Santana: Will Gov. Brown Go Up on CRONEY?

Is the OC a Croney County?

After watching a year long, bare-knuckled political fistfight in Sacramento over the funky nickname, it now comes down to one man’s call.

Gov. Jerry Brown.

Orange County supervisors started the brawl last year by adopting that very standard for their labor contracts with the Civic Openness in Negotiations (COIN) ordinance.

Soon after, local labor partnered with State Sen. Tony Mendoza — presenting their own counter-offer for public discourse, the Civic Reporting Openness in Negotiations Efficiency Act, or CRONEY.

The two sides have been rumbling ever since throughout state legislative committees and the floors of both houses.

The State Senate narrowly approved CRONEY and presented it to Brown at about 10:45 p.m. last Friday.

Orange County supervisors have been freaking out over the legislation from day one, with officials such as State Sen. John Moorlach (the former county supervisor who introduced COIN) and State Senators Pat Bates and Janet Nguyen (two other former county supervisors who supported COIN) taking deep offense at the implication that public contracting in their backyard is corrupt and essentially for sale to the highest campaign bidder.

They have denounced CRONEY as nothing more than political payback for efforts to shed light on labor negotiations, which are indeed difficult to track publicly given the nature of the state’s collective bargaining rules.

Media institutions such as the Los Angeles Times and First Amendment groups like CalAware have both applauded efforts to shine more light on labor talks. The same kinds of groups push for similar transparency when it comes to corporate contracts.

In an email update this week to supporters, Moorlach took direct aim at Brown, characterizing his potential support for CRONEY as evidence of payback and public employee dominance of Sacramento.

“He (Brown) should want more public scrutiny of the negotiation process, as he’s not doing so well in this critical area…The Governor knows that I was critical of his efforts on addressing retiree medical liabilities. I would call it “reform-lite,” as it only makes the pension problem worse (more on this at a later time). All to say, I’m sure that the Governor will sign SB 331 in retribution, which seems to be the theme here. But, the taxpayers will lose, again, thanks to the dominance of the public employee unions.”

OCEA General Manager Jennifer Muir doesn’t agree that payback accurately describes what’s in play here.

“Evenly applied transparency,” is how she publicly describes CRONEY.

If you want to have hyper-public labor talks, you should have hyper-public private contract talks, Muir argues.

Note that CRONEY doesn’t apply if you don’t adopt or if you repeal COIN.

County supervisors had a chance to back up from that confrontation earlier this month after a judge ruled they had improperly adopted their COIN ordinance. Yet despite the public urging of their County Counsel, county supervisors have to this date stood steadfast in their desire to keep the tenets of COIN – public labor negotiating.

Supervisor Shawn Nelson has openly aired concerns that if CRONEY were enacted, it would bring public contracting at the county of Orange to a halt.

“It’s just going to make doing anything difficult,” Nelson said, noting that if that standard is necessary for Orange County, it should be used in other counties.

All this again prompts the key question: Is Orange County markedly different – more infected by Cronyism – than others?

Keep in mind, these are the same county supervisors who when they found themselves short on property tax money because of their 2006 bankruptcy refinancing, scrambled to convince the local auditor controller to give them $73 million in tax dollars set aside for local community colleges. Brown successfully sued supervisors in court to get the tax money back.

Once again, answering whether Orange County is different comes down to one guy.

Brown should call Steve Danley.

He’s the former Director of Human Resources for the County of Orange, who traveled to Sacramento years back when OCEA had another bill – sponsored by Lou Correa – attempting to take hiring away from the county HR department because of instances of politicized hiring.

Back then, Danley – who was one of Nelson’s favorite executives as board chairman – told Sacramento that Orange County was bringing its situation under control.

That same guy just abruptly retired in protest because the situation is not under control.

If all California counties are run like Orange County, then maybe business as usual should indeed grind to a halt.

Again, it comes down to one person.

Consider last week’s Orange County supervisors’ meeting, where David Carr got up to thank supervisors because his firm, ECORP Consulting, had won a contract against a politically-connected vendor for a South County landfill contract.

Yet despite ECORP winning out in the public bidding process, County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett changed all that with one quick motion that reversed the public process and kept the current vendor, and of course was approved unanimously at the dais without any kind of debate.

The winning vendor – LSA & Associates – has earned numerous headlines in Voice of OC and other media since 2010 for it’s storied role in the attempted privatization of the Orange County fairgrounds as the firm that facilitated the hiring of lawyers and lobbyists by questionably amending a fairgrounds parking lot repaving contract on their own.

According to a quick records check, the firm directly gave out $3,700 in campaign contributions to county supervisors since 2010.

District Attorney Tony Rackauckas cleared LSA & Associates last year of any criminal wrongdoing in the fairgrounds saga.

Yet under this kind of contracting and hiring environment, people like Steve Danley and David Carr – who don’t play ball and aren’t giving to campaigns — seemingly have no chance.

It’s now up to Gov. Jerry Brown to tell us whether they should.

  • merelyashadow

    I don’t think there isn’t a politician in this county that isn’t on the take. And T-Rac won’t prosecute any of them. Any guesses why?

  • Judy Allen

    Jerry Brown et al MUST investigate the whole Orange County bureaucracy! There are corruption and dishonesty and self-serving actions EVERYWHERE! My (and your) tax dollars are collected and are either never used for their stated purpose or allowed to dribble away for payoffs and non allowed expenses rather than for the good AND HONEST NEEDS of the county residents, NOT THE MEMBERS OF THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS AND THEIR “FRIENDS”. This has been going on for years and years and MUST STOP NOW!

