Minutes

LOS ANGELES CITY ATTORNEYS ASSOCIATION
BOARD MEETING MINUTES

Meeting Date: December 6, 2001

Board Members Present: Shelley Smith, Liz Greenwood, Mary Dennis, Jule Bishop, Judith Reel, Vince Ewing, Bob Fratianne, Eskel Solomon, Renee Laurents

I. Old Business

A. Contract Negotiation:

Due to CAO directive, Board members are not allowed to reveal the substantive issues discussed at MOU contract negotiations.

A number of members addressed the Board about low attorney morale. Three principal concerns were expressed:

(1)Bonus pay. There is strong concern that management will use any bonus pay mechanism in lieu of the merit/promotion process. Bonus pay is a one-time performance reward; it does not become a part of an attorney’s base pay for purposes of future salary increases, nor is it included in the base salary for purposes of calculating retirement pay. It was stated that if management finds the merit and promotion process inadequate or unsatisfactory, notwithstanding the unfettered discretion afforded management in that process, then the appropriate mechanism for resolution of those concerns is the meet and confer bargaining process rather than substitution of a bargained-for process with unilateral action.

(2) Under-utilization of merit and promotion process: It was explained that the process of merit and promotion is funded by salary savings that are achieved through a variety of measures: e.g., employing an attorney at a lower salary step than is authorized in the budget; replacing retirees with lower-step employees; and not filling authorized positions. There is a belief that the City Attorney has hired beyond authorization and at higher salaries than is authorized. Accordingly, the City Attorney has failed to achieve salary savings and to plan for any merit/promotion process which must be funded by such savings.

(3) Advanced hiring. Members stated that in the past the City has hired attorneys at higher than entry level steps only where the needs of the office so required, as when no experienced civil attorneys were available or willing to work in civil liability and the police employment litigation unit. There is the belief that the City Attorney has deviated from this custom and practice, and has instead hired a number of attorneys from the private sector and other outside positions at accelerated rank and pay scales (City Attorney IV and Assistant City Attorney). These employment decisions have drastically reduced the number of higher salaried positions available to the lower-ranking attorneys who rely on the merit and promotion process to operate as a career ladder. To clarify whether the City Attorney has in fact created or exacerbated promotional compaction by advanced step hirings, the Association has secured from Chief Deputy Terree Bowers a commitment to provide a list of all persons hired by City Attorney Delgadillo and their positions and compensation.

(4) "Rock of City" Recognition Awards. There is concern that the "Rock" awards will damage morale even further because of the perception that the awards will be used in lieu of the merit/promotion process. Additional concerns are that the "Rock" awards do not serve merely as recognition of good efforts and results since no more than one attorney per division will be recognized. This is believed to work a general inequity since some are so much larger than others and, further, since many of the more difficult assignments are necessarily "team efforts." Furthermore, there is the potential for substantial inequity given the extreme variation in the nature of attorney assignments within the office -- most attorneys have no opportunity to work on matters that generate public notice. In addition, some stated that low morale in the office is not caused by the lack of praise from management, and so will not be so rectified by such small measures. On the other hand, some members stated that any effort to institutionalize management recognition of attorneys’ work is welcome.

B. Public Records Act Request:

Judith Reel submitted a draft Public Records Act request and asked that the Association serve it on the City Attorney’s Office. The draft requested documents in two areas: (1) the McKinsey & Co. audit and all drafts of the audit, as well as written management communications regarding the audit; and (2) documents identifying all persons hired by City Attorney Delgadillo, their salaries, the funding source of the salaries, and office communications regarding sources and mechanisms of said salaries.

Shelley Smith stated that Terree Bowers had made a verbal commitment to the Association to provide a copy of the McKinsey & Co. audit. Jule Bishop reported that the Personnel Office, Sandra Pellen was compiling the list of those hired by the new City Attorney and their MOU positions, and would provide a copy on completion. Instead of serving the demand, the Board decided to confirm by letter the commitments by Terree Bowers and to request in that letter the additional items sought pursuant to the Public Records Act. Board members stated that they would issue a formal statutory demand if the documents are not voluntarily produced.

The Association will make the Public Records documents available to Association members when received.

