Contra Costa County

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It’s safe to say that when Contra Costa County Board of Supervisor Karen Mitchoff stated that damage has been done between labor unions and the Board, she was foreshadowing a rocky future between the two parties.

Shortly after those comments were made, four-of-five County Board of Supervisors (Gioia, Glover, Mitchoff, Pipeho) were named in a lawsuit by the Deputy Sheriffs Association (DSA) highlighting that the Supervisors threatened them, took away their right to free speech, and that civil rights were violated.

The lawsuit comes after the DSA and other unions led a referendum campaign netting nearly 40,000 signatures to stop a salary adjustment of 33% by the Board of Supervisors. The DSA is now claiming the Supervisors are retaliating against this effort.

With these new accusations, it adds yet another black eye to the Supervisors record as the unions try to control the message when it comes to public opinion.

If anything, the public should realize that suing four-of-five  Supervisors is a form of retaliation for bringing up the words “Chuck Reed Pension Reform”. Simply put, Chuck Reed is code word for pension reform and putting the idea in the hands of the voters.

For those unfamiliar with Chuck Reed, he is the San Jose Mayor who helped place Measure B in San Jose on the 2012 ballot which called for city workers to pay more into their pension plans, gave the City Council the right to suspend cost of living increases in a fiscal emergency and required a city-wide vote before retirement benefits could be increased. It passed with 69 percent of the vote.

What is silly about this lawsuit (click here)  is that the DSA is not in labor negotiations for 16-months.  So when I hear the idea of “greed” come up, it is for positiong to sway public opinion because when negotiating, everything is on the table at the start. When negotiations proceed, items are accepted, removed, or mediated out.

This claim of greed is rather silly because it appears the DSA cannot wait 16-months to see what potential increase or decrease may occur. It appears the union is either frightened or offended by the idea of Chuck Reed even being brought up.

Lets admit it, the DSA is afraid of the public getting a say. They prefer the public believe its a naughty word that  neither Supervisors Mary Piepho nor Karen Mitchoff are allowed to discuss.

Regrettably for the DSA and regardless of the context the threats being made, it’s simply an idea at this point and not a threat. Although, I have to admit, the DSA is smart in removing the discussion from pension reform and focusing on Supervisor salary adjustments—basically, distracting the public from the larger issue facing the county.

What the public needs to understand is that once the law removed pension spiking, its no secret the DSA instead wanted compensation in return. So should pension reform end up going to a public vote, it scares the DSA just by uttering the name Chuck Reed.

The Supervisors may want to discuss the idea of Chuck Reed pension reform, it doesn’t mean they will move forward with it—in our opinion, it’s actually a very bad idea. That said, it certainly does not justify a lawsuit.

At the heart of this lawsuit, it appears the DSA is afraid the public will take this idea and begin petition to try and implement pension reform through a ballot initiative. Highly unlikely, but the DSA anger should be directed at Chuck Reed, not the Board of Supervisors. Furthermore, the idea of Chuck Reed is nothing new as last March, the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association had Chuck Reed as a guest speaker—so it’s not out of context for a Supervisor to bring his name up.

In reading the lawsuit, it this is nothing more than hearsay discussions taken out of context. The accusations hold little merit and the idea of free speech being taken away is rather silly.

If you recall, over the past several months, DSA leadership, as well as other unions, have had plenty to say without Supervisors intervening both during a public forum and to various news media. If anything, the unions didn’t know when to pipe on the verbal assaults because common sense says there will be some response at some point which may put DSA leadership in an awkward position with its members for playing poor politics.

As for the threats, the old saying goes actions speak louder than words and in the game of politics; there is an awful lot of chatter, not enough action.

In this lawsuit, which was published Wednesday on this website:

  • ASSOCIATION President Ken Westermann met with Supervisor PIEPHO where he says he told her the ASSOCIATION “made a bad decision and it is not going to end well for you guys.” The suit further says Piepho said in a dismissive tone that “we can always make it worse.”

At best, this can be interpreted a thousand different ways. Did Piepho really speak in a “dismissive tone” or did Westermann take it as such? Ultimately, who cares if the tone was dismissive. What really matters is at this time, can Mr. Westermann prove any damage has been done? No, because they are not in negotiations.

I am curious what action has the Board of Supervisors taken to hurt the DSA? As of Friday, the answer is nothing. There has to be an action for there to be damages.

With regards to Supervisor Karen Mithcoff, the association uses a hearsay conversation from Local1230 President Vince Wells who is in another union. They accuse Mitchoff of requesting firefighters to deliver a message to the DSA that because of the referendum sponsored by the Association, it would end badly for them in the next round of negotiations.

  • Defendant MITCHOFF stated that the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors would present their own referendum and reiterated Defendant PEIPHO’s threat, made during the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors’ meeting on December 16, 2014, to bring “Chuck Reed type pension reform” to Contra Costa County employees. Defendant PIEPHO was nodding her head in the affirmative, concurring with Defendant MITCHOFF’s threat. Defendant MITCHOFF said she would gladly be the swing vote in support of such a referendum.

In speaking to Vince Wells of Local 1230 Thursday, he stated he was asked to deliver a message, but refused to write a statement for the DSA lawsuit. He explained he is only going to participate if it goes to court and he is subpoenaed.

