projected for city employees under the G4S contract. The workers would be transferred to other positions.

Jennifer Muir, spokeswoman for the Orange County Employees Assn., which represents the CMCEA, declined to comment on the lawsuit's specifics Monday evening.

"We disagree with the city's position," Muir said, "and we'll see what happens in court tomorrow."

Officials with the city and employee associations are scheduled to meet at 9:30 a.m. in Department C9 at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana.

In a prepared statement, city CEO Tom Hatch said it's "unfortunate that the employees' association would initiate more litigation to stop this California appellate court-approved action that would save Costa Mesa residents millions of dollars and would provide a plan to keep our current jailers employed by the city."

Costa Mesa officials defended their stance in a news release, citing a state appellate court's opinion from September 2012 that declared the city's authority to outsource the jail.

The council had approved a contract with G4S in May 2012, though the deal couldn't be finalized at the time because a preliminary injunction prevented the city from outsourcing certain services to private entities.

Costa Mesa's outsourcing talks resumed soon after an Orange County Superior Court judge ended the 18-month injunction in January.

City officials said that between February and May, they met seven times with CMCEA representatives — who represent about 200 employees — over the jail outsourcing, "including the transfer of the affected jail personnel to other positions within the city."

If the 32-bed jail is outsourced, it would affect eight full-time custody officers — including one overseer sergeant — three part-time officers and a court liaison officer.

The custody officers are nonsworn personnel. The sergeant is a sworn officer.

In the preliminary 2013-14 fiscal year budget, $1.38 million is proposed toward staffing the jail. The contract with G4S would cost the city nearly $743,000 for a savings of some 46%, according to city staff.

G4S also performs jail services for some Southern California cities, including Irvine.

The CMCEA's lawsuit from 2011 that sought to prevent outsourcing and any associated layoffs is still wending its way through the court system. The litigation stems from a controversial council proposal from March 2011 to lay off nearly half the city work force.

The move initially targeted 213 employees, though by November 2012, that number was whittled down to about 70. The following December, the council unanimously approved rescinding the remaining layoff notices.

Mayor Jim Righeimer has said he's still interested in outsourcing divisions, such as payroll, park maintenance and street-sweeping.

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