Orange County Approves $10 Million-Plus Settlement With Attorneys’ Union

Just over a year after a judge ruled that Orange County supervisors illegally imposed changes to the labor terms of county attorneys, supervisors this week approved a settlement to end litigation by the attorneys’ union.

The more than $10 million, taxpayer-funded settlement applies to the roughly 500 members of the Orange County Attorneys’ Association, who work in the district attorney, public defender, county counsel and child support offices.

The deal calls for a single $10.1 million payment to the attorneys, plus $200,000 for every pay period in which implementation is delayed beyond April 2.  That would put the cost at at least $10.5 million.

About $5.1 million of the lump-sum payment costs are expected to come from the county general fund, with the rest being absorbed by departments’ existing budgets.

The legal dispute has its origins in supervisors’ May 2013 imposition of labor changes on the attorneys, including changes to pension contributions, premium pay, cost of living adjustments and health contributions.

In reaction, the union filed two complaints with the state’s Public Employee Relations Board, as well as a lawsuit.

A PERB judge ended up siding largely with the union, ruling that supervisors acted in “bad faith” when they unilaterally imposed wage and benefit concessions in 2013.

The ruling, which was appealed by the county, also required the county to return wage and benefit concessions made to the union, plus 7 percent interest, and also compensate union members “for any financial losses” from the May 2013 imposition.

The recent settlement, which resolved all of the litigation, was approved by a majority of union members, as well as a unanimously vote Tuesday by county supervisors.

It includes new labor deal calling for annual base salary increases of 1 percent this year and next, and 2 percent each year for the following three years.  The deal is scheduled to last until June 2019.

(Click here to read the settlement agreement and here to read the labor agreement that was approved as part of the settlement.)

It passed with only a brief comment from one supervisor, Chairman Todd Spitzer, who thanked the union for working with supervisors.

“Obviously we had a difference of opinion,” Spitzer said, adding that the union came to Supervisor Shawn Nelson and himself and they were able to work out an “amicable” solution.

The attorneys’ union didn’t speak at Tuesday’s meeting, though its board said it was pleased with the settlement in a message to members.

In the past, Nelson has publicly defended the supervisors’ position, saying they “had no choice” but to impose terms due to the April 2013 loss of $73 million per year in county revenue to the state.

You can contact Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

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  • John Claxton

    So the two BOS who are also attorneys hammered out a deal with the other 500 county attorneys. Gee imagine that. And now they think they saved the day! So the attorneys who filed the suit against the county, did they generate all these documents at their desk while on the taxpayers dime? Did the county pay plaintiffs attorney fees? If so whomdid they go to? More bad decisions made by the BOS from information given to them by the same lame county counsel attorney. It’s time to say enough is enough.

  • Trudy White

    “Difference of opinion”, Spitzer? No. Buying a guy a drink is how differences of opinion are resolved. This one is more of a “screwed the pooch”, pal. That is OUR MONEY, folks. Yet another example of the failure of the County, and it’s fine lawyers. County Counsel sues itself to pay itself. Nice work if you can get it.

  • OCservant_Leader

    This sounds like exactly what the BOS did to the Managers of the County? Can someone explain the difference? When the lawyers have to sue…you know it’s a toxic work environment.

  • octaxpayer

    Again tax payers lose. County out of control. Yet we see no accountability within county. The BOS make bad calls with tax payer money and keep moving up the ranks.

  • Philmore

    “In the past, Nelson has publicly defended the supervisors’ position, saying they “had no choice” but to impose terms due to the April 2013 loss of $73 million per year in county revenue to the state”
    So NOW its $73M/yr +$10.1M + $200K/pay period. Wonderful. And despite the split between General fund( 5.1M), and Department budgets, 100 PERCENT IS PASSED TO THE TAXPAYERS !
    Does anyone request (or read) supporting analysis before these votes, or is there merely a ‘Magic 8 Ball’ hidden behind the dias?……………. “Ask Again”.