In February of 2017, the Association filed a request for factfinding with the Public Employees Relations Board (“PERB”). The request was made pursuant to Section 3505.4 of the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (“MMBA”), as well as, PERB Regulation 32802.
Ventura County objected to the factfinding request. It argued that the policy at issue in the Firearm Manual addressed the use of force by sworn staff. According to the County, matters concerning use of force are not within the scope of representation and therefore not subject to factfinding under the MMBA. The Association responded that because the Firearm Manual involves the use of deadly force standard applicable in the discharge of a firearm, it is a matter of employee safety and therefore within the scope of representation.
PERB’s Office of the General Counsel issued an administrative determination approving the Association’s request for factfinding. It held that it was not required to determine whether a matter is within the scope of representation before approving a factfinding request. Since the Office of the General Counsel’s role is limited to determining whether the conditions of MMBA section 3505.4 and PERB Regulation 32802 have been met, it was not empowered to determine whether the dispute or difference subject to factfinding is a matter within the scope of representation. As a result, it approved the Association’s request that the parties’ bargaining dispute be submitted to a factfinding panel.
The County appealed this administrative determination. According to the County, the Office of the General Counsel should have first assessed whether the matter submitted to the factfinding was a matter within the scope of representation.
In ruling against the County, PERB noted that although factfinding is ultimately required only for disputes over matters within the scope of representation, the Office of General Counsel is not required in every case to make a definite determination to that effect before approving a factfinding request. Such a process is unwieldy and generally inconsistent with the time-sensitive nature of the factfinding process.
According to PERB, the principal purpose of factfinding is to assist the parties in reaching a voluntary and prompt resolution to their dispute through intervention of a neutral. To require a preliminary determination as to whether a matter is within the scope of representation before approving a factfinding request “would encourage both delay and gamesmanship, thus defeating the principal purpose of factfinding.”