Voice of OC reporter Adam Elmahrek published this story about “generous” contracts provided to Anaheim city employees last month which promised the city’s general employees union with no layoffs, no outsourcing of city services, a stop to furloughs, and a lump sum payment of $2,200 to every employee who took furlough days as the city worked through a tough economic climate.
From Elmahrek’s story:
That a Republican-dominated city council would agree to such a contract given the current political and budgetary climate surrounding public employee unions has not only raised eyebrows among some inside City Hall but also triggered rebukes from two council members, one a Republican who voted against the deal and one a Democrat who supported it.
The Orange County Employees Association, which represents the Anaheim Municipal Employees Association, paid for expensive mailers that called Murray, Eastman and Sidhu “The Giveaway Three.” The union also helped fill a KABC-TV town hall meeting with anti-subsidy protesters, turning the general forum into another show of anger.
And most importantly, OCEA was the main funder of a signature drive, which was being led by Democratic City Councilwoman Lorri Galloway, for a November ballot proposition that would require all future hotel subsidies to be subject to a citywide vote.
The question being asked around City Hall is how, against that backdrop, did this deal happen?
Much speculation at City Hall is now focusing on an April meeting between Nick Berardino, OCEA general manager; Carrie Nocella, Disneyland’s government relations and minority business development director; and Todd Ament, Anaheim Chamber of Commerce president.
“We know that meeting was not a hello-how-are-you meeting,” said Galloway, who is now publicly questioning whether key business leaders were involved behind the scenes to help the council majority turn down the heat on a blistering union offensive in Anaheim.
“It was all about deal making,” Galloway said.
Galloway reached out to us because she felt Elmarhek had left some details out of his story. We did tell her the comments section of Voice of OC is available for her to add on to the reporter’s story, but who are we to turn down an exclusive?
Here’s Galloway’s statement:
I want to share statements that I gave to Adam that were not included in his article. Adam approached me. I did not seek him. He wanted me to comment on statements from trusted inside sources that there was a deal made to get the votes needed for the AMEA contract using our initiative as leverage.
1. Although I have always been an outspoken advocate of our wonderful city employees, I did not collude, in any way, with Nick Berardino to obtain a contract for Anaheim employees. I did not direct or author any hit pieces against any council members.
2. My involvement with Berardino was solely because he offered to advance the “Let the People Vote” initiative. I welcomed his support and am grateful for his help.
3. The statement that there was no community support for the initiative is false. Thousands upon thousands of signatures have been obtained. Signature gatherers report that people are anxious to sign and many are angry to know that $158 million of taxpayer money was given to one private developer with no public input. Community leaders, residents, students, citizens of all ages come to city hall week after week to voice support of “Let the People Vote”. To say that there is no community support is saying that their voices don’t count.
4. The “Let the People Vote” initiative is not dead. Multiple polls were conducted that show tremendous support, averaging 85% approval. Just because Nick Berardino pulled out, does not mean we die and go home.
5. Our initiative is truly meant to be the voice of the people. I personally have nothing to gain by spearheading it. That is not true for others. Obviously, it could be a tool used by unions for their own purposes. One hotelier and his consultants have millions to gain and millions of reasons to fight against the people’s initiative. Other hotel developers see the potential to benefit from the same type of deal.
6. A Disney representative and the Anaheim Chamber president meeting with the head of the union for Anaheim municipal employees says more than anyone could ever attempt to deny.
7. An inside AMEA member close to negotiations verified to me that a deal was, in fact, made that involved the guarantee of the votes needed for a contract in exchange for stopping the union actions.
TheLiberalOC learned last month that the ballot initiative was close on the required number of signatures to make the ballot in November. The Voice of OC is reporting that the effort led by Galloway won’t get the needed number of signatures but no one knows for certain.
From the Voice of OC story:
Galloway is most upset by the prospect that the union’s withdrawal of support from the petition drive was the result of a deal between OCEA, business leaders and the council majority.
Her signature-gathering effort has sputtered badly over the past month. And though she has yet to acknowledge it, it seems that submitting the required signatures before the deadline for the November ballot — which she said is this week — will not be achieved.
“If that kind of thing [deal-making] happened, I’m just so disillusioned,” Galloway said. “He [Berardino] said he was going to be a warrior with me. … He left me in the bunker alone.”
Berardino said Galloway is misreading the situation. From the beginning, the agreement with her was that OCEA would fund the initiative up to a certain point but that the other backers would have to take over fundraising, Berardino said.
“When the initiative was discussed I informed everybody that the community would have to take over the initiative process, because OCEA as a public employees union would not be credible to the community,” Berardino said. “We gold-plated this gathering effort. Lorri made a great effort to raise money but was unable to do so.”
Berardino said Tait also shares responsibility for the failure of the signature-gathering drive. “Tait refused to campaign for the ballot initiative and refused to help raise money. So if anybody was left in the trenches, it was OCEA,” he said.