Deputies’ Union Sues County to Block Release of Labor Negotiation Records

An Orange County deputy sheriff. (Photo credit: Patch.com)

An Orange County deputy sheriff. (Photo credit: Patch.com)

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Update: The union’s request was rejected by a judge Friday, and negotiation records were released. Click here for details.

The union for Orange County sheriff’s deputies filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking to block the release of county records related to its labor negotiations, setting the stage for a showdown in court Friday morning.

The suit, filed by the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, asks for a judge’s order to bar the county government from releasing records sought in a Public Records Act request by Jon Fleischman, the publisher of the Flash Report.

The request is slated to be heard Friday morning at 8:30 a.m. in the Santa Ana courtroom of Superior Court Judge Craig Griffin.

Fleischman, a former executive director of the California Republican Party, filed a request on Jan. 18 for “the status and all documents of all negotiations, offers and counteroffers, supposals, formal or informal between” the county and the union.

Then, on Wednesday, two days before the county’s deadline to provide records, the deputies’ union sued, arguing that their disclosure would violate state law on public employee negotiations.

Specifically, the union argues that releasing the records would violate state law on public employee labor negotiations by breaching an agreement between the county and union that bargaining materials would not be publicized.

Releasing the records would cause “irreparable harm” to the deputies’ union “and on-going collective bargaining will be hampered through the production of the documents, thereby interfering with the public safety of the citizens of Orange County,” the suit says.

(Click here to read the lawsuit [large file size].)

Fleischman responded that the union is trying to “quash” a legitimate public records request.

“It is OBVIOUS that something is going on that they do NOT want public,” he wrote in a post on FlashReport.

He noted that the county had provided records in response to similar requests regarding recent negotiations with the Orange County Employees Association, without any legal change from the union.

OCEA General Manager Jennifer Muir “obviously respects the public records act process,” Fleischman wrote.

“I think it is an embarrassment to the [Sheriff’s] Department that the union wouldn’t want transparency. Public servants are accountable to the public,” he added.

The deputies’ union didn’t respond to a request for a response to Fleischman’s comments.

Meanwhile, county officials say they plan on releasing the records unless a judge rules against them.

“We believe the records requested are public documents and intend to produce them unless enjoined by the court,” said county spokeswoman Jean Pasco.

Later in the day Friday, county supervisors plan on discussing the case in closed session. That’s slated to take place at a 3 p.m. special meeting where they also plan to vote on a lease deal to use an abandoned bus shelter to temporarily house homeless people.

Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. He can be reached at ngerda@voiceofoc.org.

  • RyanCantor

    “The suit, filed by the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, asks for a judge’s order to bar the county government from releasing records sought in a Public Records Act request by Jon Fleischman, the publisher of the Flash Report.”

    Maybe we should worry more about not releasing prisoners from jail first.

    • Paul Lucas

      zing!

  • LFOldTimer

    Let’s hope the judge isn’t a flunkie for the police union. This is amazing. The County taxpayers are on the hook for the massive pay increase negotiated for the sheriff deputies and now they want to hide the process from the public. Well, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised after the jailgate informant scandal and the recent escape of 3 accused violent criminals from the central jail. Oh, btw. How’s the ruling on the civil suit against Hutchens whereby 5 former assistant sheriff’s sued her (or should I say the county taxpayers) for wrongful termination? The trial ended last August. Still no ruling? hmmm? Isn’t that strange? I bet there’s about $25m on the line there with all the backpay and benefits in the event of a victory for the plaintiffs. Not to mention all the attorney fees and court costs. And not a dime would come from Hutchen’s purse. Transparency from OCSD? ha. Don’t make me barf.

    • KenCoop

      Were the five terminated employees “at will” or are they part of a protected bargaining unit?

      If they were “at will” they should get nothing.

      • LFOldTimer

        Obviously you don’t know the law. Those who do not belong to a union have just as much a right to sue for wrongful termination as union employees. Do you think union employees have a corner on every market – bargaining and legal? ha. Do government workers wear crowns when they go to work in the morning? I give 2 to 1 odds that the 5 assistant sherifffs win their case and it costs the County taxpayers upwards of $20m or more. Not a single dime from Hutchen’s personal funds even though she’s responsible for the decision that caused the lawsuit. And then there are the attorney fees! I suspect that the ruling hasn’t been made public because the County is working on damage control in advance of the public finding out. There is no logical reason for a civil ruling decision to take longer than 2 months after the trial concludes. But thanks for your opinion anyway, Ed.

        • KenCoop

          Given your track record of accuracy, I doubt any of this is true.

          • LFOldTimer

            Didn’t you vote for Obama? How’s your track record? Don’t throw stones when you live in a glass house.

          • KenCoop

            Pretty good. He won…..then four years later he was…..what’s the word…..re-elected. Two for two.