In a meeting that ran until 3:00 a.m. Wednesday, the Costa Mesa City Council majority led by Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, voted to outsource two city services to private contractors. Those decisions will be prevented from implementation until the lawsuit, filed by the Costa Mesa City Employees Association—the union representing most of the affected city, is resolved.
The council voted 4-1 to contract out street sweeping and jail services. Based upon contractor and city estimates, the contracting out of street sweeping services will save about $88,000 a year along by contracting with Athens Services. There should be additional savings from equipment and maintenance and costs. The projected savings for contracting out jail services are estimated to be about $600,000 annually, once the contractor is fully up and running the jail.
Opponents of the outsourcing of jail services have raised concerns that the savings projected by the contractor, G4S Secure Solutions, are exaggerated and unrealistic.
Councilwoman Wendy Leece, expressed her objections to the contracting out proposals:
“With the injunction still outstanding and the lawsuit yet to be resolved… I just don’t even think we should be discussing this,” Leece said. “I’m not in a hurry to support this,” she said. “I don’t think that the savings is remarkable to switch from our own trained employees.”
The city has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to defend its decision to issue blanket layoff notices to almost half their workforce. The estimated savings hardly seem to justify the costs in staff morale, employee jobs, and legal costs.
Costa Mesa City Employees Association spokesperson Jennifer Muir told the Orange County Register:
“It has been a brutal 14 months for the employees of Costa Mesa. They’ve received pink slip after pink slip, after pink slip, after pink slip so the City Council could advance their political agenda and that’s disgusting. Not only has the court told them they can’t do this, they have failed to present an accurate picture and a complete picture to residents about what the consequences of handing over control of public services to private corporations could be.”
The City Council decided to pull animal control, building inspection and video productions off the table as well and rescinded layoff notices for the affected employees after a staff analysis showed these services are better provided in house. The council decided to rescind the 87 layoff notices issued in March 2011 to the city’s Fire Department.
More contracting out proposals are expected to come before the council in the coming months. An Appeals Court hearing, on the city challenge to a Superior Court injunction preventing outsourcing until the lawsuit is resolved, is scheduled for May 23rd.