Councilman wants to cease union negotiations

Says union pressure during campaign season should not interfere, though fellow council members disagree with his leaving to bargaining table.

September 28, 2010|By Mona Shadia,

COSTA MESA — Councilman Eric Bever has called on his fellow council members to cease negotiations with the city's employee unions until after the November election.

Bever, who announced his decision to temporarily suspend his participation in employee contract negotiations during Monday's special City Council meeting, said three council members are under pressure from unions because they are running for office, and he doesn't want campaign season to interfere.

"I'm stalling the process until we have a council that's not conflicted with the issue," Bever said Tuesday.

After his announcement, Bever declined to participate in that evening's negotiations and left the meeting, drawing criticism from at least two peers on the council and a local blog, A Bubbling Cauldron, which was first to report his exit.


"I don't believe it's appropriate for the City Council to be discussing union contract negotiations in the middle of a council campaign," Bever said.

But at least two council members have fired back, arguing that such negotiations go with the job of being a council member, whether or not it's an election year.

"I think it's irresponsible," said Councilwoman Katrina Foley, who is running for school board. "If he doesn't like what we're negotiating, his option is to vote no. There are elections every two years. You're always going to hit some kind bargaining negotiations."

There's a good chance that Foley will not be on the council after the November elections, and she

received union support during her reelection to the City Council in 2008, which could influence her decision-making, Bever asserted.

But halting negotiations only costs the city more money, Foley said.

The 5% salary cuts implemented through furloughs last year to help close the budget deficit expired at the end of August, she said, and employees are being paid their regular salaries.

But Bever said he's willing to absorb a few months worth of costs if it means getting it right for the next four years.

"In this case, we may be trading a short-term saving for more costs over the long run," he said.

Bever also criticized Councilwoman Wendy Leece, who is running for reelection, and he said, might not be making the best decision, given that she's in a position where she can be swayed into either direction by the unions.

Leece said Bever's decision is unfair and unreasonable.

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