The game of “telephone” comes to mind here. You have people repeating something to others and the message gets lost in the translation. The end result is a lawsuit.

We can only assume the context of the comments were slurred at various stages as phone calls were made. With regards to both sides, I encourage them to stop acting like high school children and act like adults and simply communicate and talk out their issues. They will all be better for it and relationships can be rebuilt.

Like it or not, Mitchoff has every right to reference a statement made by another Supervisor or express a pension idea. It’s neither a threat nor against the law. In the end, if the Board of Supervisors want to go forward, they have the luxury of needing just 3-votes for a ballot initiative, whereas everyone else needs 25,000 signatures to put an idea on the ballot.

Ironically, this fear over “Chuck Reed reform” has never been discussed in public nor has it been placed on any agenda. Is the DSA afraid that through public discussions that the public might figure out this action may actually save the county money. The DSA can’t have that because this ride of public support they currently enjoy would begin to disintegrate.

Fortunately for the DSA, and all unions, should the idea of Chuck Reed’s pension reform be brought forward as an actual legislation after much discussion, we would support them in rejecting the idea based on the consequences it would cause countywide to public safety.

Overall, the lawsuit is weak, petty, and a waste of money which is where the public should focus, not their hatred of the Board of Supervisors.

The DSA should have the forward thinking and experience in law enforcement of finding common ground through communication; instead, the DSA leadership apparently prefers a temper tantrum which does their members a disservice.

During the recent petition drive, unions spent a lot of money to prevent a pay raise which averaged under 4% each year–if average over the last decade. Instead of cutting their losses, the DSA leadership would prefer to attempt to save face to its members by continuing to throw stones as if they believe they have nothing left to lose—note to DSA, this is not your version of “Custers Last Stand”.

A last stand actually comes if the Board of Supervisors begins to take away pay or benefits while other employee unions in the county are seeing rewards of an improved economy. To get to “Custers Last Stand”, it actually has to happen via a Board vote, currently, the DSA is making assumptions of what may occur 16-months from now.

The root of all this is the DSA is taking a few statements and turning it into a threat.

Amazingly, this lawsuit was low hanging fruit and the union took full advantage of the public’s lack of knowledge with regards to labor negotiations. The union has the public focused on retaliation when this is just single snap shot in real of film.

Ironically, the DSA should know better that when it comes to hearsay arguments holding up in court. This publicity stunt is aimed at bullying the Board to put legislation on hold—this is not a good way to build bridges.

This lawsuit, as silly as it is, still does not change our opinion deputy sheriffs are underpaid and deserve much more, but we question what is wrong with a 4% on average per year increase since the last raise? Yes, it adds up to nearly 33% when you make the jump at one time, but it’s not unreasonable spread over 8-years.

The supervisors who go through the salary adjustment process ultimately pay the price at no fault of their own due to a ballot initiative put in place by the public more than 20-years ago.

I can only assume that 16-months from now the DSA will gladly accept much less than a 4% increase for their members. Since they are throwing a fit at 4% annually, maybe 1% or 2% annually would satisfy union leadership.

 

This lawsuit is not about the Supervisor salary, threats, freedom of speech or civil rights; rather it’s about positioning the DSA for 16-months from now when negotiations open up. It’s about putting the Supervisors under a microscope and trying to remove four of them from office in the next two election cycles so they can strike a better union deal in the future.

The Deputy Sheriffs Association may be going for public empathy, but expect no sympathy from the Board of Supervisors at the bargaining table.

Burk BylineBy Mike Burkholder
burk@eastcountytoday.net

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Four-of-five Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors have been named in a federal lawsuit over allegations of intimidation and threats of retaliation after a petition drive helped repeal the board salary adjustment.

The lawsuit was filed January 20, in the United States District Court, Northern District of California. The lawsuit seeks actual damages and injunctive relief as well as punitive damages against the individually named members of the Board of Supervisors.

In the 12-page suit, the Deputy Sheriff Association (DSA) claims “ In retaliation for the DSA participating in the petition process, members of the Board of Supervisors delivered direct threats to retaliate against the DSA by undermining future collective bargaining efforts with the DSA”

The lawsuit claims of violations of the deputies’ constitutional free speech rights and a state law requiring public employers to bargain in good faith in employee contract negotiations.

The lawsuit, which named Supervisors John Gioia, Karen Mitchoff, Mary Piepho and Federal Glover, does not include Candace Andersen who voted against the raise. It also provides examples of statements made by Supervisors Mitchoff and Piepho which the union is perceiving as “retaliation” or “threats.”

On Page 5:

On December 11, 2014, former ASSOCIATION President Ken Westermann met with Defendant PIEPHO. Westermann wanted to explain why the ASSOCIATION was involved with the petition and referendum process. Westermann explained to Defendant PIEPHO that the ASSOCIATION was exercising its constitutional right of free speech and petition to express its opposition to the exorbitant pay increase the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors approved for itself. In response, Defendant PIEPHO told Westermann that the ASSOCIATION “made a bad decision and it is not going to end well for you guys.”

Westermann believed Defendant PIEPHO was threatening the ASSOCIATION with retaliation in an effort to dissuade the ASSOCIATION from continuing with the petition and referendum and to chill the ASSOCIATION’s exercise of protected speech in the future. Westermann asked Defendant PIEPHO what more she and the other Board members could do to make working conditions less attractive for the ASSOCIATION and its members. In a very dismissive tone Defendant PIEPHO said “we can always make it worse.”

