It’s been just over six months since a new Republican majority aiming to outsource most city services swept into power in Costa Mesa.
Yet despite more than 200 layoff notices last March, a worker suicide, national headlines, lawsuits and months of ensuing protests at council meetings that drag on well into night, not one job has been outsourced.
On Tuesday night, it took a 4-1 council majority well past 10 p.m. to issue their first requests for proposals (RFPs), which call for outsourcing jail services, video production and building inspection.
Just before the vote, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, the tactical and parliamentary leader of the council majority, rebuked labor officials and citizen activists who have opposed the outsourcing.
“We’re finally getting to the point of getting RFPs,” said Righeimer, who was obviously irritated. “Your process has worked very well.”
Righeimer reacted to the usual barrage of criticism from the speakers podium by expressing his own frustrations with activists and labor officials, accusing the latter of negating November’s election results by extending their labor contracts just before he took office and tilted the council majority toward outsourcing.
In dealing with the city’s budget woes, “All we have the ability to do is layoff or outsource,” Righeimer said. “It’s not a gun to your head; it’s just the process we have left.”
He also lashed out against public criticism of the city’s mounting legal bills, saying lawsuits that labor groups had won in court are the cause. “Just stop the suing,” Righeimer said.
He even criticized city staff for what he saw as biased reports on outsourcing prospects. A staff review is required by the city’s own policies and resulted in another legal challenge by local labor officials to rescind prior RFPs.
On Tuesday, Righeimer accused staffers of skewing their recommendations in a jail outsourcing report.
“It’s the most biased report I’ve ever seen in my life,” Righeimer said. “It’s embarrassing … 18 pros and only one con [regarding current jail services]. It’s just ridiculous.”
In what has now become common during council meetings, Councilwoman Wendy Leece took issue with Righeimer.
“I don’t want to do this just to get rid of employees,” Leece said.
At one point, Leece battled Righeimer, who said he did not want the minutes of the meeting to indicate what his motivation for the outsourcing was.
“I want nothing read into the record here that speaks of motivation,” Righeimer said.
Leece then grilled CEO Tom Hatch on how RFPs would be evaluated at the staff level, asking him, “How will you determine whether we will have a lesser level of service?”
Hatch cited cost as one of many factors and added that level of service is important. He didn’t, however, give a clear explanation on how the process would work.
— NORBERTO SANTANA JR.