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College district hires negotiator

December 05, 2013|By Hannah Fry

Coast Community College District trustees voted this week to hire a professional negotiator to take charge of ongoing contract discussions with the district's unions.

After Deborah Hirsh, the district's current negotiator and vice chancellor of human resources, announced over the summer that she planned to resign from her post, Chancellor Andrew Jones and trustees began to discuss their options, said board President Lorraine Prinsky.

Trustees made the decision to hire an outside negotiator for the next six months instead of replacing Hirsh during closed session of a special meeting Monday afternoon.

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They selected the law firm Zampi, Determan & Erickson LLP, which represents 34 community college districts in the state, including Long Beach Community College District and South Orange County Community College District.

"The problem with having someone in house is it was a little like we've been there, done that," said Trustee David Grant. "We felt we needed a fresh start. What we wanted was someone who is going to get negotiations done."

The negotiator will be compensated about $140 per hour, Grant said.

The full-time faculty union, part-time faculty union and the classified employee union are currently negotiating their contracts with the district.

The full-time faculty union's contract expired in June 2012, said Dean Mancina, president of the Coast Federation of Educators.

He attributes the long negotiation process to the district's uncertainty about what they would like to achieve with the new contract and Hirsh's lack of authority to make decisions.

"It was this awkward situation where she didn't have the authority to fully bargain with us," he said.

However, Mancina doesn't necessarily agree with the trustees' decision not to refill Hirsh's position, stating that the negotiator could be costly for the district.

"When you add up all the time it's going to take to get up to speed with all of our issues, it's going to cost the district a fortune," he said.

However, trustees believe hiring an outside negotiator could save money in the long run, board President Prinsky said.

"It saves money by not hiring a vice chancellor level position," she said. "Someone from outside the district would also come in with a fresh approach."

The district is hoping this move is a step in the right direction to speed up the negotiation process, which has been dragging on for too long, Trustee Grant said.

"It used to be that you could get negotiations done in a two-month period. Now it just goes on continually," he said. "I don't blame either side, but we have to get out of that cycle for everyone's best interest."

Trustees will vote on the firm's contract during its meeting Dec. 11.

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