Orange County lays off more workers, seniority doesn’t count.

Today, Sheriff Sandra Hutchens will announce her planned cuts in staffing to address the $28 million budget cut the department must absorb this year. The Orange County Register’s Jennifer Muir reports some details this morning:

Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens plans to lay off two assistant sheriffs and six captains to help rein in department expenses, according to a draft presentation about her cost-cutting plans obtained by the Register.

In all, the sheriff plans to lay off 25 to 30 employees and delete 51 vacant positions from across the department. Nearly 200 positions would be impacted, either through layoffs, shifting roles to reduce overtime or to fill necessary roles, or demotiions. Laying off the assistant sheriffs and captains will reduce her command staff by 40 percent, for a savings of $2.2 million, according to the presentation.

Read more of Jennifer’s Report here.

The willingness to spread the cuts to management positions in other departments facing cuts seems to stop at the Sheriff’s Department.

Nick Berardino

Nick Berardino

Earlier this month the Orange County Employee Association’s (OCEA) General Manager Nick Berardino sent a letter to all OCEA members.  In his letter, Nick once again described in painful detail the disdain that some senior managers in county agencies have for the people who actually get the job done.

Effective yesterday the Orange County Public Works Department laid off 5 Building Inspectors from their jobs.  Citing a lack of funding and a lack of work, the County moved through the process with what has become a familiar lack of creativity and an attitude that was indifferent at best.  Despite OCEA’s attempt to look at alternatives to layoffs as well as our own statistical analysis of the job position, the County insisted on moving forward with the only solution it has to this crisis – cut regular employees and continue to reward executive management with perks and other additional compensation.

Even more offensive than the indifferent and callous attitude of County management, was the County’s insistence that this layoff not follow seniority as laid out in the MOU. Instead, Public Works decided to invoke the “Special Skills” portion of the MOU to justify the layoff of some the section’s most senior employees.  Five employees with experience totaling over 110 years of County service were told that the time they dedicated to the department and to the County means nothing.  Five employees with families who depend on them for their economic security were told that they had to find different work.

A few days later Berardino sent a message out regarding the discussions with the District Attorney’s Office regarding their budget reduction plans.

Today we met with representatives from the County and the DA’s Office regarding proposed reductions.  Frankly, I was embarrassed for them.  We asked for very elementary information, such as the total salary cost for our members, which they did not have.  They had to break for almost 45 minutes in order to come up with the number.

Then our questions got even more difficult for them (excuse my sarcasm). Evaluate their competency for yourselves:

OCEA:  What will happen if employees don’t agree to furloughs?
County/DA:  We were hoping you would agree to the plan.

After some more push questions:

OCEA:  Do you have a detailed plan?
County/DA:  There is no other detailed plan.
OCEA:  If you laid people off, how many OCEA members would be affected?
County/DA:  It would be a range of 25 – 40 employees.
OCEA:  Which classifications would be laid off?
County/DA:  We don’t know.
OCEA:  How many of the 25 – 40 employees would be OCEA-represented employees?
County/DA:  We don’t know.

I won’t continue to bore you with the detail, but it just went on like this.  Oh wait, you have to hear this part of the dialogue (I can’t resist):

County/DA:  Have you talked to your members about a furlough?
OCEA:  No, we haven’t, because if we did, we would look as stupid as you look. Our members are smart enough to ask us, “What happens if we don’t agree to a furlough?”  And we would have to answer, “We don’t know.”  So, we are not going to address the issue with our members until we have all the facts.

We then made another appeal for the Executive Management to give up their car allowances (the number of managers receiving them in the DA’s Office is the largest of any County department, absolutely obscene). Of course they wouldn’t agree to our proposal.

The Office wants to start the reduction in 16 days.  Fat chance, since they don’t even have a plan to present if employees choose to reject the furlough option.

I spoke to some high ranking officials asking if I could wear a mini lapel camera to the meeting so I could show them firsthand how the County and DA officials are conducting themselves during these meetings, so that we could request some intervention from the CEO or the Board of Supervisors or elsewhere to help with the process.  Of course, these officials would not let me “cam-up.”  But I was serious, because I realize that without physical evidence and watching this circus of incompetence for themselves, high level County officials are going to side with their department heads and discount our criticisms as “those union folks are just making this up and exaggerating.”

Earlier this month the county’s probation department laid off 93 additional employees. The layoffs in probation had little if any impact on management positions in the department.

So much for that County Mission Statement and its Core Values:

We commit to creating a positive, service-oriented culture which:
Attracts and retains the best and the brightest;
Fosters a spirit of collaboration and partnership internally and externally
Supports creativity, innovation, and responsiveness
Demonstrates a “can-do” attitude in accomplishing timely results
Creates a fun, fulfilling and rewarding working environment
Models the following core values in everything we do:

Respect • Integrity • Caring • Trust • Excellence  

Hmmm.