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Daily Pilot

Rescinding layoffs is called 'great news'

Labor, government leaders agree to call back Costa Mesa pink slips in time for Christmas.

By Bradley Zint

5:29 PM PST, December 18, 2012

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News that the city officially rescinded almost 70 layoff notices brought good cheer, according to one labor leader.

"It's great news for the employees," said Helen Nenadal, president of Costa Mesa City Employees Assn. "It's great news to come up in the holiday to receive the rescinding of these layoff notices."

Mayor Jim Righeimer echoed her sentiments.

"It's just something that we felt strongly about," he said. "We wanted to make sure it was done before the Christmas holiday … to get it done and get on a brand new, fresh year."

City officials announced the move Tuesday, nearly two years after the Costa Mesa City Council initiated a measure to lay off almost half the city's staff while considering whether to outsource services to other governments or the private sector.

The austerity measure — meant to rein in city spending for pensions and other costs and reinvest in long-overdue capital improvement projects — was first approved in March 2011. Amid lawsuits from organized labor that came in response, the initial 213 pink-slipped employees eventually trickled down to 70 by the time then-Mayor Pro Tem Righeimer, a key proponent of the plans, called for their removal in November.

The council, led by Righeimer, voted Dec. 4 to allow city CEO Tom Hatch to begin rescinding the notices.

"I know this period has been difficult for you, your department and the city, and I appreciate your professionalism through it all," Hatch wrote in a letter to employees. "We still have significant budget challenges ahead, but we will work through them together."

The city has also asked the city's employees association to drop its lawsuit filed to stop the outsourcing plan. The lawsuit is still making its way through the legal system.

Nenadal said she is looking forward to the future collaborative talks, but noted that in the many months since the layoffs were first proposed, Costa Mesa has lost some "very, very good employees" to other cities.

"The employees have been through a lot," she said. "To us as a city family, we've come together and stuck together though some very difficult uncertainties."

The council has still expressed interest in outsourcing some city departments, such as park maintenance, street sweeping, jail and payroll services.

Nick Berardino, general manager of the Orange County Employees Assn., which represents about 200 Costa Mesa workers, was pleased with the news.

"We are very happy that the layoff notices have been rescinded," he said Tuesday. "We are looking forward to working with the city and we are confident that there are better days ahead for all of us."

Berardino has also said the OCEA could look at other governments to see how their models might be beneficial for Costa Mesa.

bradley.zint@latimes.com

Twitter: @bradleyzint