C. Board Election

The election results in the only contested elections were as follows:

President: Shelley Smith: 97 votes; Rita Venegas: 94 votes

Secretary: Judith Reel: 93 votes; Lisa Berger: 91 votes

There was a lengthy and far-ranging discussion about the election process and procedures.

Lisa Berger stated that ballots were mailed to the printer on the Friday before Halloween. Most members received their ballots by November 8; ballots were due back by November 26, the day they were to be counted. A few members informed Lisa during the period between November 8 and 26 that they had not received their ballots, and Lisa sent another to those persons.

To respond to confidentiality concerns expressed by members voting at work, two elections ago the Board decided to allow members to vote by mail. The Board sends ballots to members using the addresses maintained by the Controller’s Office, which addresses City employees are required to keep accurate. Board members count the ballots. In order to protect the confidentiality regarding the identity of the voters, it has been a general policy that candidates are not to be present to observe the counting. Accordingly, of the Board members, only those not running for re-election may be present. Ballots must be received by the date scheduled for counting; postmark dates are irrelevant (as was stated in the letter to members accompanying the ballots.) Further, there is no time in the day specified by which the ballots must be received.

At 4:00 p.m. on November 26, Board members Jule Bishop and Liz Greenwood, met at the Association’s office for the purpose of checking and counting the ballots. The office is located in a private office building downtown. Board member Vince Ewing, was scheduled to be present and assist, but at the last minute Vince Ewing was held up in court. On arriving at the Association’s office, Jule Bishop and Liz Greenwood, who do not have keys or night access to the building, learned that the office building would be locked at 5:00 p.m. and that the name of anyone seeking entry after that time had to be given to the security guard before 5:00 p.m. This new requirement was believed to be put in place by building management only recently as a response to the events of September 11.

At approximately 4:15 p.m., Liz Greenwood and Jule Bishop began the checking- in process. Ballots were put into alphabetical order and verified via the membership lists. The process always lasts at least 3 hours, and often longer. Prior to the commencement of the ballot verification and count, no one had informed the Election Committee or any other Board member, of an intention to observe the count. At approximately 5:05p.m., on the day of the deadline, Raquel Perez called to say she wanted to come and watch the counting. Ms. Greenwood spoke to Ms. Perez and told her that her request was not timely. The process had already commenced. Since the building was already locked, it was past the deadline set by the building’s security personnel to obtain an access permit.

As for the actual counting, Liz and Jule placed the unopened envelopes in alphabetical order and checked the names of the persons voting to verify that all were eligible members of the Association. Next, they opened the outer envelopes, and separated them from the inside envelopes which showed only the Branch to which the voter belonged, and not the name of the voter. They then opened the interior envelopes and removed the ballots. Because of the closeness of the election, the actual count was verified three times.

The Board’s policy is to count all conforming ballots received on or before the date set for counting. At the end of the day, a member brought a ballot to Mary Dennis and asked for instructions for last minute voting. Mary Dennis contacted the Association Office and it was agreed to accept this ballot via fax. Thus, the Board allowed one Association member to fax a completed ballot to the office at approximately 5:00, after the member agreed to forego the confidentiality of the vote. Since this fax ballot had to be checked against the members’ list, the members’ name was required. In addition, two members filled out all three ballots mailed to them (separately pertaining to the civil, criminal and propriety branches) and returned all three ballots in the same envelope. These ballots were examined and one ballot from each was accepted and duly counted when it was determined that the candidates chosen were clear. Before completing the counting, other Board members were contacted to ask if there were any additional ballots in Board members’ possession. There were none.

Five ballots arrived at Association offices by mail in the days following the deadline. As in all previous Association elections, late ballots were not opened or counted. All voting materials have been retained.

Some members present questioned whether the counting process violated Article 5, Section 7 of the Association’s By-Laws, which states in relevant part: "Ballots for any election, including special elections, shall be verified and counted by the Secretary/Treasurer and at least two other members in good standing as the Board may designate." When the by-laws were adopted, one person held the title of "Secretary/Treasurer." Jule Bishop is Treasurer; Secretary Lisa Berger was precluded from counting because she was a candidate for re-election. Another association member, Christine McCall (formerly Patterson) argued that the vote-count process was not in violation of the by-laws because the provision "as the Board may designate" controls the preceding phrase, and, although the Board could have designated additional vote counters, the Board did not so designate. The Bylaws do not currently require outside observers. Six seats on the Board (out of 11) were up for election in this election cycle.

