Meeting Date: January 22, 2004

Board Members Present: Shelley Smith (President), Jule Bishop (Treasurer), Judith Reel (Secretary), Rosemary Chavez (Criminal Director), Christine McCall (Civil Director), Marsha Berkowitz (Civil Director), Lisa Berger (Proprietary Director), Mary Dennis (Vice-President), Liz Greenwood (Vice President),

SEIU Local 347 Representative Present: Robert Hunt (General Counsel)

I. Old Business

A. Retirement Pension Formula

Shelley Smith updated the Board on efforts to reform the retirement pension formula. The efforts to reform the system by installation of a graduated system (whereby persons who stay longer receive a greater multiplier in the pension formula, e.g., 2.3% at age 55, and 2.5% at age 60) may be temporarily hampered by the City’s desire to reduce costs. Traditionally, the City has sought to reduce its payroll costs by encouraging early retirement; such a reduction is at odds with a pension formula which encourages employees not to retire.

The uncertainty of the City’s budget may give rise to an effort to encourage retirement by offering incentives through the pension system; some of the suggestions include the right to purchase credit for additional service that is not based on actual prior employment (known as "Air Time"), and consideration of the options offered to DWP employees when DWP down-sized. The Board will remain open to the possibility of pension reform in the upcoming MOU negotiations, and will encourage other city unions to do so as well.

B. Appointment of Criminal Director

Following Board elections at the end of last year, there were two unfilled criminal director positions. The Board voted unanimously to appoint Terri Seigel, a former Board member assigned to the Van Nuys Criminal Division, to one of the vacant criminal director positions. We are happy to have her services again, and pleased to have a representative from a Valley work site.

C. Office Promotion and Hiring Practices

Judith Reel has the Office’s quarterly report showing all attorneys hired and promoted during the last quarter of 2003; anyone desiring a copy may obtain one from any Board member.

There was a general discussion about this administration’s promotion and hiring practices. The surveys submitted by members with suggestions about the upcoming MOU negotiations show a growing concern on this issue; the responses run the gamut from decrying the lack of any standard on what constitutes "merit" all the way to a perception that the Office has abandoned the concept of career service and professional development.

Board members spoke of the consensus of many members that management appears to have abandoned any notion of a merit and promotion process, and that in the area of promotions and salary advancement, management will do what it wants for whomever it wants, and intends to continue to do so.

There was a discussion about the decades-long career expectations of city attorneys; in the past, except in exigent circumstances, attorneys were hired at the lower end of the pay scale, and as they developed their skills and gained experience they gradually assumed more complex and important responsibilities, with corresponding salary advancement. There was also an understanding that the bulk of promotions and salary advancement would be awarded pursuant to a merit and promotion process, and management used to work in good faith with the union with regards to the timing and procedures governing the process. It appears to many members that this administration has removed any semblance of a career arc as a deputy city attorney; that career development and advancement has come to a halt, particularly for those who do not work on matters which result in direct and prolonged contact with the eighth floor of City Hall East. Management’s apparent abandonment of a process which considers the merits of all attorneys is counterproductive towards any efforts to build attorney morale.

The Board reaffirmed its commitment to the fundamental value of career service in the public law context, and to the value of all of the City’s attorneys having an opportunity to demonstrate their value to management. The Board also resolved to formulate proposals to address this issue for the upcoming MOU negotiations.

II. New Business

A. Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Use of Comp Time

In early December, Board members learned that management sent to all supervisors a memo saying that any absence from work of three days or more for purposes covered by the FMLA must be treated as an FMLA leave and that comp time could not be used unless sick leave at 100% is exhausted. The Board, through SEIU, demanded to meet and confer on this issue.

