Minutes

LOS ANGELES CITY ATTORNEYS ASSOCIATION
DRAFT BOARD MEETING MINUTES

Meeting Date: March 21, 2002

Board Members Present: Shelley Smith (President), Mary Dennis (Vice President), Judith Reel (Secretary), Bob Fratianne (Criminal Director), Marsha Berkowitz (Civil Director), Eskel Solomon (Proprietary Director).

I. Old Business

A. Contract Negotiations:

Shelley Smith reported that the M.O.U. prepared by the CAO’s Office lacked language regarding elimination of the wall between Deputy City Attorney I and II. Shelley Smith drafted appropriate language and gave it to the CAO for inclusion in the M.O.U. It is expected that the M.O.U. will be presented to Council during the week of April 1. The Board has encouraged the C.A.O. to move the contract promptly.

B. Meet and Confer:

In January of 2002, without first meeting and conferring with the Association, the Chief Deputy announced that any award of sanctions by a court requires the assigned attorney to personally meet with Mr. Bowers, after which a memorandum will be placed in that attorney’s personnel file. On February 21, 2002, the Board delivered a written demand to management that it cease implementation of that policy and that management meet and confer prior to adopting and implementing any disciplinary standard relative to attorney sanctions. In response, management agreed to meet and confer about the issue.

On March 21, 2002, management (Chief Deputy Terree Bowers and Chief Administrative Officer Jennifer Kreiger) and the Association met and conferred regarding the sanction disciplinary policy. The parties reached the following tentative agreement: If an attorney is sanctioned, but no culpable conduct underlies the sanctions order, Mr. Bowers may meet with the attorney, but no memorandum may be placed in any file maintained by management pertaining to the attorney. If an attorney is sanctioned and there is culpable conduct, if it is the first such incident by the attorney, the attorney will be verbally admonished. A memorandum of the incident will not be placed in the attorney’s personnel file, but one may be placed and maintained in an administrative file for reference in the event that subsequent conduct demonstrates a pattern of culpable conduct. If no further culpable conduct occurs within a reasonable period of time, management may remove the memorandum from the administrative file. If an attorney is sanctioned and there is culpable conduct, and it is the attorney’s second or further such incident within a reasonable period of time, management may place a memorandum of the incident in the attorney’s personnel file.

Importantly, if during the investigation of an order re sanctions, management chooses to question or counsel an attorney about an award of sanctions, management acknowledges the right of the attorney to have an Association representative present.

It was agreed that the Association would prepare an initial draft of the disciplinary policy, subject to the review of management and further negotiations as necessary.

There was discussion about Terree Bowers’ statement at the March 21 managing assistants’ meeting that explicitly affirmed his previous instruction for memos in attorneys’ personnel files in the event of sanctions, even as he acknowledged to the managing assistants at that meeting that the meet and confer on that subject would occur later that same day. There was discussion that the statement affirming a policy that was pending meet and confer was a potential violation of the duty to meet and confer in good faith and a separate unfair employee relations practice. The Board determined that, in light of the tentative agreement reached later that afternoon on the matter of the policy, the Association would rest on the expectation that management will honor its agreements and obligations to meet and confer. This issue will be revisited in the event that further instructions to supervisors by the Chief Deputy evidence that agreements to meet and confer are sham or pretense.

C. Insufficient Number of Bulletin Boards

On March 6, the Board delivered a letter to Jennifer Kreiger identifying work sites that lack contractually-required bulletin boards dedicated to Association matters, and asked her to rectify this matter. On March 21, Ms. Kreiger told Association Secretary Judith Reel that the needed bulletin boards would soon be ordered and installed.

D. Recall Petition

A petition was previously presented to the Association asking for a recall of the Association President. The basis of the petition was a complaint regarding the manner in which ballots were received and counted during the previous election. At the last Board meeting, the Board appointed a sub-committee, consisting of Board members Secretary Judith Reel, Criminal Director Bob Fratianne, and Civil Director Marsha Berkowitz, to make a recommendation regarding the sufficiency of the petition.

