(Minutes not formally adopted until next meeting)

Meeting Date: March 24, 2003

Board Members Present: Shelley Smith (President), Jule Bishop (Treasurer), Judith Reel (Secretary), Christine McCall (Civil Director-by proxy); Marsha Berkowitz (Civil Director-by proxy); Eskel Solomon (Civil Director), Liz Greenwood (Vice President - by proxy), Mary Dennis (Vice President - by proxy),

I. Old Business

A. Proposed Affiliation with SEIU

The Board voted unanimously to recommend to the membership approval of the proposed affiliation with SEIU, Local 347.

The proposed agreement between the Association and SEIU, which must be ratified by a vote of the membership in order to be effective, provides as follows:

1. The Association will retain its present funds so that if the Association ever chooses to dissolve its affiliation with SEIU, the Association will be on the same sound financial footing as before affiliation;

2. The Association members’ dues will not increase, and no future increases may occur except as approved by a majority vote of Association members;

3. For the first three years of affiliation, dues will be allocated 75% to SEIU and 25% to the Association. After three years, the split will be 80/20;

4. The Association will have a permanent seat on SEIU’s 12-member Board of Directors;

5. The Association shall continue to be governed by its Board of Directors; the Board will invoke SEIU’s assistance when the Board specifically determines that SEIU assistance is in the members’ best interests; and

6. The Association will retain full autonomy and will exercise independent endorsement judgement as to candidates for public office and other public policy or political issues affecting members’ interests.


All Board members spoke in favor of the proposed agreement. President Shelley Smith spoke about the need to shift the infrastructure of the City Attorney’s union from that of a group of volunteer Board Members to a professional organization that works full-time on behalf of its members’ interests.

Others spoke of additional reasons for affiliating, specifically identifying the following compelling bases:

Notwithstanding the "independence" intended by the various statutory schemes which authorize and protect union-related activities by City Attorney staff, it is inescapable that Board members work for the City Attorney, and there can be a substantial career price to vigorous union participation. Some members do not participate out of concern for the affect to their career prospects. Those who choose to take that risk nevertheless feel substantial constraints and inhibition in the often vigorous criticism and challenge to managerial action that is often required in order to fairly and adequately represent the interests of the members. Simply put, it can be daunting even to the most committed union participant to criticize our employer -- an elected official and appointing authority -- and the managers who can so materially affect the course of careers. A professional standing independent union will not suffer the inhibitions of criticizing managers and executives to whom they directly report.

Further, given the fact of term limits, from here forward elected City Attorneys will necessarily be politicians primarily concerned with securing election to office beyond that of City Attorney. Plainly, every eight years at best, this workforce will see a new City Attorney who is running against the clock and the calendar to establish a public image as a reformer of the present institution. An elected City Attorney with political ambitions can be expected to be more respectful of SEIU, whose political endorsement and support are key in this region, than such political leaders may be of an organization led by volunteer attorneys in the regular workforce. Plainly put, this workforce works for a political candidate-- a fact that will not change when the identity of the City Attorney changes, and we need to be part of an organization that can command respect and attention from political candidates.

The Board decided to make every effort to ensure that all members are fully informed about the affiliation issue before any voting. The proposed affiliation agreement will be made available to the members. SEIU will also assist the Board in providing other written materials addressing the issue and sponsoring a series of informal lunch-time meetings. The Board decided to arrange for a neutral entity such as the American Arbitration Association to conduct the affiliation vote by mail ballot. Depending of the availability of the neutral entity conducting the election, the vote was tentatively scheduled for June, 2003.

Julie Butcher, General Manager of Local 347, and Bob Hunt, General Counsel of the Union, attended the Board meeting and answered questions.

B. Member Discipline

Judith Reel presented a current report on management’s intended termination of a tenured (13-year) attorney. For more than one year, the employee’s representative has asked management to provide the materials on which management bases its decision to terminate. Such materials have been required by black-letter California Supreme Court case law since 1975. For decades those materials have routinely been provided by the Office, as legally required, when discipline is initiated. Moreover, for decades the City Attorney’s Office has vigorously upheld and implemented the applicable law by ensuring other City departments provide to their employees the legally-mandated materials on which discipline is based. The departure by current City Attorney management from the plain legal standard, honored without exception over a course of decades, is without precedent or legal basis.

In mid-January, facing a petition before Judge Yaffe of the downtown Superior Court, City Attorney management (Patty Tubert and Fred Merkin) finally agreed to reconsider its 15-month refusal to provide the legally-mandated documents. However, there has been no compliance or agreement to comply since the mid-January agreement to reconsider the blanket refusal and to date management has refused to provide any time frame by which the documents -- now almost 18 months late! -- may be provided. The employee and employee’s representative (a volunteer attorney on the Board) will report to the Board and the membership the result of management’s departure from undisputed standard legal practice. Moreover, a comprehensive report to the Board and the membership on the specific facts and processes attendant to this specific proposed termination will be published, with the consent of the affected employee, within the next 90 days unless the proposed discipline is resolved by accord with management.

C. Public Records Act Request

The Board served a Public Records Act Request on the City Attorney, seeking the production of documents identifying all persons advanced in salary and hired since November of 2002, the date of the last production. In response, management offered to provide the information quarterly, with an annual production of documents showing all persons employed by the Office, including their assignments and salaries. The Board voted to accept management’s offer to voluntarily provide the information, and will request that the Office summary be provided biannually. Interested members should contact Board Secretary Judith Reel for a copy of the information provided.

D. City Attorney Policy Directives

On July 31, 2002, the City Attorney issued, without meeting and conferring with the Association, eleven policy directives, which purported to (1) require two weeks notice for the use of vacation time, (2) prohibit use of the Internet by a standard different than that already adopted by the City, and (3) establish an office-wide dress code. The Board filed Unfair Labor Relations Practice Charges with the City’s ERB, alleging that the City Attorney failed to meet and confer with the Association prior to issuing the Directives, as required by law. Not surprisingly, given the clear-cut nature of the city Attorney’s violation of compulsory meet-and-confer requirements, as soon as the City Attorney was served with notice of the UERP charges, all of the Policy Directives were explicitly rescinded (except for a Directive pertaining to escorting visitors in the hallway to which the Association made no objection).

In September of 2002, the Association and management agreed to meet and confer about the policy directives. The City Attorney did not attend; management was represented by Chief Deputy Terree Bowers, Budget Director Jaime de la Vega and Deputy City Attorney, Labor Relations Division attorney Hugo Rossitter. As a result of that compulsory process, management agreed to consider the Association’s positions regarding the Directives, and to engage in specific discussions. The Association did not hear anything further from management on the rescinded policy directives until late February 2003 when management advised the Association that it would resume meeting and conferring about the Directives. The next meet and confer session is scheduled for April, 2003. The Board will report the substance, progress and results of the meet and confer process to Association members.


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.