MOORLACH UPDATE — OC Register — January 16, 2009

Yesterday evening I received a memo from our CEO, Tom Mauk, titled “AOCDS Negotiations Update.”  It opened with the following sentence:  “I am pleased to inform your Honorable Board that we reached a tentative agreement yesterday, Thursday, January 14, 2010, with the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs (AOCDS) representing the Peace Officer and Supervising Peace Officer Unit.”

Before receiving this memo, I had already received a telephone call from Jennifer Muir of the Register, inquiring about my reaction to the news.  Well, I was not comfortable in talking about it at that time.  So my comments were very brief on the topic.

The actual article in the “dead tree” version, lead article in the Local section, has a few more quotes, including one or two from Marcia Fritz.  Ms. Fritz’s comments, particularly her observation that requiring employees to contribute to their own pension plans is a minimum necessity, better explain why, under our current economic climate and our upcoming pension plan contribution rate increases, that the movement we have made with AOCDS is good, but it isn’t good enough.  The Sheriff’s Department will be facing more layoffs if we do not receive more concessions.  It’s that simple.

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Tentative deputy deal calls for new pension tier

The Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs has reached a tentative contract agreement with the county that would require deputies to contribute to their retirement costs and would reduce the lucrative “3 at 50″ pension benefit for new employees.

The union has been working with an expired contract since October 2009, and union members and the Board of Supervisors still need to approve its terms. Still, the tentative deal marks the first time that the union has been willing to back off its so-called “3 at 50″ pension formula, which allows members to retire at age 50 with 90 percent of their salary.

New employees would not be able to retire until age 55, when they can collect three percent of their annual pay for each year they worked at the department, according to details released today by the union. New employees also would contribute 6.6 percent of their retirement costs.

Existing employees would contribute five percent of their retirement costs by Jan. 2012. Currently, deputies don’t share the cost of their retirement plans.

The county and AOCDS have long been at odds over the cost of deputy pensions.  The Orange County Employees’ Retirement System paid out $410.4 million for pensions in 2008, compared to $139.6 million in 1999. Meanwhile, OCERS’ unfunded liability rose to $3.1 billion, from $85 million in 1999, according to an investigation earlier this month by my colleague Tony Saavedra.

Additionally, the county sued the deputy sheriff’s union in February 2008 to undo the retroactive portion of the “3 at 50″  benefit for police, saying the  plan violated state law because retired public safety employees were paid extra compensation for work they had already done. The county also argued that the plan was illegal because it spent general fund money without voter approval.

A trial court judge has rejected the county’s arguments, but the county is in the process of appealing the case (and has so far spent more than $2 million on the legal battle).

County supervisors and AOCDS President Wayne Quint said Friday they would not comment on the agreement because it has not yet been approved by union members and because certain points are still being negotiated.

Supervisor John Moorlach offered a brief response: “”It’s a good proposal. It’s not the best proposal.”

Also included in the tentative agreement: Members will forgo pay raises through October 2010. Salaries will reopen for negotiation in October 2011.

The agreement also calls for changes to an overtime policy: Today, employees can collect overtime when the hours they’re paid each week exceed 40. That means an employee who calls in sick on Monday — and logged sick pay hours for that time — could collect over time for working extra hours later in the week. Under the new rules, employees can only collect overtime for the hours they actually worked. So if you call in sick on Monday and work two hours late on Friday, you get no overtime. Instead, you claim fewer sick hours.

The county’s largest employee’s union, the Orange County Employees Association, last year created a second, less expensive retirement plan for employees and agreed to forgo raises and change the overtime policy.

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