County Auditors to Review Legal Billings on Negotiations

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County internal auditors are reviewing billing records from private lawyers hired by county supervisors to handle what has been called the Super Bowl of labor talks – named such because nearly every union at the county has had their contract up for renewal.

Contract talks with all the unions have dragged on for more than two years, with a switch to private negotiators in 2012 just as former CEO Tom Mauk was ushered out.

Negotiations with the union representing more than 2,000 deputy sheriffs went completely off the tracks in April, with a formal impasse being declared.

That prompted a public split amongst supervisors on the current approach.

County Supervisor Todd Spitzer publicly raised concerns about the path of negotiations, even privately brokering dealpoints with the deputies. Meanwhile, Supervisor John Moorlach has introduced an openness ordinance over labor negotiations – with the aim of avoiding privately-brokered deals by supervisors.

“We’ve been doing ‘supposals’ for months,” Spitzer said earlier this month, asking how such an ordinance would be effective.

Spitzer is increasingly arguing publicly that the board of supervisors should be more visible in negotiations. And he’s not happy about the legal bills for professional negotiators, who so far haven’t been able to craft a deal.

Earlier this month, Spitzer publicly grilled the lawyers on the negotiation team about their billings – questioning one lawyer’s billing for reading Supervisor Shawn Nelson’s newsletter.

He also questioned whether the attorney’s have properly billed county supervisors for their travel commutes – with Spitzer arguing they must talk to other clients in the car traveling between LA and Orange County.

Attorney Richard Kreisler shot back at Spitzer in public session and defended his billings.

Regarding bills for reading Nelson’s newsletter, Kreisler said it was important because, “its essential to know what my clients are saying.”

County supervisors set a June 17 deadline for internal auditors to return to public session with an update.

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