 On page 6: It claims Piepho made a statement about “Chuck Reed type pension reform” which is a reference to an alteration in pension and retirement benefits.

On page 6: it also highlights a conversation between Supervisor Mitchoff and Local 1230 President Vince Wells and another firefighter, Vito Impastato. The lawsuit alleges Mitchoff told Wells and Impastato to deliver a message to the Deputy Sheriffs Association

Defendant MITCHOFF told Wells to deliver a message to Westermann and the ASSOCIATION. The message was that the referendum sponsored by the ASSOCIATION to reverse the salary increase Defendants had granted to themselves was going to end badly for the ASSOCIATION. Defendant MITCHOFF said the supervisors would be “coming after” the ASSOCIATION in the next round of bargaining for terms and conditions of employment for the County employees represented by the ASSOCIATION. Defendant MITCHOFF stated that the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors would present their own referendum and reiterated Defendant PEIPHO’s threat, made during the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors’ meeting on December 16, 2014, to bring “Chuck Reed type pension reform” to Contra Costa County employees. Defendant PIEPHO was nodding her head in the affirmative, concurring with

Defendant MITCHOFF’s threat. Defendant MITCHOFF said she would gladly be the swing vote in support of such a referendum.

Wells asked Defendant MITCHOFF if the Defendants would voluntarily rescind their salary raise if the ASSOCIATION was able to pull the signatures supporting the petition. Defendant MITCHOFF scoffed and said, “No. That would be extortion.” Wells replied, “Well, isn’t that what you are threatening to do to them?” Defendant MITCHOFF responded that the Firefighters and other labor unions could become collateral damage in this fight and that the Firefighters needed to convince the ASSOCIATION to stop the petition and referendum. Wells regarded Defendant MITCHOFF’s statement as a threat against Local 1230.

On Page 7: it highlights a phone conversation between Supervisor Mitchoff and Jim Bickert, the ASSOCIATION’s retained labor representative.

Bickert telephoned Defendant MITCHOFF on the evening of December 19, 2014, and spoke to her for over an hour about her conversation with Wells. Defendant MITCHOFF repeated her threats of retribution many times, including mention of “Chuck Reed type” pension reform. When asked how she would vote on such “reform” if the ASSOCIATION withdrew the signatures supporting the referendum, Defendant MITCHOFF replied that she would “probably vote against it.” Defendant MITCHOFF told Bickert there would be ramifications for the ASSOCIATION pushing the referendum to rescind Defendants’ salary raise and it would ruin the next labor negotiations. Defendant MITCHOFF said human nature says there will be negative ramifications for the ASSOCIATION as a result of this action. Defendant MITCHOFF said the county supervisors are all on board with her threats and would not change their minds. Defendant MITCHOFF also said the ASSOCIATION is “stupid” if they think the petition to place the referendum on the ballot would turn out well for them. Defendant MITCHOFF added that the county supervisors were previously committed to increasing compensation for the county employees represented by the ASSOCIATION, but as a result of the referendum, the ASSOCATION and its members would not receive what they would have gotten. Defendant MITCHOFF said she has nothing to lose by “coming after” the ASSOCIATION, adding, “I’m only going to be around for the next four or eight years. But the DSA is going to suffer for many years to come.”

Although named in the lawsuit, no attributions were provided of incidents involving Supervisor Gioia or Glvoer.

Here is the press release from the Deputy Sheriffs Association via Rains Lucia Stern:

Contra Costa Deputies file federal lawsuit over intimidation and threats of retaliation by members of the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors.

On behalf of the Contra Costa County Deputy Sheriffs Association, Rains Lucia Stern attorneys Timothy Talbot and Zachery Lopes filed a federal lawsuit against the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors.

The lawsuit was filed today, January 20, in the United States District Court, Northern District of California.

The lawsuit seeks actual damages and injunctive relief as well as punitive damages against the individually named members of the Board of Supervisors.

On October 28, 2014, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors voted to give themselves a 33% pay increase with a formula for future increases. Viewing that raise as being egregious, and unfair to all County employees, the Contra Costa County Deputy Sheriffs Association (DSA), along with other county labor groups, participated in a petition campaign to place an initiative on the ballot that would allow voters to determine pay increases for the Supervisors. The petition drive was exceedingly successful, gathering nearly 40,000 signatures by the end of December.

In response to the public’s overwhelming support for the petition, on January 13, 2015 the Board of Supervisors began the process to rescind the raise they had approved for themselves.

In retaliation for the DSA participating in the petition process, members of the Board of Supervisors delivered direct threats to retaliate against the DSA by undermining future collective bargaining efforts with the DSA.

Shawn Welch, President of the DSA stated that:

  • “Government employees do not give up their 1st amendment rights just because they are government employees. Public employers cannot threaten to compromise their legal duty to bargain in good faith and put communities at risk when citizen/employees exercise their right to speak against the excesses of governmental waste and bad policies.”
  • “It is an outrageous abuse of power for elected officials to threaten and attack the very employees sworn to protect our communities solely because those politicians want to fatten their paychecks.”
  • “The DSA will not stand idly by and suffer the loss of civil rights and collective bargaining rights through threats and intimidation by politicians who believe their economic self-interest is more important than their employees’ constitutional and statutory rights.”

