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Monday, August 29, 2011

City Council Was Told It Could Not Disclose Proposed Contract with LB Police Officers Association

It wasn't a slip of the tongue. It was a deliberate disclosure of some of the details of the proposed new contract with the Long Beach Police Officers Association that one of the councilmembers gave to the Press Telegram last week.

There are several problems with the Lone Ranger in doing what he did: 1) he was not the designated spokesperson for the City Council and thus as the City Attorney will probably confirm, he was out of line; 2) Mayor Bob Foster negotiated the contract with the POA and only he should have been discussing what is in the proposal; 3) he only gave his version of what the proposed contract includes -- leaving the public to wonder what else is in the contract and the cost benefit analysis of the features of the agreement (which some say is why he did what he did); 4) since most of the contract is out in the public, the rest needs to be as well.

For a long time I have been advocating for making labor negotiations more transparent to the public. I believe the public has the right to know the details of what the council is doing regarding collective bargaining; details that are not leaked out but are provided in their full context. City management was directed by the council several months ago to put on the agenda a process for making negotiations more open and transparent -- we asked that this be done before the budget is passed. The budget has to be passed on September 15th. So where is the item?

I am sure that the Lone Ranger will respond that his talking to the press is being open and transparent. But it wasn't, because he only gave selective details of the contract that was given to us in a closed session and none of us have seen the actual contract language that will be placed into the agreement.

Had we a more open and transparent process, the information wouldn't be trickled out to the public as it was. You want real open and transparent? Click here and see how the City of San Jose posts everything about their labor negotiations so the public can see all along the way what is being negotiated. No surprises when the council gets ready to ratify a contract.

And by the way for those who think this would be awful in Long Beach...nothing bad has happened in San Jose because the public knows what is being negotiated. The unions still come to the table. Negotiations still take place. Management is still able to bargain from a strong position. And my hunch is that the public trust is much higher.

I Chair the Civil Service and Personnel Committee of the City Council and I will start conducting hearings on how we can make negotiations more open and transparent. A first "baby step" for transparency in employee negotiations is something that San Jose does in addition to posting negotiations on line -- it is a requirement that annually the city disclose an update on all employee contracts -- when they are set to expire, how much they cost, etc. The report also explains the state labor law governing these negotiations, the personnel rules and other items that impact negotiations. That way the public gets to know what is going on.

Click here to read San Jose's "Sunshine Report." It is enlightening!

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