There was some discussion about whether the Board should recount the ballots with observers. However, Rita Venegas stated that a recount would not satisfy her objections. When asked to specify what exactly about the election Rita contended was unfair, Rita stated that the count was suspect because it was conducted by Board members with no other witnesses in attendance. She also cited the votes by the two people who mistakenly cast three votes instead of one, even though their votes were accepted and counted. Ms. Venegas also complained that the building was locked after 5:00 p.m. When questioned by Eskel Solomon, Ms. Venegas said that she did not know of anyone who tried and failed to enter the Association office building to observe the vote count or of anyone who had requested permission to observe. Ms. Venegas offered no other specifics in her protest of the results. Finally, Ms Venegas stated that the only resolution that would satisfy her would be a new election with the votes counted by persons not on the Board.

After full discussion, Eskel Solomon moved to ratify the vote count and the Board approved the motion unanimously.

The Board discussed ways to increase the membership’s participation and confidence in the election process. Jule Bishop said that there are professional independent ballot counters, but that they charge approximately $4,000 - $6,000 per election, and that use of outside counters might violate our promise of confidentiality. The Board also discussed amending the by-laws to expressly allow a candidate to designate a representative to observe vote counting, with 24 hours notice to the Elections Committee. The Board asked member Lisa Berger to assist in drafting new election by-laws to accommodate these concerns.

D. Web Site

Jule Bishop reported that the web site is established, and that the Board is soliciting ideas from Association members about the content of the web site. Shelley Smith will request a disk version of the MOU, official copies of which are kept by the Controller’s office. It was also suggested that the minutes of the Board meetings and agenda items be put onto the site.

I. New Business

A. Financial Accounting/Dues

The Treasurer, provided the monthly report to the Board regarding the Associations’ finances. The Boards liability insurance is up for renewal in February. After a brief review of accounts, Jule Bishop reported also said that she believes that the Association is close to a position of earning enough interest to pay for the Association’s basic administrative costs.

Monthly accounts are forwarded to the outside accounting agency, which reviews all of the Board’s income and expenditures. This review and reporting has been in place for years (possibly 6). After tax time, in the spring, this agency will once again provide its annual report regarding the Association’s finances. Prior annual reports are available and kept in the Association offices. The issue of the amount of dues collected will be discussed upon receipt of the annual audit.

B. Meeting Locations

Concern was expressed about the potential for management representatives attending meetings held in buildings open to the public. Others emphasized the importance of easy access for the members, and said that DWP was convenient for members. The Board agreed to meet at DWP next month and to revisit the issue at that time.

C. Possible Union Affiliation

Judith Reel stated she desired to invite a representative of SEIU to the next meeting to discuss possible Association affiliation. Board members stated that they wanted to consider the issue more thoroughly before inviting a Union representative, and the Board decided to consider the issue at its February meeting.

III. Executive Session

The Board met in executive session to discuss an employee disciplinary matter.

IV. PAC

The Board’s PAC convened and voted to purchase for $750.00 a table at a dinner for the Harbor Area Alternatives Program, at which Council member Janice Hahn will serve as the event chair. The PAC also voted to contribute $500.00 to Councilmember Nick Pacheco’s office-holder account.

 

At its June 9 meeting, JLMBC awarded new contracts for health insurance providers. Anthem Blue Cross has been selected to replace Blue Shield as the exclusive provider for PPO, HMO Full and Narrow Network plans, and a new alternate regional network plan, "Vivity." Anthem anticipates minimal disruption of services for members who use UCLA and Cedars facilities. Kaiser Permanente is still available for alternate HMO health insurance coverage. For more information on how this may impact your options during Open Enrollment for 2017, contact the City's Employee Benefits Division: (213) 978-1655


LACAA congratulates Civil Director Marie McTeague on her well deserved retirement. Her brilliance, fierce advocacy for LACAA members, personal sacrifices and sense of justice have been the cornerstone of LACAA's success. We will truly miss her presence in the office (but still have her cell phone number).


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