Rains Lucia Stern, PC, with offices in Pleasant Hill, Fresno, San Francisco, Ontario, Sacramento, San Jose and Santa Rosa, specializes in defending public safety employees.

Here is a PDF copy of the lawsuit: CCCDSA Complaint File Endorsed

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An autopsy has been conducted on a decomposed body that was found on Sunday in the waters off Mallard Island near Bay Point. There were no obvious signs of trauma. The cause of death is pending toxicology tests.

The Coroner’s Division still has not been able to identify the person and is requesting the public’s assistance.

The body is described as that of an older man, who may be either Hispanic, Asian or Caucasian. This person had a hip replacement and spinal surgery. There was also a tattoo of a tiger on the left upper arm. He was dressed in blue slacks with a belt and wearing a thermal top. There was a Leatherman multi-tool on his belt.

The body was discovered in a marsh by people fishing in the area. It is believed the body has been in the water for a month or more.

Anyone with any information on this case is asked to call the Coroner’s Division at (925) 313-2850. For any tips, call (866) 846-3592 to leave an anonymous voice message or email: tips@so.cccounty.us.

Good Samaritans Carl and Rene were at Paso Nogal park in Pleasant Hill yesterday when their Australian Shepherd dog alerted to a plastic trash bag in a box near the trash can. They untied the knot (yes, the bag was knotted shut!) and discovered three tiny terrier puppies who had been discarded like trash. They took them home, cleaned them up, and fed them.

puppies-rescued-2

Today they brought them into our care. We are both sadded at the inhumanity and grateful at the compassion shown. THANK YOU, Carl and Rene for being these puppies’ heroes! heart emoticon

If you have any information on the owners of these puppies please call 925-335-8300.

Information and photo provided by Contra Costa Animal Services

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On January 19, nearly 35 volunteers cleaned up trash at the Upper Sand Creek Basin in Antioch during the Martin Luther King Day of Service.

Hosting by the Friends of Marsh Creek Watershed and Contra Costa County Flood Control, volunteers got muddy as they pulled multiple bags of trash, including medical equipment from the basin.

The Sand Creek Basin is a 10-acre, $10 million flood protection and habitat restoration project recently constructed.  In March of 2014, a similar workday event planted nearly 1000 native plants and trees. 400 of these plants were collected from the site, propagated and cared for over the past two years by county employee volunteers. In 2012,

They Friends of Marsh Creek Watershed hopes to use the work site to teach people about ways we can clean up our water ways and create more naturalized creek systems that also protect our homes from flooding

Congressman Jerry McNerney joined the groups efforts Monday and picked up multiple bags of trash.

For more photos than what is shown below, visit http://vsheridan.photoshelter.com

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With a settlement that is likely to elevate RN standards across the nation, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United today announced a major tentative contract agreement for 18,000 California RNs who work at Kaiser Permanente hospitals and clinics that will give the RNs a stronger voice on patient care, and breakthrough improvements in workplace protections.

The agreement also provides significant economic gains and additional retirement security.

While the pact must still be ratified by the RNs, who will hold membership meetings beginning next Wednesday, CNA said it is cancelling a strike that had been scheduled for January 21 and 22. The agreement affects registered nurses and nurse practitioners who work in 86 Kaiser Permanente hospitals and clinics in Northern and Central California, from Santa Rosa to Fresno.

CNA/NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro paid tribute to the “unity of the Kaiser RNs and their devotion to assuring the highest level of quality care for patients as well as protections for the nurses who deliver that care.”

“We look forward to a new chapter in our interactions with Kaiser,” DeMoro added. “We especially appreciate the commitment of Kaiser’s leadership to addressing our concerns, including working through the complicated problems associated with the changes in health care delivery, some of them related to the Affordable Care Act, and the attention it has paid in this contract to the health and safety of its registered nurses as well as patients.”

A key to the settlement was the agreement by Kaiser to establish a new committee of direct care RNs and NPs who will work with management to address the concerns RNs have about care standards in Kaiser facilities.

“This is a great day for Kaiser patients and nurses,” said Zenei Cortez, RN, chair of the Kaiser RN bargaining team and a co-president of CNA. “We have an agreement that will strengthen the ability of Kaiser RNs to provide the optimal level of care our patients deserve, while establishing additional security for nurses. I am so proud of the Kaiser RNs and NPs who worked so hard for so long for this day.”

“This agreement is a great achievement,” added Diane McClure, a Sacramento Kaiser RN and nurse negotiator. “We are especially excited about the expanded opportunity for new RN grads and trainees in Kaiser and the protections this agreement offers for RNs and our families.”

Among other major components of the agreement:

  • Kaiser will hire hundreds of RNs which the nurses say should substantially improve the quality of care for hospitalized patients, as well as signaling a renewed commitment to RN training and employment opportunities for new RN graduates at a time many hospitals have frozen RN hires.
  • Groundbreaking workplace protections for nurses from workplace violence to infectious diseases like Ebola to needle stick injuries.
  • Substantial economic gains for RNs and NPs, many of them the sole source of income for their families or extended families. Over the three years of the agreement, all the nurses will receive 14 percent pay increases through across the board hikes and lump sum payments.
  • Additional long-term retirement security for Kaiser RNs and NPs through maintenance of a secure pension plan plus a substantial increase in employer contributions to the nurses’ 401k pension plans for the 87 percent of Kaiser RNs with those plans.
  • Annual paid release time, the first in the nation, for 25 RNs every year to participate in NNU’s disaster relief program, the Registered Nurse Response Network, which has dispatched hundreds of RNs to provide basic medical services following U.S. and global disasters from Hurricane Katrina to the Haiti earthquake to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

CNA said it also committed to helping National Union of Healthcare Worker Kaiser workers, including mental health clinicians, achieve a contract agreement as well.

