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Costa Mesa council adopts COIN ordinance

The firefighters also agreed to a contract that includes a pay freeze until 2017 and a reduction of retirement benefits for future hires.

September 05, 2012|By Mike Reicher

The Costa Mesa City Council passed two measures Tuesday that make significant changes to city employees' compensation.

The Civic Openness in Negotiations ordinance, or COIN, will expose future labor contract negotiations to added public scrutiny.

In the other, the city's firefighters agreed to a new contract that eliminates minimum staffing requirements, reduces retirement benefits for future employees and freezes pay until 2017.

Both items fit into the council majority's larger plan to shift power away from organized labor and to reduce the municipal employee payroll. They each passed with a 4-0 vote, with Mayor Eric Bever absent.

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"The issue here tonight is, 'How do you provide the best possible service for the most affordable cost?'" Councilman Steve Mensinger said of the firefighter contract. He also authored the COIN ordinance.

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COIN ordinance

The COIN ordinance requires an independent auditor to estimate the cost of each contract's individual terms and conditions. For example, if the police officers association requested more special pay for bilingual officers, the auditor would report the total cost to the city. This information would be on the city's website before the council could vote on the contract.

Another provision mandates that the council publicly report on offers and counteroffers after they are made. Also, council members will have to disclose any communication with labor association representatives that takes place between meetings.

Councilwoman Wendy Leece and a handful of residents complained that COIN didn't go far enough. They said that other contract negotiations, such as those to privatize city services, should be subject to the same transparency.

"It's a good thing, but not enough of a good thing," said resident Perry Valantine.

Leece said she would reintroduce a broader proposal that would require council members to disclose more communication with outside parties. The Costa Mesa City Employees Assn. relayed the same position to city administrators as they were finalizing the ordinance.

"CMCEA supports any effort to improve transparency, but we believe transparency should be applied evenly," CMCEA President Helen Nenadal wrote in a letter to the city.

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Fire contract

Negotiations between the council and firefighter associations were tense, representatives from both sides said.

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