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Moorlach aims to make COIN ordinance countywide

County supervisor favors a version of Costa Mesa transparency law. Union wants to include negotiations with outside contractors.

May 01, 2014|By Jill Cowan

Costa Mesa's Civic Openness in Negotiations, or COIN, ordinance could soon be tested on a bigger stage, Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach said Tuesday.

Near the end of this week's board of supervisors meeting, he told colleagues that he hopes to bring a modified version of the law — which aims to increase transparency in what have become reliably fractious public employee contract negotiations — before the full panel in late May.

"We're busy putting it together, working with county counsel," he said by phone Wednesday. "We're enjoying sort of a lot of intrigue in our current negotiations [with employee unions] that could be corrected or addressed with COIN."

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The Costa Mesa ordinance, adopted in 2012, sets new standards for negotiations with employee unions that require each side to make its offers public.

Among other provisions, the ordinance requires an independent financial analysis and independent labor negotiator to bargain on the city's behalf. Previously, a city executive would fill that role.

Additionally, communications about negotiations between council members and union representatives must be disclosed under the law.

Moorlach wrote in an email that several components of Costa Mesa's COIN ordinance are already in place in some form at the county level, such as the use of an independent negotiator rather than a county employee, and the public release of reports that detail fiscal impacts of each proposal.

But the proposal he plans to bring to the board on May 20 would bulk up the county's negotiation transparency requirements by taking a few pages out of Costa Mesa's book.

In an email, he wrote that his proposal will likely include provisions requiring board members to tell the public about any ideas from closed-session talks that are taken off the table, and requiring an independent auditor to analyze an employee group's current contract in a report published at least 30 days before negotiations begin on a new agreement.

Costa Mesa Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger, who spearheaded efforts to pass the measure, said that although the city is still in the midst of its first set of COIN-regulated contract negotiations, the idea seems to be catching on in cities around the region.

"Candidly speaking, COIN is clear and obvious to anybody that wants to give the taxpayer a seat at the table," he said.

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