Source:
http://www.nationalnursesunited.org/press/entry/breaking-settlement-ends-kaiser-rn-dispute-18000-rns-win-stronger-patient-c/

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MARTINEZ – Joseph E. Canciamilla, the County Clerk-Recorder and Registrar of Voters, reminds all residents in the state’s 7th Senatorial District that Friday, January 23, 2015 is the filing deadline to run in the May 19, 2015 Special Election.

If more than two candidates file, a Primary Election will be held on March 17, 2015. If no candidate receives over 50 percent of the vote in the Primary, the top two vote-getters will go to the ballot in May’s General Election.

Candidates for the 7th Senatorial District contest must file by 5:00 pm at the Elections Division, located at 555 Escobar Street, Martinez.

The office is open between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. It will be closed on Monday, January 19th, in observance of Martin Luther King Day.

To qualify to run, a candidate must have been a U.S. citizen and California resident for at least 3 years and a registered voter in the 7th Senatorial District for at least a year. Candidates may not have been convicted of a felony involving certain public trust crimes, and must meet the term limit requirements of the office. They must present 40 valid nomination signatures and pay a filing fee of $971.97 at the time of filing.

District 7 includes much of Contra Costa County, including the East Contra Costa, Lamorinda and San Ramon Valley areas, Concord, Walnut Creek and Clayton. Eastern Alameda County is also in the district.

To view a map of the 7th Senatorial District, go to http://sd07.senate.ca.gov/district-map.

More information regarding the “Top-Two Open Primary” rules, voter registration, poll worker signups, and polling place locations is available at www.cocovote.us.

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The following letter was written and submitted to the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors by the President of the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Association regarding supervisor salary adjustments.

Dear Supervisors,

I am writing this letter to address what I perceive as a misrepresentation about local labor unions regarding the proposed salary adjustment for the Board of Supervisors. The article in the Contra Costa Times and several quotes from local labor leaders left the impression that “all” labor unions in Contra Costa County are opposed to a salary increase for the Board of Supervisors and that is not accurate. The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Association understands the need for, and the rationale behind; the salary adjustment for the Board of Supervisors.

We recognize the necessity of competitive pay for all county employees, including the Board of Supervisors because we know Contra Costa County must remain competitive with other Bay Area Counties in order to retain qualified professional employees. This is not only an issue of fairness in compensation, but a step that needs to be taken to ensure that our County attracts the best and the brightest public servants year in and year out. As such, we support the alignment of the Board of Supervisors salaries with other similarly situation processionals in the Bay Area.

Sincerely,

Paul J. Graves

President
Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Association

 In a unanimous decision Tuesday, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors took the first step to repeal an ordinance that would have granted them a salary adjustment.

In November, supervisors voted 4 to 1 to adjust their own annual pay to be more commensurate with other Bay Area counties, from $97,000 to $129,000 per year—future pay raises would be tied to state employee salaries.

The Board of Supervisors agreed to moving forward with a repeal after nearly 40,000 signatures were collected as part of a petition drive and had it gone to the voters, would have cost the County $2.5 million.

The Board of Supervisors will come back next week and finalize the repeal while also hear alternatives regarding a future raise.

This letter by the District Attorney Association is in response to both the Contra Costa Times and Public Employees Union, Local 1 claiming the support is unanimous against a pay raise.

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In a unanimous decision Tuesday, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors took the first step to repeal an ordinance that would have granted them a salary adjustment.

In November, supervisors voted 4 to 1 to adjust their own annual pay to be more commensurate with other Bay Area counties, from $97,000 to $129,000 per year—future pay raises would be tied to state employee salaries.

The Board of Supervisors agreed to moving forward with a repeal after nearly 40,000 signatures were collected as part of a petition drive and had it gone to the voters, would have cost the County $2.5 million.

The Board of Supervisors will come back next week and finalize the repeal while also hear alternatives regarding a future raise.

Here is a recap of the meeting along with full text from Supervisors Mary Piepho and Karen Mitchoff.

Supervisor John Gioia highlighted that they have heard from the public and the input was received.

“I think we all respect the public process and the public input that was received. I think its important to know that when the board took the action in November it did so with a salary survey, similar to what was done with the department heads. The board at that time addressed two issues. There had not been a raise in the board salary since 2007—about 8 years. And then the board was seeking a way to do what must urban counties across the Bay Area do which is to find a mechanisms to link its salaries going forward so they would not have to vote on it going forward,” said Gioia.

He explained how it was tied to judges salaries and State Employee raises.

“Most Counties link them anywhere from 49% of a judges salary, in this case Napa, to 80% of a Superior Court Judges Salary, in that case Alameda and Santa Clara,” Said Gioia.

He further explained how the Board set the salary on the average of California urban and Bay Area counties.

