Tuesday morning, during the Board Comments segment of our regular meetings, I announced that I would be bringing modifications to our negotiating policies to the May 20th agenda. The city of Costa Mesa recently approved similar bargaining procedures and created a fun acronym with COIN, Civic Openness in Negotiations. It is discussed in the Daily Pilot piece below.

Costa Mesa’s ordinance has seven components, of which the County has already implemented four of them. But the other three seem worthy of discussion, considering recent events (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Negotiating Faux Pas — April 29, 2014 and MOORLACH UPDATE — Another Impasse — April 21, 2014).

The seven points in COIN are as follows:

1. Hire independent negotiator to represent the city.

2. Have an independent auditor determine the fiscal impacts of each benefit listed in the employee association’s current contract and publish a report of that analysis at least 30 days before contract negotiations begin on a new contract.

3. During each round of negotiations, have council members acknowledge in writing that they read and considered the report detailing the fiscal impacts of each offer

4. Have the City Council publicly report from closed sessions any portion of the negotiations—along with their fiscal impacts—that are no longer being considered.

5. Produce a public report that details the fiscal impacts of each proposal for new contracts compared to the current contract.

6. Allow the public to review and comment on proposed employee contracts during at least two City Council meetings prior to a vote.

7. Place the proposed employee contracts and any related materials on the City’s website at least seven days before the first council meeting where the proposed contracts will be on the agenda.

The items provided in italics have already been implemented at the County for some time now (preceding COIN). Regarding point 1, I worked for years to require the use of an independent negotiator, which the Board has been using during recent and current bargaining efforts. The County provides rather precise details on the fiscal impacts of new contracts, in fact, it guides the Board’s discussions. Consequently, point 5 is a slam dunk. Shortly after becoming a Supervisor, I successfully offered a policy change that requires at least a week of time between the day a bargaining unit accepts a contract and the date that the Board votes to approve it. Not giving the public any opportunity to weigh in on contracts is a common strategy around the state that I found to be unconscionable. This covers points 6 and 7. That leaves points 2, 3, and 4 to consider adopting.

Using an independent auditor is open to interpretation. Currently, we’re trying to determine if the elected Auditor-Controller would adequately serve as an independent resource. Point 3 is up for debate and Point 4 needs some massaging. An eighth point needs to be added: Any (ex parte) communications between individual Supervisors and bargaining unit representatives must be disclosed in public. In other words, if a Supervisor is discussing deal points and going around the independent negotiator, the other Supervisors and the public should be noticed of this activity. Any and all lobbying activity, including e-mails, letters, and conversations, must be disclosed. This would make the employee union bargaining process truly transparent. Now that we are nearing the conclusion of our latest round of contract negotiations, it would be helpful to consider the adoption of additional procedures that would benefit both sides of the bargaining table and those that are not present, the public. If you have any insights or recommendations as my office prepares the final proposal, please do not hesitate to contact my Deputy Chief of Staff David Mansdoerfer at david.mansdoerfer.

Moorlach aims to make COIN ordinance countywide

County supervisor favors a version of Costa Mesa transparency law. Union wants to include negotiations with outside contractors.

By Jill Cowan

Costa Mesa’s Civic Openness in Negotiations, or COIN, ordinance could soon be tested on a bigger stage, Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach said Tuesday.

Near the end of this week’s board of supervisors meeting, he told colleagues that he hopes to bring a modified version of the law — which aims to increase transparency in what have become reliably fractious public employee contract negotiations — before the full panel in late May.

"We’re busy putting it together, working with county counsel," he said by phone Wednesday. "We’re enjoying sort of a lot of intrigue in our current negotiations [with employee unions] that could be corrected or addressed with COIN."

The Costa Mesa ordinance, adopted in 2012, sets new standards for negotiations with employee unions that require each side to make its offers public.

Among other provisions, the ordinance requires an independent financial analysis and independent labor negotiator to bargain on the city’s behalf. Previously, a city executive would fill that role.

Additionally, communications about negotiations between council members and union representatives must be disclosed under the law.

Moorlach wrote in an email that several components of Costa Mesa’s COIN ordinance are already in place in some form at the county level, such as the use of an independent negotiator rather than a county employee, and the public release of reports that detail fiscal impacts of each proposal.

But the proposal he plans to bring to the board on May 20 would bulk up the county’s negotiation transparency requirements by taking a few pages out of Costa Mesa’s book.

In an email, he wrote that his proposal will likely include provisions requiring board members to tell the public about any ideas from closed-session talks that are taken off the table, and requiring an independent auditor to analyze an employee group’s current contract in a report published at least 30 days before negotiations begin on a new agreement.

Costa Mesa Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger, who spearheaded efforts to pass the measure, said that although the city is still in the midst of its first set of COIN-regulated contract negotiations, the idea seems to be catching on in cities around the region.

"Candidly speaking, COIN is clear and obvious to anybody that wants to give the taxpayer a seat at the table," he said.

Steve Greyshock, spokesman for the Assn. of California Cities Orange County, said the organization has been approached for guidance about implementing similar measures.

While the association will not take a position on whether it’s good government for jurisdictions to have a COIN-type process in place, he said the ACCOC board is expected in coming weeks to consider recommendations for cities that want to take that route.

"One of the fundamental principles is that all parties involved in the negotiations have an understanding of what’s happening," he said. "That’s something that’s mutually beneficial to all involved."

Jennifer Muir, spokeswoman for the Orange County Employees Assn., wrote in an email that although she hadn’t heard about a county version of COIN, the county’s largest employee union would "welcome being part of a process to develop a comprehensive transparency policy for the county."

But she echoed concerns the association raised as Costa Mesa built its ordinance.

Agreements with for-profit contractors, she wrote, should be subject to the same rigorous processes as they are for negotiations with municipal employees.

"We think it’s critical for an effective policy to cover contracts with the outside, for-profit companies that receive public money — often with the help of politically connected lobbyists," she wrote, "as well as contracts with the county’s public workforce."

Ultimately, though, she wrote that OCEA leaders were looking forward to working with Moorlach.

Still, it may be some time before OCEA would try out a COIN-type process; the association recently approved a new contract that will be in effect through June 2015 — after two years of contentious negotiations with the county.

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