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Mailbag: Residents should write Costa Mesa's charter

December 10, 2011

In February, the city attorney sent a report to the council advising that, according to existing policies and agreements, they must first do studies and determine which services would be outsourced before issuing layoff notices to employees who would be displaced.

In March, the council appointed a new city attorney. At a public hearing, citizens again reminded them of the need to do studies first. Nevertheless, the council voted to send layoff notices to almost half the city staff, before commencing any studies.

This resulted in, among other things, litigation costing taxpayers untold thousands of dollars. The litigation centers around violation of laws, policies and agreements which the council had chosen to ignore — and of which they had been reminded at public hearings.

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In March, at a public hearing on a proposal from Mayor Pro Tem Righeimer, the public and the city Fire Department's own paramedic coordinator told the council why it should not consider using a private ambulance service as paramedics.

Nevertheless, the council majority voted to initiate the process. Even the city's contract ambulance company later said it didn't make sense. In response to that, Righeimer said, "That just tells us we need a new ambulance company."

At a public hearing in June, council considered the recommendations of a consultant study on reorganization of the Police Department. The city's consultant recommended a reduction to 136 sworn officers. The interim police chief (a well-respected, long-time law enforcement professional who was on his second tour of duty with the city) recommended 140 to 145 sworn officers. The council voted for a reduction to 126 officers, plus five more to be funded by a limited-term federal grant.

In September, Leece proposed an "ordinance relating to ex parte communication disclosures and transparency." The object was to require council members to disclose contacts they had received on agenda items outside the public hearing process. Council member Mensinger twisted the request into a motion that it be applied to communications to and from employee associations only. Fortunately, the one-sided motion failed on a 2-2 vote.

So, what have we learned? That the City Council majority is open and responsive to input received at public hearings? No. That they will politely (usually) listen and then do what they had set out to do in the first place? Seems like it. Do you trust them to write the constitution for your city? I don't either.

Perry Valantine

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