Meeting Date: January 17, 2002
Board Members Present: Shelley
Smith (President), Liz Greenwood (Vice President), Jule Bishop (Treasurer),
Judith Reel (Secretary), Bob Fratianne (Criminal Director), Marsha
Berkowitz (Civil Director)
I. Old Business
A. Contract Negotiation:
Board members are prohibited
from revealing the substantive issues discussed at MOU contract
negotiations. However, a number of members present stated that
there was a widespread perception throughout the office that negotiations
were stalled on managements insistence on a provision for
bonus pay as a performance reward. Accordingly, the Board received
a number of comments from members on the general issue of bonus
Strong concerns were expressed
about management awarding bonuses in lieu of merit steps and promotion.
There was a consensus that any bonus pay system should be coupled
with a contractual commitment to an office-wide merit /promotion
process when funds are available. The specific views expressed
included the following:
(1) Lack of good-faith reason
for refusal to commit in writing to merit/promotion process: There
was universal concern and conjecture about managements refusal
to specify any reason for refusing to commit in writing to office-wide
merit/promotion processes when funds are available. The lack of
any reason management is willing to articulate causes suspicion
that a bonus pay program will inevitably be in lieu of a merit/promotion
process which benefits the work-group as a whole.
(2) Bonus pay benefits short-term
employees at the expense of career attorneys: Merit steps and
promotions become part of an attorneys base pay for purposes
of future salary increases and calculations of retirement pay.
Thus, the merit/promotion process effectively rewards career attorneys.
Bonus pay favors those who intend to be in the office only briefly.
Thus, managements insistence on bonus pay ability raises
profound questions about whether the City Attorney intends to
change the character of the office from one that offers viable
careers to qualified and capable attorneys to one that briefly
harbors employees needing enhancement of their resumes. It was
widely recognized that an orientation favoring short-term employees
will constitute a sea-change in the character of the office that
was established more than 25 years ago.
(3) Low Morale: There is a universal
belief that managements refusal to commit in writing to
a merit/promotion process exacerbates low morale among the attorneys.
Management apparently believes that it is in a better position
to assess attorney morale than are the elected representatives.
(4) Legal and Ethical Concerns:
There was concern expressed regarding the legality of a bonus
program, since under California Constitution, Article XI, Section
10(a), a local government may not award extra compensation to
a public employee for services already performed. There were also
concerns expressed regarding the lack of any guidelines regarding
how the awards would be made, and the ethical implications raised
by an unfettered right to monetarily reward public attorneys.
For example, there was fear that criminal prosecutors would be
paid for winning cases, and punished for dismissals.
B. Public Records Act Request:
On December 18, 2001, Judith
Reel delivered to Terree Bowers a written request to provide the
Association with the documents the Office gave to the Daily Journal
pertaining to the McKinsey & Co. audit and documents identifying
all persons hired by City Attorney Delgadillo.
Ms. Reel received on January
14, 2002, from Mr. Bowers two documents which he represented were
all of the material provided to the Daily Journal relative to
the McKinsey & Co. audit. The Association issued a Notice
informing the membership of receipt of the documents, and the
documents are available for distribution to Association members
upon request. The documents are generic, and critical of the quality
and performance of city attorneys. The Board decided to defer
a Public Records Act demand for the underlying documents, e.g.,
interviews with judges, clients, and Office supervisors, at this
time because the Board does not presently find that there is a
fully developed present need to put those documents in the public
domain. The Board can and will revisit the ability to demand these
materials if and when there is an apparent need for them.
In January of 2002, Shelley
Smith was given a copy of a membership list by the CAO (Chief
Accounting Office) updating all the members in the current MOU.
C. Location of Board Meetings
Non-Board members present expressed
a preference for continuing to have Board meetings at the DWP
building, stating that it is much easier to get to the DWP building
than to get to the Associations Figueroa Street office at
5:00 pm on a workday. Some Board members stated that it was advantageous
to meet at Figueroa Street since Association documents are located
there, but the Board deferred to the non-Board members preference
and agreed for the present to hold near-term future meetings at
The next Board meeting will
be held on Tuesday, February 12, at 5:00 p.m. at the DWP building.
