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.
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.