Judge Declines to Dismiss Part of Costa Mesa Outsourcing Lawsuit

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A lawsuit to prevent outsourcing of Costa Mesa city services and related layoffs will move forward after a judge denied the city’s request to throw out part of the suit.

On Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Barbara Tam Nomoto Schumann rejected Costa Mesa’s request to dismiss the suit’s allegation that the city violated its labor contract with the city employees union.

In March, Costa Mesa issued pink slips to 213 of its full-time employees — almost half the workforce — which gave notice that the city may lay off the workers after six months.

City officials said at the time that the layoffs are part of a plan to outsource numerous city services.

The lawsuit, filed in May by the Costa Mesa City Employees Association, argued that the planned layoffs violate both state law and the city’s labor contract.

It claims that state law restricts Costa Mesa to only outsource “special services” and that the current labor contract requires a “joint decision” by the union and the city before it outsources any services.

John Vogt, an attorney representing the city in the case, asserted in a news release that the judge based her latest decision on a false interpretation of the labor contract by the union.

“The union’s alleged interpretation is not an interpretation at all, but rather a contradiction to the contract, which allows for outsourcing and even provides for a six-month notice for it,” said Vogt.

Helen Nenadal, president of the union, issued a statement hailing the judge’s decision.

“The employees are grateful that calmer and more reasoned minds continue to prevail over the politically motivated agenda of the City Council majority,” Nenadal wrote.

The suit seeks a permanent court order preventing the city from laying off employees represented by the union in order to outsource services they provide. Judge Schumann issued a temporary injunction in July that prevents the city from outsourcing its services to the private sector.

About 90 of the employees facing potential layoffs are firefighters represented by a union that is not involved in the suit.

Bill Lobdell, a spokesman for the city, said he couldn’t exactly say how much Costa Mesa has spent on the legal battle but estimated that it was more than $100,000 so far. The city is paying the Jones Day law firm $500 per hour for its work on the case.

The trial is scheduled to begin in April.

— NICK GERDA

 

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