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Righeimer: Outsourcing, yes; layoffs, no

Costa Mesa's mayor is looking for cost-saving options but says attrition is a better way to thin the in-house workforce.

February 08, 2013|By Bradley Zint

Talks of outsourcing's potential for Costa Mesa are again making their way through the civic dialogue, but with one big exception from last time: no layoff notices.

Mayor Jim Righeimer, in an interview published Thursday with the Orange County Register's editorial board, repeated past statements that he intends to examine outsourcing some city services, but that this time around, layoffs aren't being sought as a possible solution to save the city from its budgetary woes.

In a subsequent interview with the Daily Pilot, he said staffing levels citywide are down through retirements and attrition. If a department is outsourced, workers could be moved elsewhere in the organization, he said.

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Righeimer's goal is to work with the Costa Mesa City Employees Assn., which represents employees who aren't in public safety divisions, to "get our costs in line and not lay off anybody."

"That's the plan, but the employee association has to work with us," Righeimer added. "They need to cooperate."

In December, the council authorized rescinding the remaining 70 layoff notices of the initial 213 authorized in March 2011. City officials have also asked the CMCEA to drop its lawsuit that challenged the layoffs, though the association has not done so.

Street sweeping, park maintenance and the city jail are three departments that could easily be outsourced, Righeimer said.

Councilwoman Wendy Leece, who voted against many Righeimer-led council majority decisions, said this time around, the ideas being floated appear to be in a more agreeable direction than in recent years, but that all the details are still in preliminary stages and are being fleshed out.

"The devil is in the details, and so in concept, these are reasonable plans," Leece said. "But I think that the employees have to weigh in also and be agreeable to go in this direction."

If the city can save money and retrain employees into other positions, it's a reasonable direction, Leece said, adding that she would like to see the city maintain "quality services at the same level that we have been."

Orange County Employees Assn. spokeswoman Jennifer Muir said her organization is continuing to work with Costa Mesa officials and is hoping for a collaborative relationship in the year ahead.

The OCEA's suggestions include resident feedback initiatives and lean-government efficiency models, like King County's in Washington state.

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