Deputies’ Union Fails in Effort to Block Release of Negotiation Records

An effort to block Orange County officials from releasing labor negotiation records failed Friday, with a judge rejecting arguments by the sheriff’s deputies union against their disclosure.

At the end of a half-hour hearing, Superior Court Judge Craig Griffin turned down the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs’ (AOCDS) request for a temporary restraining order, noting the important role of public awareness in a democratic form of government.

The public “will be deprived of their right to see” the records if the order is approved, Griffin said.

The union had argued that releasing the records would violate a “ground rules” agreement with the county protected by state labor law, could pose a threat to public safety, and could be misinterpreted by the public.

The case is “a matter of huge importance for public safety across the state,” said Adam Chaikin, an attorney for the union.

Griffin, however, said the labor law argument was “a bridge too far,” and suggested that the union didn’t have standing because the law only allows the county, or someone with a privacy claim, to challenge the release of records under the provision cited by the union.

He also took strong issue with the idea that records shouldn’t be released because they could be misinterpreted.

“The feeling I had is, ‘the public is too stupid to understand this,’ ” Griffin said of the argument. “The fact is, we have a county that’s run by the people, for better or for worse.”

After the hearing, county officials immediately released records to Jon Fleischman, the FlashReport publisher and former California Republican Party executive director who filed the original request under the state Public Records Act. The records were also given to a Voice of OC reporter.

Union spokeswoman Kimberly Edds said after the hearing that there hadn’t yet been a decision on whether to appeal the ruling. She had no further comment.

The records released by the county show the deputies union asked last July for a 12-percent salary increase to be added to their existing contract.

The union then submitted a follow-up proposal in November, this time for a single 6-percent raise, arguing that the compensation should be competitive with other local law enforcement agencies.

“The above proposed salary increase would move us to number 14 in take home pay within the County,” the November proposal states. “Although this is not where we would ultimately need to be, it is a step in the right direction from which to build so that we remain a leader in recruiting and retaining the quality law enforcement personnel we have become accustomed to.”

(Click here for the records released after the hearing.)

Going forward, Fleischman said he plans to submit requests to the county every week for records relating to the deputies’ union labor negotiations.

Click on the links below to read the court documents in the case:

Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. He can be reached at ngerda@voiceofoc.org.