Minutes

LOS ANGELES CITY ATTORNEYS ASSOCIATION
DRAFT BOARD MEETING MINUTES

(Minutes not formally adopted until next meeting)

Meeting Date: November 18, 2002

Board Members Present: Mary Dennis (Vice President), Judith Reel (Secretary), Eskel Solomon (Proprietary Director), Christine McCall (Civil Director).

I. New Business

A. Secret Merit & Promotions

On the morning of the Board meeting, Terree Bowers confirmed that City Attorney Rockard Delgadillo awarded promotions and merit step advancements to many Neighborhood Prosecutors, some of whom were hired as recently as March of 2002. These promotions and merit step advancements were awarded outside of a merit and promotion process comparing and considering all eligible attorneys in the office. In response to a face-to-face demand by Board Secretary Judith Reel, Bowers agreed to identify the persons awarded advancement, the degree of advancement, and the hire date of the advanced attorneys. The information was still not provided by the time of the Board meeting.

The reaction at the Board meeting to the secret merit and promotion process was fervent and all Board members reported that substantial resentment and anger had been expressed by numerous members contacting the Board about the out-of-process advancements.

It was the consensus of those members and Board officers present that the secret advancements manifested an inherent sense of unfairness and disregard for the abilities and efforts of the attorney workforce as a whole and, further, implied an unwholesome and chilling willingness to politicize the legal work of the Office. It was noted that the secret promotions and merit advancements were consistent with the message of disrespect communicated to the workforce when the new administration first assumed office and immediately identified the repeal of attorney tenure as a priority.

The first statements by management in defense of the secret salary adjustments were discussed and reviewed after the Board meeting, but were dismissed as unpersuasive. The stated rationale -- neighborhood prosecutors were hired in a rush with a resulting pay inequity, and that management must rectify instances of attorneys paid differently for similar work -- did not withstand scrutiny by members. It is the norm -- not the exception -- that attorneys’ salaries reflect a variety of factors other than and in addition to work assignment: prior experience, seniority, City financial realities, etc. The question was raised as to whether management’s stated rationale would accordingly necessarily result in the promotion of all neighborhood prosecutors to top levels to prevent any "disparities."

It was also discussed that the day before knowledge of the secret merit and promotion awards leaked to the general attorney workforce, the Municipal Counsel Branch Chief, presumably speaking on behalf of the City Attorney and with management’s approval and knowledge, addressed an alleged lack of funds for merit and promotion, and instructed her subordinate supervisors to improve morale among staff attorneys by being "cheerleaders" for the City Attorney notwithstanding the City Attorney’s inability to effect promotions and merit step advancements.

The Board voted to tender a Public Relations Act demand on the City Attorney to compel him to be forthcoming about the secret salary adjustments. In addition, the Board voted to tender such a demand quarterly, since there is not present assurance that management will be open or forthcoming about personnel actions. Once it receives the public information to which it is legally entitled, the Board will consider further action.

B. Retroactive Checks

Attorneys present expressed anger over the failure of the City to timely issue retroactive checks. There was discussion regarding (1) the filing of a Writ of Mandate to compel the City to issue the checks; (2)an Unfair Employee Relations Practice directed, inter alia, against the Controller; and (3) individual claims for damages filed with the City Clerk pursuant to the Government Code by each attorney owed back pay. The Board voted unanimously to consult with its attorney, and to either file a writ of mandate, or an UERP Complaint, depending on advice of counsel.

C. Board Elections

The Board Secretary reported that Liz Greenwood filed a nominating petition to serve as Vice President, Jule Bishop filed a petition to serve as Treasurer, and Marcia Berkowitz filed a petition to serve as Civil Director. No one filed a petition to serve as Criminal Director.

Given that the positions for which petitions were submitted are uncontested, the Board considered whether to seat the unopposed candidates for the open seats, and to solicit criminal deputies to serve as Criminal Directors. The Board voted to consider the matter at its next meeting, and Judith Reel said she would ask the Association’s counsel for a written opinion as to the necessity of holding an election where all the seats are uncontested. In the meantime, persons interested in serving as Criminal Director should contact a Board member; ideally, the Board would like a representative from downtown, as well as the branches.

D. Office Space

Many months ago the Board tried to have input about window office space in City Hall East; we argued to the Municipal Facilities Committee that the library should be moved to interior space, so that all attorneys could have window offices. Christine McCall made a presentation to the Committee, and argued not only that persons work and feel better in natural light, and that books do not, but also that it undercut the City’s bargaining position to have its attorneys meeting with clients and opposing counsel in small, windowless offices that communicated that the attorney was an unimportant representative of the City’s interests. The Committee was encouraging and supportive of Ms. McCall’s arguments, but decided that the arguments were made too late in the planning process to warrant the expense of moving the library to interior space.

Subsequent to the presentation to the Municipal Facilities Committee, the Board, represented by Shelley Smith, Judith Reel, and Christine McCall, met with Terree Bowers and asked that the City Attorney commit that in any future reconfiguration of City Attorney Office space, the Association be included from the beginning in the decision-making process so that decisions would not be made without consideration of attorney’s needs. Bowers agreed.

E. Employee Discipline Issues

Christine McCall reported that there are currently five active cases in which the Office is pursuing disciplinary action against employees, a number that is unprecedented in the past thirty years of five other City Attorneys. There was discussion about the fact that management appears not to have knowledge of fundamental well-settled California labor law; that management repeatedly violates the Skelly rights of City Attorney employees, which has constituted basic labor law concerning due process for public employees in California. There was considerable discussion about the unprecedented circumstance of a public law office, responsible for requiring other City departments to follow the law in their personnel actions, acting in disregard of settled labor law, thus requiring the Association and affected employees to contests actions unnecessarily.

Board members also discussed the Office’s recent mandatory training in the area of sexual harassment, and also touched in the written materials on issues of accommodation under the American with Disabilities Act. Ms. McCall and others present with extensive work experience in employment discrimination and sexual harassment law noted that substantial misinformation, including designating non-actionable behavior as "sexual harassment," was presented to City Attorney employees (of all work classifications) at the recent mandatory training. It is expected that the Association will grapple with issues concerning both claimants and persons accused of improper conduct as a consequence of the wholesale misinformation communicated in the training sessions.

F. Status of Retirement Formula Negotiations

Due to the illness of Shelley Smith, discussions regarding retirement formula negotiations were postponed until the next Board meeting. There was a discussion, however, about whether and how criminal deputies could seek to obtain a 3 percent formula similar to recent legislation permitting criminal prosecutors covered under CALPERS to negotiate for such benefits. It was tentatively agreed that interested criminal deputies should form a committee to investigate the matter, and report back to the Board with their findings. Deputies interested in serving on such a committee should contact Jule Bishop.

 

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.