by Mayor Pro Tem Greg Sebourn, PLS & Council Member Bruce Whitaker
The issue of open negotiations in government finances is nothing new. In fact,
Fullerton considered this at its November 5,
2013 City Council meeting in which the matter was tabled for nearly seven
Elected officials have a fiduciary duty to manage your tax dollars and the public has the absolute right to know how and why their tax dollars are being spent. This right to know is underscored since unionized labor is the single largest budgetary line item for the City and the fact that the City is still operating with a City Council approved (3-2) structural deficit of at least $1.6-million!
On June 17 the Fullerton City Council voted 2-3 (Ayes: Whitaker & Sebourn; Noes: Chaffee, Flory, & Fitzgerald) to approve COIN based on the original model approved in other jurisdictions including
Costa Mesa. COIN would have provided a new level of
openness and transparency into labor negotiations. Unfortunately, after that motion failed, three
Council Members (Chaffee, Flory, & Fitzgerald) voted to approve an
ordinance that gives the illusion of transparency and rigor to a backroom
process that has to this day remained secret.
COIN and Counterfeit COIN both have a process for disclosure to the public regarding what the Council and public employee unions have negotiated behind closed doors.
COIN, however, only applies to written offers.
Further, it does not specify when the details of the proposed agreements,
offers, or counteroffers must be made public.
This means there may be countless secret “trial balloons” offered by
both sides before settling on written terms.
This is where Counterfeit COIN fails the transparency test.
Accountability is completely absent from
Fullerton’s Counterfeit COIN as well. COIN required that all negotiations and economic
analysis were to be conducted by professionals that were not subject to a
public pension system and far removed from City Hall. They are to be independent from the
negotiating parties in every way. Counterfeit
COIN offers certain criteria that must be met in order bring in any outside
parties. Even if the criteria is met, Counterfeit COIN requires the Council
appoint a representative as a representative to the outside Negotiating Team,
and further requires that representative be a public employee who stands to
benefit by the outcome of the negotiation process.
COIN is really quite simple despite attempts to create the illusion of complexity or difficulty. There are just three key components of COIN: Independent Negotiator, Independent Economic Analysis, and Timely Public Disclosure.
The lack of labor union opposition to
Fullerton’s Counterfeit COIN sends the
message to taxpayers that this new ordinance brings no substantive changes to
the backroom labor negotiations.
Until a clear majority of the Fullerton City Council is willing to recognize that feathering the beds public employee unions is contrary to their fiduciary duty,
legacy of backroom negotiations lead by city staff to benefit city staff will
More of the same, same as before.