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Daily Pilot

Employee union's complaint rejected

Judge gives the association a chance to update lawsuit with information about the council's outsourcing plans.

By Bradley Zint

6:31 PM PDT, September 20, 2013

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An Orange County Superior Court judge this week rejected the Costa Mesa municipal employee union's amended complaint in its lawsuit to prevent outsourcing of city jobs, but offered another chance to revise it in the coming months.

Judge Luis A. Rodriguez's action effectively canceled the January trial date for the Costa Mesa City Employees Assn.'s lawsuit and lets the group amend it with updated information about the City Council's outsourcing plans.

CMCEA's attorneys will now prepare and submit their newly amended complaint "consistent with the court's orders and comments from the bench," according to a news release.

Representatives from the CMCEA and city also will meet in December to discuss the case and the developments since the lawsuit was filed in May 2011.

The CMCEA, which represents about 200 workers, filed the suit after the council issued more than 200 pink slips in March 2011 as part of a move to rein in employment costs and reinvest in capital improvement projects.

The layoffs were eventually rescinded in December 2012, and despite the city's request that the CMCEA drop its suit with the layoffs out of the picture, the association has not.

In June, the council voted 4-1 — with Councilwoman Wendy Leece dissenting — to outsource jail services for what city officials said would be a five-year cost savings of more than $3 million. The move was permissible after a preliminary injunction, issued in July 2011, was dissolved in February. The injunction had prevented the city from outsourcing city jobs to the private sector.

The week's events mark a "new phase of the ongoing litigation, as the court decides how to address the outsourcing issues in the wake of the city rescinding pink slips for more than half of its employees," according to the news release from the Orange County Employees Assn., which represents the CMCEA.

The council majority has not wavered in its desire to outsource, which it contends can save the city money in the long run as pension liabilities threaten financial stability. Mayor Jim Righeimer has said he's still interested in outsourcing some divisions, including payroll, street sweeping and park maintenance.