Wednesday, June 20, 2012

New Report Links Police Layoffs to "Surge" of Murders in Stockton

A new report from Bloomberg Television explores the skyrocketing murder rate in Stockton, its link to the city's decision to lay off police officers, and the impact on families.  The report explains Stockton "has seen a surge in murders in recent years as the number of police officers has declined" and an "emboldened criminal element" is taking advantage.  The report reveals the number of police officers is down 26% from 2008 and the murder rate is on track to set a new record this year.  Watch the full report here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Court Awards Millions in Back Pay for Furloughs

In Professional Engineers in California Government, et al. v. Edmund G. Brown, Jr. et al., Case No. R610-494800, the Alameda County Superior Court awarded back pay to state workers unlawfully furloughed in 2009 and 2010.  The Court's June 7, 2012 ruling found that employees whose positions were not funded by the state budget act could not be furloughed by the act.

The Court's ruling also focused on the "single subject rule", part of the California Constitution that prohibits budget bills from changing substantive law in other areas.  As a result, the Court concluded the furloughs were unlawful for some state workers whose responsibilities were protected by specific sections of the Water and Health & Safety Codes.

Finally, the Court discussed a requirement in the budget act that furloughs to line staff be proportional to furloughs for managers.  The Court decided the requirement means that the state went too far when in furloughed line staff more than managers, entitling workers to back pay to make up the difference.  The parties expect the the ruling to cost the state millions of dollars in back pay.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Lawsuits Filed to Stop Attacks on Retirement Security

Legal challenges are already underway to local pension initiatives passed by voters Tuesday in San Diego and San Jose.  The initiatives, both named "Measure B", attack public employees' pensions in those cities.

San Diego's Measure B creates a new retirement tier replacing defined benefits with a 401(k) and lowers public safety's maximum retirement benefit to 80% of salary.  The measure also caps city payroll at 2011 for five years, risking massive layoffs for the city.  

The legal challenge to the San Diego measure started even before the election.  Unions filed an unfair practice charge with PERB in February because city leaders refused to meet and confer about the changes.  PERB quickly granted their request for injunctive relief and filed a lawsuit in San Diego to stop the measure from going before voters.  While the court initially ruled against PERB, the case was promptly appealed and oral arguments are scheduled for June 13, 2012.  PERB also issued a complaint against the city.

The San Jose measure seeks to shift the city's contributions to the pension system to employees, likely 16% of their salaries.  It also provides that if the cost-shifting provision is struck down, as many expect it will be, the city can dramatically slash salaries to make up the difference.  The plan also limits disability retirements, lets the city council take away retirees' cost-of-living-adjustments, and prices retirees out of the city health insurance plan.

San Jose police and firefighters immediately filed lawsuits in state court to stop enforcement of the measure.  The firefighters lawsuit, Robert Sapien et al. v. City of San Jose et al. seeks declaratory and injunctive relief and a writ of mandate prohibiting enforcement of Measure B.  It argues the measure violates California state constitutional protections related to due process, the prohibition on breaking public contracts, and restrictions on seizing property.  The POA's lawsuit, San Jose Police Officers' Association v. City of San Jose et al. makes similar claims and also alleges violations of freedom of speech, separation of powers, the MMBA, the parties' MOU, and the California Pension Protection Act.  The City of San Jose also filed a preemptive lawsuit in federal court seeking a declaration that the measure is not unconstitutional.

Wisconsin Exit Polls: Voters Like Unions, Not Recalls

Despite Governor Walker's win in Tuesday's recall election in Wisconsin, exit polls show the majority of voters in that state support public employees unions.  The exit polls also showed voters had strong opinions about recall elections, with more than 60% of voters saying they should only be allowed for official misconduct and 10% of voters saying recall elections should never be allowed.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Court Finds Note in "Evaluation Log" Not Punitive Action Under POBR

     In an unpublished decision, the Court of Appeal held a note in an “evaluation log" is not a “punitive action” within the meaning of POBR.  Scott Kansaku v. City of Hermosa Beach et al. started after an IA investigation into citizen complaint.  After the investigation, the local police chief decided to enter a note into the officer’s evaluation log about the incident.  The officer then requested an administrative appeal and the department denied the request.  The officer filed a claim in superior court alleging the city violated POBR by denying him the administrative appeal and not allowing him access to the evaluation log.

     The Court found the city’s action of entering the comment in the evaluation log did not constitute a punitive action under Government Code section 3304. The Court stated there was no discipline imposed nor was there a written warning that future discipline would occur if the behavior continued.  Rather, the court viewed the comment as a reminder when it came time for the officer’s performance review.  The department claimed supervisors use log notes assist to complete employees’ annual performance reviews and to facilitate communication between supervisors and subordinates.  Indeed, the court stressed there was no evidence the evaluation log was used for any purpose other than preparing performance evaluations.  The court also decided the officer did not show sufficient facts to prove he was denied access to the comments because he signed a document indicated he knew the charge was sustained.