D. Web Site
Jule Bishop reported that the
web site (www.lacaassoc.com) should be available for viewing within
the next two weeks. Content additions are in progress.
The Board decided not to put
the Associations financial information on the website, since
the Board does not want management and other non-Association members
to have access to information regarding the Associations
financial health. Ms. Bishop stated that the Associations
annual audit statements have always been available to Association
members on request, and that anyone desiring to see such information
should contact Ms. Bishop.
II. New Business
A. Constituent Outreach
The Board decided to attempt
to meet with all deputy and assistant city attorneys in order
to elicit their specific concerns regarding contract negotiations
and Office practices and policies. In the last two weeks, Board
members have met at lunchtime with criminal attorneys on the 16th
floor of City Hall East, with DWP attorneys, and with the Special
Litigation Division. The next meetings will be scheduled with
attorneys working at or near Van Nuys, and with attorneys working
at San Pedro, Harbor and Reyes.
At the three meetings held thus
far, and during informal discussions with other individual deputies,
there has been virtually unanimous opposition to bonus pay as
a performance incentive absent a written agreement by management
to also engage in a merit/promotion process when funds are available.
At the Board meeting, a question
was posed about why the membership distrusts managements
verbal commitment to engage in merit/promotion process, and what
caused the wide-spread perception that management is hostile to
the attorneys who were employed under the previous administration.
In response, the following factors were identified:
(1) It is widely believed that
early in the contract negotiation process management expressed
a desire to eliminate attorney tenure, thus enabling management
the ability to fire attorneys without the full course of cause
and process presently required. The workforce finds it stunning
and extraordinary that, with all of the urgent and complex public
policy issues confronting a newly elected City Attorney, a first
priority identified and articulated was achieving the ability
to terminate all of the existing career professional staff ;
(2) Managements generalized
and harsh public statements to the press about the quality of
attorneys in the office, even before the managers making such
statements could have acquired any first-hand experience with
any representative number of the attorney workforce;
(3) The refusal of the City
Attorney and executive management to meet with the Board until
the Board made plain its intention to file an unfair labor complaint
about their refusal to meet, and the patent disrespect toward
all of the attorneys in the office implicit in that refusal;
(4) Managements hiring
of senior personnel who have no public sector attorney experience,
and, especially, at a rate and on a scale that precludes for an
extended period of time promotions and/or merit step advancement
for attorney staff .
B. Board Minutes
Last month Secretary Judith
Reel posted minutes within two weeks after the Board meeting,
before the minutes were formally approved at the following Board
meeting. This was done because the elections results and discussions
required immediate promulgation.
The Board has agreed that in
order to timely inform the membership of the events at the Board
meetings, Ms. Reel will post as soon as minutes are prepared and
reviewed by those in attendance. However, minutes posted before
adoption of the Board will be identified in writing on the first
There was also discussion about
the level of detail to be set forth in the minutes. It was agreed
that detailed minutes are generally more useful to the membership,
but that members attending and speaking at the Board meetings
will not be identified so that there need be no fear of attribution
or managerial attention.
C. Employee Discipline and
Christine McCall, designated
grievance representative pursuant to the M.O.U. stated that the
Office has again relieved another attorney of duty with pay. It
was stated that despite the continued pay, being suspended for
an indefinite period without procedural recourse is an isolating
and emotionally debilitating experience, with profound consequences
to ones professional skills and reputation. McCall stated
that this is not an isolated occurrence by management, there have
been instances where suspension with pay extended for months and
even years, and managements recourse to this "remedy"
raises concerns regarding managements habitual utilization
of a disciplinary procedure not provided for and without procedural
The Board was asked to consider
the matter and discuss at a later date whether and how best to
redress the issue.
The Boards PAC convened
and voted to contribute $500.00 to Council member Janice Hahns
office-holder account if it has not yet done so this year.