Update: The union’s request was rejected by a judge Friday, and negotiation records were released. Click here for details.
The union for Orange County sheriff’s deputies filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking to block the release of county records related to its labor negotiations, setting the stage for a showdown in court Friday morning.
The suit, filed by the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, asks for a judge’s order to bar the county government from releasing records sought in a Public Records Act request by Jon Fleischman, the publisher of the Flash Report.
The request is slated to be heard Friday morning at 8:30 a.m. in the Santa Ana courtroom of Superior Court Judge Craig Griffin.
Fleischman, a former executive director of the California Republican Party, filed a request on Jan. 18 for “the status and all documents of all negotiations, offers and counteroffers, supposals, formal or informal between” the county and the union.
Then, on Wednesday, two days before the county’s deadline to provide records, the deputies’ union sued, arguing that their disclosure would violate state law on public employee negotiations.
Specifically, the union argues that releasing the records would violate state law on public employee labor negotiations by breaching an agreement between the county and union that bargaining materials would not be publicized.
Releasing the records would cause “irreparable harm” to the deputies’ union “and on-going collective bargaining will be hampered through the production of the documents, thereby interfering with the public safety of the citizens of Orange County,” the suit says.
(Click here to read the lawsuit [large file size].)
Fleischman responded that the union is trying to “quash” a legitimate public records request.
“It is OBVIOUS that something is going on that they do NOT want public,” he wrote in a post on FlashReport.
He noted that the county had provided records in response to similar requests regarding recent negotiations with the Orange County Employees Association, without any legal change from the union.
OCEA General Manager Jennifer Muir “obviously respects the public records act process,” Fleischman wrote.
“I think it is an embarrassment to the [Sheriff’s] Department that the union wouldn’t want transparency. Public servants are accountable to the public,” he added.
The deputies’ union didn’t respond to a request for a response to Fleischman’s comments.
Meanwhile, county officials say they plan on releasing the records unless a judge rules against them.
“We believe the records requested are public documents and intend to produce them unless enjoined by the court,” said county spokeswoman Jean Pasco.
Later in the day Friday, county supervisors plan on discussing the case in closed session. That’s slated to take place at a 3 p.m. special meeting where they also plan to vote on a lease deal to use an abandoned bus shelter to temporarily house homeless people.
Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.