In December, Orange County Budget Director Frank Kim offered the Board of Supervisors a PowerPoint presentation full of items that the county could take back from the county’s three main unions at the negotiating table when their contracts expire.

The list included reducing salary premium pay, and holiday pay accrual rates; limiting step increases; and eliminating leave payouts and county pickups on pensions.

Yet the managers contract, which the board is scheduled to vote on today, includes only one: eliminating county pickups on pensions. And this giveback by managers comes with an expansion of bonus programs.

The same bonus programs were highlighted in a scathing report by the county’s performance auditor. The report concluded that such merit-based bonuses were being treated as automatic pay raises because they were almost always granted.

Supervisor Shawn Nelson does not like this proposed swap. “We should never be horse-trading benefits,” Nelson said.

Nelson said he will argue on the dais today that supervisors should not approve a contract for managers that doesn’t significantly cut perks. Supervisors should take a harder line on executive perks, especially since the board if nearing next year’s round of negotiations with the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs and the Orange County Employees Association.

“If this board approves this kind of contract and I ran a union in Orange County, I’d sure use it as leverage,” Nelson said. “The board is better off not adopting it.”

Yet Supervisor John Moorlach says the concessions on pension costs are remarkable.

“I don’t know how that’s not a significant thing to have negotiated,” Moorlach said. “We’re not starting at 1 percent [as with the last round of deputy labor talks]. We’re getting it all [full coverage of the employee annual costs].”

“That’s a serious, serious concession,” Moorlach said. “By gosh, I’m surprised they agreed to it.”

Moorlach acknowledged that certain executive bonuses were expanded “to sweeten the pot” but said taxpayers are still getting a great deal.

That’s not what Nelson thinks. “It’s a mistake to adopt this contract,” Nelson said. “It’s a bad idea.”


Since you've made it this far,

You are obviously connected to your community and value good journalism. As an independent and local nonprofit, our news is accessible to all, regardless of what they can afford. Our newsroom centers on Orange County’s civic and cultural life, not ad-driven clickbait. Our reporters hold powerful interests accountable to protect your quality of life. But it’s not free to produce. It depends on donors like you.

Join the conversation: In lieu of comments, we encourage readers to engage with us across a variety of mediums. Join our Facebook discussion. Message us via our website or staff page. Send us a secure tip. Share your thoughts in a community opinion piece.