“What do we do going forward with both equating the salary to the level of responsibility and at the same time in linking it someway so we are not voting for it,” explained Gioia.

Peter Nguyen – GM of Local 1,

“While today’s reconsideration of that ill-conceived ordinance is certainly a good step forward, it never should have come to this. If you recall over the three meetings in which this ordinance was originally discussed, public opposition was unanimous and passionate. That sentiment was clearly brought out countywide by the tens of thousands of voters who signed the petition to halt your self-awarded salary increase,” said Nguyen. “The will of the voters is clear, they do not want this Board of Supervisors to directly determine their own salary increase and believe any increase must be reasonable and accomplished in a transparent, independent and fair manner. As some of you have indicated you may explore a new salary increase proposal, we would recommend a citizens panel to oversee all future changes to the compensation of this board consistent of the principal of keeping you in line with the local consumer price index so long as the average increase is granted to county employee grounds meets or exceeds that number.”

Daniel Jamison, SEIU 1021: Thank you for listening to the public and I am looking forward to moving forward.

Cheryl Gruber, ASCME 2700: She questioned the methodology and requested that the same counties be used for employees as the County Supervisors use and all classifications should be studied to remain fair highlighting every job is equally important to the public.

piepho 2014Supervisor Mary Piepho:

“My personal feeling is we need the results before we act because it sends a bad message to not see this process through to the next step as we just heard. As I understand it, the count will continue until next week’s action to directly rescind the resolution and I feel that is appropriate.

Tabulating these petitions is in the regular course of business of the elections clerk and does not cost the county any additional revenue. Those that gathered these signatures labored over the holidays spent their union member’s dollars on this effort. Cold weather, and many rainy days and while I prayed for the rain, I know it was difficult on those signature gathers. Granted they were also gathering signatures to repeal the ordinance on the ban of plastic bags in the State of California, but hard work nonetheless. I imagine these people want and deserve those signatures to be validated.

I agree to stop this process and not cost the county $2.5 million dollars on a countywide ballot initiative each time a salary increase is justified by the Board of Supervisors. That does not make financial sense and will cost the taxpayers much more in the long run than the cost of this wage increase.

Based on the level of involvement of the community and based on the fact we as a board did not educate the community on our action, merits and facts of the situation and background, I heard a lot of things that were not true.

  • 1: it is the law by voter initiative that we have to set our own salary. It’s not our own arbitration action. There is no agency, legislation body or process to take this action. We simply followed the law and legal process to introduce the ordinance.
  • 2: It was not a raise as it has been called, but a salary adjustment. It helped to address compaction amongst managers of the county and moved us up 1 position in the ladder as described in the original board order. All of our department heads and elected officials stand higher, some much higher than the board of supervisors.
  • 3: The time frame. I’ve seen people pick and choose their own time frames for this debate. IN 2006 we adopted a near 60% salary increase with the support from labor, business community, and the civil grand jury. It had been 10 years since any adjustment occurred prior to that date including zero cost of living increases. We took that action and none other since 2007, eight years ago. If we had implemented over that period of time a 4% increase each year, it would have totaled 32%. Which also describes why if we do not make an adjustment now, the salary will never catch up to our employees or Bay Area comparisons.
  • 4: It’s not pensions spiking. Anytime an employee receives a raise or pay adjustment it is meritorious to the performance of job duties and has never been considered pension spiking. Pension spiking are abuses of companion such as vacation, sick leave buy-back, etc. and not salary. Salary is a market based reflection based on performance of job duties, nothing else. Since Board of Supervisors do not receive vacation pay, overtime pay, sick leave, we do not have a form of pension spiking. And since we must compete for our jobs every four-years, we are not county career employees in this rule. We may be here one-term, two, three, four, maybe five, who knows, we don’t. We never know how long the public will support us or how long we want to be here. These are unknown for each of us separately and distinctively. Including our predecessors and successors. For a full time job and more, we do have a pension, 2% at 55, which means 2x our years of service at 55 years old plus our retirement benefit.

    Today, if Supervisor Andersen left her seat; that would be three years of service which would be multiplied by two giving her 6% of her annual salary as pension. $6,000 annually, less than $500 a month.

    Me, if I chose to retire at the end of my term, my third term, which I am not planning on doing, I’d have 12-years of serve. 12 x 2 is 24%. $24,000 per year of pension income under my current salary. Equating to $2,000 a month for a job taking 1/3 to ½ of my salary to pay for my pension.

  • 5: We are management. Top in responsibility top in accountability for the entire county. Every department, every employee, not just one single department. We manage a multi-billion county budget. Over 2.5 billion dollars, we do not get holiday or sick leave. We work many nights each and every week and most holidays if not all.

With our lack of response to the media and our county employees on this issue we have done a complete disservice to the public without educating them and informing them as to our roles and responsibilities. Not to the performance of any individual board member, but to the position we are honored to hold. Remember, we have predecessors and we will have successors, the salary adjustment proposal is for the position, not for the individual.

We have done a lot of things over the last few years that we are proud of. But we have been derelict in our duties, our effort and our successes like we did recognize at the recent board re-organization meeting.

We have saved jobs, we have protected vital public safety and public services, we have rebuilt the counties financial footing, protected and built up our budget reserves, funded deferred maintenance in our infrastructure, pre-funded our retirement and healthcare liabilities saving over a billion dollars and held the line in labor negotiations so we do not go backwards again.

