Court rejects OCEA’s attempt to halt layoffs, but union will keep fighting

“An Orange County judge Friday rejected a request by a county employees union to halt the layoffs of nearly 200 social service employees, many of whom were notified this week that they would lose their jobs,” according to the L.A. Times.

County CEO argued in a recent email newsletter that “As OCEA is well aware, the more we delay responsible action on budget reductions, the greater the number of layoffs there will be later in the fiscal year. That is because we have a shorter period of time in which to create the savings that are needed as a result of the lack of revenue from the State of California (i.e. a larger number of layoffs will be required in that shorter period of time).

So how did the budget crisis at the County of Orange get this bad?

One of our readers emailed me the thoughts below, which pose the question, “did the County administrators make things worse by crafting unrealistic budgets that over-estimating SSA state revenue?”

It just may be that the county – particularly the Executive Officer – has erred in building this year’s budget by unreasonably estimating state revenue too high for programs like those that SSA operates. Rather than a crisis of declining revenue, it could be a crisis of unreasonably high estimates of revenue colliding with reality. Mix in the economic problems of the last several months to make it even worse.

The question could be asked -are the layoffs the result of the bad economic times, or are they needed because the county was not realistic in its budget in the first place? Was this a classic “bet on the come” and the “come” did not happen? Or, is it 100% the lousy economy? Truth is, probably a mix of both in my estimation.

Mauk also stated, in his recent email newsletter, that “I believe OCEA needs to begin to pay attention to the real financial issues and difficulties of the County of Orange and support not only its members but the taxpayers of Orange County. If there was ever an example of OCEA’s total lack of regard for the overall budget situation, the taxpayers of Orange County and our employees, this is it!”

I think it is ridiculous for Mauk to entirely blame the OCEA.  When you consider how much money the O.C. Supervisors have wasted this year on inflated car allowances, manager bonuses, expensive new furniture and unnecessary lobby remodeling, it is clear that the Supervisors and Mauk are themselves part of the problem – not part of the solution.

What does OCEA President Nick Berardino have to say about all this?

Here are a few excerpts from his latest posting on the OCEA’s website:

Although the Court denied OCEA’s request for the emergency stay, it did set a date later this month for hearing on a preliminary injunction. What this means is that OCEA will continue to move forward both in Court and through the grievance process to protect our members, their families and their economic well being.

Many of you may have seen the CEO’s latest scare tactic communication to the workforce about OCEA’s efforts to stop the layoffs. The CEO is being deliberately misleading when he accuses OCEA of proposing more layoffs. His statement is false and he knows it, and his motive for making that false statement is to keep you and your coworkers from pursuing your rights as employees.

We have also received information that the County will not engage in a more collaborative approach until we stop highlighting the remodel of the board’s lobby as well as the perks and salaries of executive management and the board to the press. OCEA is focused on saving jobs, minimizing negative impacts on all employees, and ensuring that the County’s actions are both fair and legal. Period. Tom Mauk’s characterization of the layoffs as a “responsible action on budget reductions” demonstrates the single-minded focus of the County, its CEO, and the Board of Supervisors to solve the County’s budget problems on the backs of workers. Period.

I am not a big fan of Berardino, but the County’s negotiation tactics appear to be heavy handed and counterproductive.  I don’t know that Berardino’s tactics will have any sort of positive effect, but he is right about the County’s culture of waste.  That is a point we will continue to revisit here at the Orange Juice as the County budget crisis continues to unfold.

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"Admin" is just editors Vern Nelson, Greg Diamond, or Ryan Cantor sharing something that they mostly didn't write themselves, but think you should see. Before December 2010, "Admin" may have been former blog owner Art Pedroza.