On December 16, Terree Bowers and a Labor Division attorney met with Bob Hunt [SEIU General Counsel] and Board members in response to the demand. The union representatives explained that the FMLA MOU provisions can be reconciled with our members’ right to use either comp or vacation time, and that the FMLA provision was not intended to change the long-standing practice of allowing attorneys to use vacation and comp time for any reason whatsoever. The Association further stated the Office’s interpretation was a potential unfair labor practice as well as breach of the MOU. Management promised to review the issue and respond. The Board authorized SEIU to file any necessary legal claims in the event the issue is not resolved.

Attorneys not allowed to use comp time or vacation time because of management’s unilateral implementation of this policy may contact a Board member and file a grievance to preserve their right to have their time off credited against comp or vacation time, and to restore the sick time for which they were improperly docked.

B. Cesar Chavez Holiday

As most are aware, all civilian City employees receive as a day off Cesar Chavez’s birthday, which the City celebrates on the last Monday in March. The County, however, celebrates this day on Cesar Chavez’s actual birthday, which means that County courts are open on the last Monday in March. The issue therefore arises about the obligations of Office attorneys to appear in court on the last Monday in March, and management asked the Board to make a recommendation about the issue.

The Board unanimously voted to recommend that attorneys scheduled to appear in Court on the City’s scheduled day off may request that their supervisor schedule another attorney to appear instead, and the supervisor should attempt to accommodate the request. If the supervisor cannot reasonably accommodate the request, then the attorney must appear in court. Attorneys who must work on the City’s holiday will receive comp time, which they may use to take a different day off. We understand that this decision operates to the detriment of those who regularly appear in court, but we believe that the duty to our clients take precedence.

C. City Attorney’s Budget

As was reported in previous minutes, the Board is undertaking a review of the City Attorney’s budget and expenditures in response to members’ concerns about possible fund diversion and in order to determine why there is no money available for merit and promotion. As stated in the minutes of the last meeting, as a starting point the Board asked management to provide a list of all personnel, their assignments, and salaries, and management agreed to provide the information. There was a dispute between the Office and Association, after which the Office did agree to provide a list of all City Attorney employees and their area of assignment.

On January 22, 2004, Bob Hunt, Judith Reel and Jule Bishop met with management representatives to obtain more information about the City’s budget. At that meeting management confirmed that the City Attorney’s Office is now subject to a hard-hiring freeze, preventing the hiring of any additional personnel without City Council approval. A few more people will still be arriving to work at the Office, but those people accepted offers before the imposition of the hard-hiring freeze.

The Board discussed the possibility of lay-offs and the preparation of a seniority list. During the meeting to discuss the budget, management stated that the Mayor asked all City departments to send letters to its employees verifying the employees’ city work histories in order to prepare a seniority list in case of lay-offs. Initially, our Office did not send out the letters in order to avoid unnecessarily alarming people, but we have been told that in response to a directive by the Personnel Department, the Office will be sending them.

If lay-offs are ordered, management cannot unilaterally prepare the list; management must negotiate with unions the rules and procedures governing lay-offs. Los Angeles County Civil Service Commission v. Superior Court (1978) 23 Cal.3d 55. Accordingly the Board voted unanimously to authorize SEIU to send a letter to City Attorney management informing it of our demand to meet and confer regarding the preparation of any lay-off list. Furthermore, the Los Angeles City Charter, at Section 1050(c), mandates that layoffs in the City Attorneys Office must be done "in a manner consistent with the principles contained" in the provisions governing layoffs of civil service personnel, i.e., by seniority.

C. Grocery Workers’ Strike

Julie Butcher [General Manager, SEIU Local 347] presented an update on the current strike involving the Grocery Workers and several supermarket chains [Albertson’s, Vons and Ralph’s]. She stated that the effort to reduce these workers’ health insurance benefits could create pressure on the public sector to make similar efforts. She urged the Association Board and all of its members to support these workers in any way possible. SEIU Local 347 will forward any monetary donations contributed by Association members. For any member wishing to donate, checks may be made payable to UFCW Strike Fund.



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.

To sign up for the LACAA newsletter and email updates from Oscar Winslow,
LACAA's President, send a request to lacaapresident@gmail.com.