We are being good stewards of the taxpayer’s dollar. We have rebuilt our credit rating back to AAA in the worst economic recession, downturn or including the Great recession. And we are the third highest populated county in the Bay Area.

In counterpoint, all the public has heard the last few months is the opposition’s rhetoric and poor or erroneous reporting. Tying our salary to California Judges is a benchmark, it is not an attempt to compare our roles to judges, responsibilities, but to tie our wages to state employee wages.

I don’t think any Politician or elected official should set their own salary, that is why I initially supported this effort. The voters of California correctly established an independent commission to set legislative salaries and I believe salaries of County Supervisors should be set independently as well.

Tying our salaries to a percentage of the judges pay has become an accepted standard in California and in several other Bay Area Counties. Judges salaries are set independently by the State Department of Personnel Administration and tied to state worker salaries, union employees.

If a middle class State Worker takes a cut, judges will and so would we. We did not explain that well to the public. Matter of fact, we did not explain it at all and neither did anyone else.

I want to go on the record now as to fact and no spin so its verifiable. Someone said we knew the salary when we took the job. I ask which employees are earning the same salary when they started their job in the county or the private sector. And our perks, our car allowance, these are legal requirements to the wear and tear on our personal vehicles used for work purposes and to compensate for our travel between work sites as defined in portal to portal act. All employees have the same benefit in value and they should.

Personally, like my fellow Supervisors, my job requires me to work all over the state and not just the boundaries of my district. Our meetings are not only held here in these Chambers on Tuesdays. They are held throughout the week on a variety of issues and often cross over into weekends and every single holiday.

Unfortunately, some believe Supervisors work begins and ends at these Tuesday meetings on Tuesdays and they could not be more wrong. The bulk of our duties and responsibilities occur outside.

I almost didn’t vote for this the first time it was presented last year but I did because it’s the law to do so and I support the Statewide practice to tie Supervisor salaries to those of represented state workers. It is an unbiased, neutral third-party model. It is transparent, independent and fair. It’s a model that benefits the employee, the taxpayer. Its unbiased and completely transparent. We are responsible for each and every county employee, manager and elected official salary including county administrator.

We did not act first to increase our compensation, we acted with our County Administrator in 2013 and our elected county heads in mid-2014. And for that period of time, for those unions in contract negotiations we worked with them to negotiate their wages and benefits while meeting revenue availability.

Neither the Sheriff’s Deputy Association nor Public Employees (Local 1) were in negotiations in 2014 or even this year. They aren’t until July 1, 2016 a year and a half from now.

Today on consent, we had a proposal before us to increase compensation of county counsel and public defenders to $234,000 each. That would have been an annual cost of over $73,000 for 2-people and two-positions. These are bay area average salaries, they are not elected, they do not have to live in the county or the district they serve yet make more than twice the annual salary of the Board of Supervisors. And it matches the District Attorneys salary, another Bay Area average. Each of these manages just one department, important departments, very important departments but singularly focused.

Not a single person is here to discuss how those wages are too high, should not be granted, the county can’t afford them, etc. Again, one of these positions is elected.

So my friends, to put it more simply, this is a no win situation and one that will be very difficult to overcome in the public’s opinion. Minimally, we need a formula to follow to remove the arbitrary perspective the public sees in raising our own compensation and stay in the market of wages as we work hard for the wages to meet in our overall 8,000 county employees as well.

Or we implement an annual salary adjustment to take place regularly and consistently each year regardless. Absent that, we should get past this exercise and move on to rebuild the public trust and gain their confidence that we are here to serve them.”

Karen MitchoffSupervisor Karen Mitchoff piggybacked off Supervisor Piepho’s comments highlighting she did not write out her comments as Piepho did. She was frustrated with the personal attacks and the unions behavior.

“This is a very emotional issue. It has nothing to do with the salary. It has nothing to do with the money. I also want to correct a thought, this was not unanimous by the voters. The voters in fact have not voted. What happened is this was signature gathering and that is fine, its part of the process and I respect that process but a majority of the public in Contra Costa County has not spoken on this issue so I want to be very clear that this was 4% (rounding up to 40,000 signatures) of over 1-million people living in this county—granted they are not all registered voters but if you just cut that in half its still about 10% so lets be very clear this was not unanimous.

One of the things that has bothered me most and actually I was asked about it by a member of the media, was the comment made by several of the labor leaders that this was not personal.And I grant you the issue is not personal because its part of the process. The Board took an action, and there was a process by which members of the public could speak to the issue. That is fine, I have no problem with that.

What I do have a problem with is the lack of respect that has been afforded to the members of the Board of Supervisors. We can agree to disagree on issues, but the lack of respect. The comments made in social media personally attacking myself and my colleagues are not okay. I don’t monitor social media. Anyone in this position is told not to do that and we don’t. I don’t have time and I don’t think my colleagues do either. But I have friends in the community as do you, and they have been appalled by the name calling and various characteristics for a better word that have been associated and described to my colleagues and myself. That is not okay.

