Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Judge Halts Costa Mesa's Privatization Plan

Given that Costa Mesa's plans for outsourcing a large chunk of its public workforce to private contractors have gotten the attention of every union-shilling politician in the state, it's not surprising that the City Council's approval of those plans hasn't been the last word in the matter. The Orange County Register reports this morning that Superior Court Judge Tam Nomoto Schumann has put a temporary halt to the outsourcing plan.

Back in May, the Costa Mesa Employees Association sued the city to prevent the layoffs of 213 members, and yesterday had a chance to present its case in court. Essentially, the union argued that Costa Mesa violated the employees' contract by failing to meet with them before issuing layoff notices, and that many of the jobs targeted for outsourcing (e.g., bookkeeping, jails, and animal control) are not "special services" that the city may legally outsource to private companies. As a result, Schumann issued a preliminary injuction to halt the plan until the case proceeds to trial.

Insofar as the politics surrounding Costa Mesa's plan have always far exceeded their actual impact, the significance of the injuction is unclear. Unlike the staffing cuts that took place in cities like San Jose, no one in Costa Mesa lost their job at the end of the fiscal year. Even though the state's Democrats and brain-dead journalists have vilified the City Council for its supposed "extremism," what they've actually proposed is this: plan to replace half the workforce with private contractors, and then spend the summer researching the available outsourcing options. Lost in the hype is the fact that these workers might well keep their jobs, if no suitable private alternative is available (this is California, after all). So, the injuction basically means that Costa Mesa is prohibited from planning to outsource. While Judge Schumann was (likely deliberately) vague about what constituted "proper procedures" for the layoffs, the fact that they're months from occurring suggests the city has plenty of time to get its ducks in a row. Unless the judge is prepared to conclude that government workers have jobs for life.

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