Mission Viejo’s Rising Costs For Sheriff’s Contract Raise Concern

JEFF ANTENORE, Voice of OC Contributing Photographer

Mission Viejo City Council Members conduct city business during a council meeting on Tuesday, September 12, 2017.

Mission Viejo’s Mayor Pro Tem Ed Sachs told a city council meeting it could be time for south county cities to form their own police force due to the rising costs of contracting with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

“I have no idea what it costs us per deputy to run police services in this city,” Sachs said at Tuesday’s council meeting. He also stated he doesn’t have reliable crime statistics and the cities that contract with the Sheriff don’t have input on the department’s contract negotiations with the County.

“If we’re not able to get those sorts of things … it may be time in fact to form a smaller JPA (Joint Power Authority) in south county and start our own police services,” Sachs said during council communications at the end of the meeting.

Mission Viejo is the lead city that’s circulating a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the 13 municipalities that contract with the Sheriff’s department for a study to evaluate the contracts. 

City Manager Dennis Wilberg said in a telephone interview Wednesday “we’re hoping to have all of the cities take action on the MOU by September 26, which is when we are bringing it to our City Council.”

In the meantime, Dana Point is the next city to consider jumping on board the study. The city is scheduled to vote on it Sept. 19.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors approved a one-year contract between Mission Viejo and the Sheriff’s department at the June 27 board meeting. The city was hit with a nearly $700,000 increase in the annual contract for a total of just over $19 million for police services.

Under the current contract, there are at least 63 Sheriff’s personnel working in the city. The number includes one lieutenant, five sergeants, four investigators and 39 deputies. The city is paying $15.6 million for those employees.

The cost of one patrol deputy is $256,189, according to the contract.

Additionally, the city is paying another $609,000 for at least 17 “regional/shared staff,” which brings the cost to $16.3 million for Sheriff personnel.

The city is also paying another $2.7 million in “total other charges and credits” for services like “premium pay for bilingual staff; contract administration; data line charges; direct services and supplies; enhanced helicopter response services … holiday pay; Integrated Law & Justice of Orange County Fees…” according to contract documents.  Unlike the personnel section, the charges and credits aren’t broken down by line item.

It all brings the total to just over $19 million.

“We have no input into that process whatsoever, but we’re saddled with the bills from that process,” Sachs said of the Supervisor’s contract negotiations with the Sheriff’s department.

The 13 cities that are proposing the study include: Mission Viejo, Aliso Viejo, Dana Point, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Woods, Lake Forest, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Stanton, Villa Park and Yorba Linda.

Over the past 10 years, costs for those cities have increased an average of 33 percent, with 25 percent of that increase in the past five years, according to draft documents in the MOU.

“I’ve said many times during our budget negotiations … that the cost of public safety continues to escalate and we get very little information back on what those actual costs are,” Sachs said.

Mission Viejo Councilwoman Trish Kelly said about a third of the city’s budget is spent on the Sheriff’s department contract.  

She told Voice of OC the city has seen “a little bit of an increase every year. The last couple of years has been a dramatic increase.”

“It’s a big part of our budget, but it’s a high priority,” Kelly said.

Meanwhile, reports on the Sheriff’s website for Mission Viejo indicate that most of the crimes in 2017 within the city were theft, disorderly conduct, vandalism and “other assaults.”

During the meeting, Sachs — without statistics in-hand — said Mission Viejo doesn’t need a lot of the extras that come with contracting with the Sheriff’s department.

“We get an awful lot of rhetoric about how we can have the SWAT team and we can have helicopters and all these other sorts of things. Honestly, we rarely need those kinds of services. I’m not saying they’re not important.”

Sachs also said he believes the council is “getting erroneous data.”

“We claim over and over again we’re the safest city in the area. I have no idea. I have no idea if that’s true or not.”

Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC reporter who covers south Orange County and Fullerton. You can reach him at scustodio@voiceofoc.org.

  • Ted Striker

    I would love to know what agency is hiring 22 year olds with no degrees? Most firefighters being hired now, have some sort of combining factors: fire explorer, basic fire academy graduate, EMT/ambulance experience, private paramedic experience/ paramedic student, reserve firefighter, BA/BS degree, MA/MS degree, military experience.

  • LagunaTri

    Ever wonder why three Sheriff units AND three OCFA units show up to stand around while one unit attends to the old guy who had heart palpitations at the gym? They all record it as response incident in order to justify more money, more hours, more union members.

    The “I’ll call in sick so you get overtime this month, you do the same for me next month” scam bloats their earnings and increases costs for taxpayers. Waiting lists at fire academies and 500+ applying for a single fire fighter position tells me supply and demand need to come into play. Where else can 22 year olds with no degree legally make six-figures? FFs have second jobs (when you sleep, fix your boat, and work out on the clock during your 10 work days/month, there’s lots of free time). Some live in another STATE and fly in once a month to collect a six-figure salary and retire at 55 at 80%+ of that salary, with full medical coverage for life.

    People don’t despise public safety; they despise the fact that public employees who used to forgo big salaries for good benefits, still get the benefits and get paid very handsome salaries–which also determine their retirements. All while pulling the crap referenced above. This, over a time when middle class salaries have not increased, retirement plans have evaporated, health insurance costs have doubled, and taxes have increased to pay for what used to be honorable public “service.”

  • LFOldTimer

    The problem is obvious to anyone who cares to look at the facts:

    http://transparentcalifornia.com/salaries/search/?a=orange-county&q=commander&y=2016

    http://transparentcalifornia.com/salaries/search/?a=orange-county&q=captain&y=2016

    http://transparentcalifornia.com/salaries/search/?a=orange-county&q=lieutenant&y=2016&page=1

    http://transparentcalifornia.com/salaries/search/?a=orange-county&q=sergeant&y=2016

    http://transparentcalifornia.com/salaries/search/?a=orange-county&q=deputy&y=2016

    Unfortunately it takes honest politicians to admit that contract costs are a direct result of big salaries and benefits. Cops are being paid more than Ph.d’s. That’s because the safety public unions own the politicians.

    The BoS who are getting paid off with campaign donations and political endorsements by the police union continue to vote salary hikes of 8-10% for OCSD. If somebody gave you tens of thousands of dollars and endorsed you for office – wouldn’t you give him a nice pay raise?

    The system is rigged. About time somebody noticed.

  • verifiedsane

    Time for the OC County BoS sheriff’s cash cow to end, and be put out to pasture….South County needs to create their own police bodies with local control and budgeting….time to end the county rip off of the tax payers…