  • Kathleen Tahilramani

    If Danley has something to say – say it. Period. Stand up and tell the truth.
    Ready to give up your best buddy Mike? Let’s see. If Danley has the guts to spill everything – and that is everything and the backbone to burn his buddy well then maybe the great sneaky leaky Danley has finally grown the guts to stand up and tell the truth using his own name & showing his face. It’s so much easier to do your dirty work using others and slipping secrets anonymously…right Steve we know that has been your trusty method. I guess maybe your getting a taste of betrayal ….not so good is it? Count me unimpressed until Danley speaks himself honestly and directly.

    • David Zenger

      Well, he’s got nothing to lose, so maybe he will. I would be interested to see if Norberto’s got it right about his resignation.

      • John Claxton

        He’s got nothing to gain either. I’m betting on silence.

        • Kathleen Tahilramani

          His style is to use others to do his dirty work and then stand back and beam like an alter boy. Not the get your hands dirty roll in the muck type. Just leak here and there and relay on plausible deniability,

  • RyanCantor

    “Note that CRONEY doesn’t apply if you don’t adopt or if you repeal COIN.”

    This is quite possibly the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of.

    Either CRONEY is necessary, or it isn’t.

    What an embarrassment to us all. This is the state of public affairs in California.

    • kburgoyne

      Either COIN is necessary or it isn’t. Sounds like they’re letting the counties decide whether they think BOTH are necessary or NEITHER are necessary. Beats the GOP legislatures in other states that tread all over local governments when the wishes of the local citizens conflict with the wishes of the bribe money flowing in the state legislature. Keep in mind the state legislature COULD have simply overridden COIN entirely with some overarching legislation, just like GOP legislatures love to do in other states.

      • RyanCantor

        I don’t follow, sorry.

  • David Zenger

    “If you want to have hyper-public labor talks, you should have hyper-public private contract talks, Muir argues.”

    This is a completely disingenuous statement. While the two processes may follow similar trajectories, they have no nexus with each other. It’s true that dirty little deals are done by the Supervisors at the behest of lobbyists and campaign contributors, but that has ZERO to do with labor negotiations.

    Obviously the ploy is to get the County to drop COIN. There is no intent on the part of the unions or Brown to foster transparency. This is just extortion.

    • kburgoyne

      Huh? It’s completely in agreement. Labor is a service being provided to the county, just like any other service. Why do the supervisors think they’re under any pressure to drop COIN? What’s wrong with proudly adopting CRONEY instead?

      • David Zenger

        No. The negotiations for union agreements are not a procurement. They don’t even fall under the same parts of the Government Code. The unions have a monopoly. There is no alternative, no one else to bargain with.

        I am the first to admit that the County procurement system is a disgrace and desperately needs to be cleaned up. But using that as a ploy to take labor negotiations back into the smoky back room where the County’s “negotiators” have previously sold us out* is just extortion.

        * 2.7 @ 55, retroactive benefit being the grossest example of being sold down the river by County managers who were actually giving themselves a huge windfall.

        • kburgoyne

          I still don’t see why CRONEY is automatically “a ploy to take labor negotiations back into the smoky back room”. Sure sounds like an incentive to make other procurement negotiations equally transparent if the county can’t trust doing negotiations behind closed doors.

          Only a county that wants to keep other procurement negotiations “in the smoky back room” has to deal with their efforts to be hypocrites about being in favor of transparency when it suits them but not when it doesn’t suit them. If a county feels they have policies in place to honestly perform negotiations behind close doors, then CRONEY doesn’t force them to do otherwise. It leaves the power to decide in the hands of the counties.

          Sure sounds like pretty light handed legislation. It lets the counties decide whether they can trust themselves or not.

    • gazoo

      Forget about unions in this for a minute…..shouldn’t the whole david carr being the lowest bid for a contract and not getting the contract necessitate CRONEY by itself…if not that shameless incident what then?

      • David Zenger

        Because what happened to Carr had nothing to do with contract negotiations. It had to do with a well-connected vendor making some phone calls to scuttle the deal.

        It’s part of the ethics problem.

        BTW, very little “negotiating” really goes on between vendor and County. Most of the time it’s “here’s our price, here’s your contract.” It was the huge IT contracts that became a mess of back and forth and worst of all an opportunity for the interference of Janet Nguyen, enabled by Mauk and Bates, to keep steering things to her special vendor – another massive ethics problem.

        • gazoo

          Dave… Look at what your saying….. Well connected vendors making phone calls…. Under croney those conversations would have to be brought to light….

          • David Zenger

            Whoa, there. So CRONEY includes all communications related to a specific contract – even if it’s not with the recommended vendor? Would that also include communications with staff?

            Now I’ll have to find the text and actually read it! Can you help with a citation?

          • gazoo
          • David Zenger

            “e) Each governing body member and staff members of governing body offices must disclose publicly all verbal, written, electronic, or other communications regarding a subject matter related to the negotiations or pending negotiations they have had with any official or unofficial representative of the private entity within 24 hours after the communication occurs.”

            This seems to be the catchall paragraph. Notice it only refers to “the private entity,” singular, i.e., the contracting party. It could have read “all interested entities.” Oh, well.

            The terms of disclosure and noticing and eventual approval are way too onerous. it’s pretty obvious that the aim here is not transparency bu a level of annoyance that will make the COIN municipalities drop it.

            I DO like the idea of an independent auditor – some sort of objective individual to review all the contracts approved by the BoS. Of course that’s supposed to be the job of the County Purchasing Agent – well good luck with that!