"By shifting to the private sector, you save money," Mensinger reasoned. "By saving money, you're able to solve all those stand-alone issues."
What they knew then
City leaders didn't know with certainty whether outsourcing would help when they handed out more than 200 pink slips and launched the organization into tumult. In March 2011, they had not yet reviewed private-sector bids to see whether they'd save money.
Since then, city administrators have studied 11 services, finding seven would be more efficiently served fully or partially in-house.
So why the rush to notice some 200 workers?
The public reason is the councilmen — Councilwoman Wendy Leece steadfastly opposes their plans — followed contractually required labor protocol.
"Everybody knows that [a pink slip] doesn't mean you're going to be laid off," said Righeimer, who has proposed a city charter that would avoid such rules requiring long notice.
The city, he said, was just adhering to its agreements with workers' groups, which require a six-month lead time in case positions are eliminated.
A three-judge panel from the state Court of Appeal disagreed with the council majority's argument. In August, the justices upheld an injunction temporarily blocking outsourcing. The Costa Mesa City Employee Assn. had sued the city over the pink slips, throwing a wrench into the council's plans.
Employees who received notices "were faced with the daunting prospect of being terminated," the court ruling stated. "Job loss is always a serious matter, and in this post-recession era of high unemployment, it cannot be taken lightly."