When I talk about a fracture in a relationship between management and labor. That is at the heart of it. We are both going to have to work very hard to repair those relationships. It isn’t a matter of one side coming in or another side coming in and we just sit down and move forward. There will have to be a repairing of relationships. I am committed to doing that, I am elected to do that by the constituents of District 4, but as Supervisor Piepho mentioned we represent the entire county of Contra Costa and we represent contra costa to the State of California.

I very much appreciate Supervisor Piepho’s comments about what our job is. If there is anything that I have recognized is not only when I accepted this position 4-years ago, but that our public did not know what a member of the Board of Supervisors do, I now recognize that our employees, in my opinion, do not recognize what the members of the Board of Supervisors do. To an extent, that is alright because you come to work every day and you toil hard and I recognize because I been in some of those department and worked in other departments and how dedicated our employees are to serving the public. But you work in one-department, you have a merried of jobs within the department but its very evident to me and assume to my colleagues, that as we work it out. I meet more with county employees on county issues than I do on constituents and its apparent to me, again, that there is a lack of knowledge about what others throughout the county do. We saw that in our discussion not only several years ago, but now relative to what group is more important to another group.

As mentioned here by one of the speakers saying every job is equal, we can debate that at another time but there is obviously a feeling within the county employee ranks that not every job is equal. We try very hard to balance that responsibility and service provided. So again, this has been a very difficult situation, I want to be very clear that I do respect there process that was carried out, but we need to move forward in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect. I would also ask that we do ask our county administrator to come back to us next week with possibilities—we need to move on, we have so many more important things to deal with…

By law we have to set our salary which is why I support the metric. One of the harshest things that has been said is we think we are judges or we think we are as important as a judge. Let me be real clear here. No I don’t, but if you look at the rest of our agenda, there are several hearings on this agenda and one of the first things we are told at what we call A, B, C, D, 1, 2, 3, 4 Training, which is ethics training we take every 2 years, is we sit in a quasi-judicial role and we cannot make decisions ahead of time.

So, whether you agree with that or not. We do have to take into account facts and figures and legal situations and we do pass judgment on a number of issues that come before us and I see nothing wrong with setting a metric that is tied to a Statewide standard that our fellow colleagues throughout the State of California and Bay Area take into account.

I will be supporting the motion but I do ask our county administrator come back on January 20 with some options of how we move forward on this issue.”

Supervisor Candance Andersen hoped to move past this issue and continue working on items to help the County move forward.

“I think it has been a challenging two months for all of us and its something I am looking forward to having this put behind us. It was challenging for our public employee unions who spent much of their holiday season gathering signatures. Bottom line, my perspective is I am hearing they do value what we do I agree with both Karen (Mitchoff) and Mary (Piepho) that not everyone fully understands the role of a Supervisor. I’ve had people say well is it really a full-time job. I smile and say it’s a 12 and 14 hour per day job so there is that misunderstanding. The feedback I’ve had from many is you do work hard, you do deserve to be fairly compensated. There opposition, those that signed the petition was it was really just too much at once and they would like to see us take it out of our own hand. I am looking forward to us coming back looking at a smaller raise of course, perhaps phasing it in overtime and looking at the alternatives, perhaps that when the action comes back next week.

Perhaps having a citizens panel is one opportunity, even a judicial salary as Mary (Piepho) provided is tied to state wages… I am not sure we had the right percentages but that is something we can talk about next week.

But I do want to say I do respect each one of you and appreciate the demeanor we have been able to carry on and accomplish the things, work of the county despite having a difference on this issue and I look forward to continue working with our county staff and putting this behind us and moving forward.”

Supervisor Federal Glover noted the gap of understanding what Supervisors really do.

“I think there is a large gap of understanding and what really takes place. I appreciate my colleagues comments and I support them. It’s unfortunate that many of the people that were in this room, the opposition, got up before any of that was stated. I look forward to next week,” stated Glover.

Supervisor Gioia closed the discussion by saying that they are all on the Board to serve and the reason this is on the agenda is because they were listening.

“We all have to remember that everyone is important in this process. Our employees serve an important role, we serve an important role. The nonprofits we work with serve and important role. There is a place for all of us. What has made this county successful is we have been a team. From the management role to employee to elected level. Hopefully we can continue to do that,” said Gioia.

Approved 5-0. The item will be on next week for a final vote.

0

The Avoid the 25 anti-DUI program conducted its winter mobilization December 12, 2014 – January 1, 2015.

During the 21-day countywide campaign, there were DUI/drivers license checkpoints, a multi-agency strike team, local roving anti-DUI saturation patrols, a DUI warrant/probation sweep and a DUI court sting targeting suspended drivers who were ordered by the judge not to drive.

Compared to the previous year (2013), there was a decrease in the number of DUI related arrests, while DUI collisions increased.

2014 numbers:

  • 222 DUI arrests
  • 52 DUI collisions
  • 8 DUI injury collisions
  • 1 DUI fatal collision

2013 numbers:

  • 302 DUI arrests
  • 39 DUI collisions
  • 6 DUI injury collisions
  • 0 DUI fatal collisions

Here are some tips:

-If you drink, do not plan on driving.
-Plan ahead; designate a sober driver before the drinking/partying begins.
-If you have been drinking and need a ride, you can call a taxi, a sober friend or family member or use public transportation.
-Remember, it is never safe to drink and drive: Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.

Avoid the 25 funding is provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Information provided by the Contra Costa County Sheriffs Office. Follow them on Facebook