The sub-committee reported that the petition contained the minimum number of signatories needed to constitute a valid petition, plus one. Since one member signed the petition twice, however, the petition would meet by-law requirements only if all of the remaining signatories were eligible voting members of the Association. Sixteen of the signatures submitted did not include a printed version of the signer’s name, and many of these sixteen signatures were illegible. The committee exercised due diligence, cross-checking signatures with a membership list, but was not able to validate the requisite number of signatures on the petition. On that basis, the committee recommended to the Board that the petition be rejected without prejudice. In making this recommendation, the sub-committee recognized not only its obligations to the signatories, but also the fiduciary obligations to the membership-at-large, given the high cost of an election.

The Board voted unanimously, with Shelley Smith abstaining, to adopt the sub-committee’s recommendation to reject the petition without prejudice. It was further agreed that the Board would send a letter to all signatories whose names were legible explaining the reasons for the rejection. Board President Shelley Smith abstained from both the discussion and vote regarding the recall petition.

II. New Business

A. Meet and Confer re: Green Sheets

At its meet and confer session on March 21, pertaining to the Office disciplinary standards re attorney sanctions, Board members and management also discussed the Office’s recent restriction of certain job vacancies to members of the Criminal Branch. The Board members present stressed the historical commitment of the Office to making job opportunities available to all attorneys, and identified the demoralizing effect of a unilaterally imposed and unexplained restriction.

Management stated that it restricted recent attorney transfer opportunities to Criminal Branch members due to a current shortage of attorneys in the Civil Branch, and the inability of the Civil Branch to sustain any losses of attorney staff at this time. Management stressed that the transfer opportunity restriction was temporary, and represented that after the budget is finalized it will seek a more equitable solution to the problems caused by insufficient staffing in the Civil Branch. Management agreed that it would have been better to have had prior discussions with the Association about this matter and the need for the temporary restrictions. Further, management acknowledged the need for open communication with the Association and invited the Board to informally meet on a monthly basis with Mr. Bowers.

B. "Confidential" Office Policy re Discovery in Civil Branch cases

Some members have expressed concern about the policy re discovery of Criminal Branch records in Civil Branch litigation. At the top of the memorandum promulgating the policy, Chief Deputy Terree Bowers included a prominent warning that the policy was for internal use only and was not to be revealed or disseminated outside the office. Some attorneys are concerned that secret policies are inimical in a public law office, especially on matters affecting the rights of criminal defendants and civil litigants and the abilities of the private bar in representing these persons. Other members are concerned that the mandatory meet and confer process prescribed by California statute for resolution of discovery disputes cannot be fulfilled in good faith if Civil Branch attorneys are prohibited from making reference to an official policy which limits the discovery that can be produced. There are substantial questions as to whether an attorney is at risk for allegations of insubordination or other misconduct if in the course of discovery meet and confer the attorney reveals or refers to the "internal -- not to be disseminated" policy to an opposing counsel or to the court or discovery referee. President Shelley Smith will request from the Chief Deputy clarification on this issue, and the Board will reconsider this matter if that communication does not resolve these questions.

C. Peer Advocates

The Board restated its intention to organize a training session about employee rights and responsibilities, and to train Association members to serve as peer advocates. It was agreed that Ms. Reel would send out a Notice asking that any Association member who desires to receive such training contact a Board member so that we can arrange for training.

 

As you know, our new MOU includes annual reimbursement for MCLE-related expenses. To ensure that you receive complete and timely reimbursement, we encourage you to follow the instructions contained in the MCLE protocol provided by City Attorney Management. You must complete and submit a reimbursement form in order to receive reimbursement.

You can reimburse expenses related to attending MCLE programs that are accepted by the California State Bar, even if the program takes place in another state. Eligible expenses include the cost of the program, travel, and per diems.

Please be judicious when choosing lodging and which food/drink expenses you submit for reimbursement.


The Board is pleased to announce that LACAA has retained the law firm of MASTAGNI, HOLSTEDT, AMICK, MILLER & JOHNSEN as General Counsel.


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LACAA's President, send a request to lacaapresident@gmail.com.