MOORLACH UPDATE — Another Impasse — April 21, 2014

There is a financial recipe that the Board of Supervisors has to work with. Some 92 percent of general fund (also known as net county costs) revenues come from property taxes, which means that revenues are impacted by the real estate market, which has been flat. We’ve seen a recent uptick, but the volume of transactions has not been large enough to make an appreciable dent. And, benefiting from real estate market appreciation lags by a year when collecting the taxes. From a spending perspective, public safety now represents one-half of the County’s net county costs budget. Then there is the vehicle license fee take by the Governor and State Legislature, which I’ve been continually harping on; including my last UPDATE (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Daily Pilot — April 19, 2014). The ever increasing cost of the employer contributions into the defined benefit pension plan adds to the squeeze on available resources. Consequently, the Board has been negotiating with its bargaining units as best as can be done with an expectation of an increase in total compensation within our revenue increase projections. With defined benefit pension costs growing, it does not leave much, if any, room for increases in net wages. This gives you the flavor for the first article below from the Voice of OC.

Negotiations are done in closed session, which means that we are not to divulge the details. But, allow me the risk of providing a couple of clarifications to the story, as I was not interviewed for this piece. First, I asked the Chair to call a special closed session meeting, which occurred a week ago Friday, in order to clarify one of the components of the counter that was agreed to the previous Tuesday. Everything was clearly spelled out in writing and agreed to by the conclusion of the Friday afternoon session. I thought that the Board had made some significant concessions. Second, the following week Supervisor Spitzer decided that he did not agree with one of the components that he had previously agreed to and requested yet another special closed session. This request was declined by the Chair, as the proposal was thoroughly discussed in the special closed session and other Supervisors had notes reflecting and concurring with the results. The negotiations now move to the impasse phase, which has resulted in agreed to terms and closure in the majority of recent mediations.

The second piece is from Sunday’s OC Register and is their coverage of the County’s potential implementation of Laura’s Law. The resolution is expected to be on the May 13th Board agenda (see MOORLACH UPDATE — ALS/CCW/CCP/AOT — March 5, 2014).

The third piece is from the Long Beach Press Telegram. Blake Christian, C.P.A. served on my Treasurer’s Advisory Committee for most of my twelve years as the County Treasurer. His firm, Holthouse, Carlin & Van Trigt, co-hosts an annual Sunday brunch with Keesal, Young and Logan during the Long Beach Grand Prix. For the first time, I had a chance to attend the brunch and to observe the race activities. My wife and I enjoyed visiting with Blake and his wife and many other long-time friends that were present and then watched the beginning of the race from the vantage point of a parking lot structure nearby. This qualified me to make it to the Society Page, along with a long list of other guests.

BONUS: Speaking of Long Beach, the California State University Long Beach Alumni Awards Banquet will be held on May 8th (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Distinguished Alumni — April 5, 2014). The dinner will be held at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach, 200 South Pine Avenue. For additional information, please call 562-985-7536 or e-mail to Noemi.Guevara@csulb.edu.

OC Sheriff’s Deputies Reach Impasse in County Labor Talks

By NORBERTO SANTANA JR.

Negotiators representing more than 1,800 Orange County sheriff’s deputies have apparently reached an impasse in salary talks with county supervisors as the two sides have been unable to come to terms on employee pension contributions and pay raises.

Supervisors have remained steadfast in their demands that deputies pay significantly more toward their pensions to help alleviate the county’s $5-billion unfunded liability. Deputies, meanwhile, say they are ready to agree to increased pension contributions but want a pay raise to help cushion the blow.

Adding pressure to the negotiations is the reality that the county must balance its budget with $73 million less than it had previously, because supervisors lost a legal fight with Gov. Jerry Brown last year over property tax revenue.

The supervisors’ largest bargaining chip is the fact that the county now pays the equivalent of more than 60 percent of a deputy’s paycheck to the pension system each year.

While deputies were required to pay a small portion of their employee share of monthly pension payments in the last county contract negotiation, the amount was small and was slowly phased in over several years to the current 6 percent. Prior to 2009, deputies paid nothing into their retirement benefits.

County supervisors argue that’s unsustainable, not only for the solvency of the pension system but for the prospects of any pay raises in the near future.

They are demanding that deputies immediately step up to pay the full 16-percent employee share of their monthly pension contribution.

Deputy union officials counter with the argument that other jurisdictions are in hiring mode, and if county officials force such a hard deal on the union, they will lose their best deputies to other places and have to spend large amounts to recruit and retain.

They point to the myriad problems faced by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which recently confronted allegations that softening recruiting standards has attracted deputies with less than stellar backgrounds.

In many ways, an impasse is hardly surprising given this is the last of a group of grinding contract negotiations in the county’s so-called "Super Bowl of Labor Talks,” with the contracts of a half-dozen county unions expiring in recent years.

Nearly every group — executives, managers, attorneys and general employees — has reached impasse, and most have had hard pension payments imposed on them. General workers already pay the full employee share of their pension payment.

Yet while the overall message from the supervisors has been consistent, they seem to have recently split over tactics with the deputies.

Supervisors Chairman Shawn Nelson and Supervisor John Moorlach have reportedly drawn a hard line on pensions, arguing full employee share must be paid. They argue after paying for deputy pensions, there’s nothing left for raises in the public safety budget.

Two other supervisors — Pat Bates and Janet Nguyen, who both face State Senate elections this year — have been willing to consider alternatives but haven’t jumped out in front of their colleagues, according to sources.

Not so for Supervisor Todd Spitzer, a potential future contender for district attorney, who considers himself close to law enforcement. Spitzer was the force behind a special closed-door meeting late last week that reportedly held a deal.

“I wanted a counter,” said Spitzer on Friday. “I asked the chairman [Nelson] to hold a special meeting. I thought we were close and we needed to go back into closed session,” Spitzer said.

It’s rare to see county supervisors publicly disagreeing on terms in the midst of labor talks, but Spitzer said he is deeply troubled by the confrontational nature of the relationship between the board and deputies.

“I thought it was really close,” he said. “I really don’t want to go to impasse.”

Spitzer said he’s concerned about department morale, saying it ranks 16th out of 22 law enforcement agencies in Orange County when it comes to pay and benefits.

“I’m concerned, and I know the sheriff [Sandra Hutchens] is concerned about recruitment and retention,” Spitzer said. “I don’t want to turn Orange County into Los Angeles.”

Spitzer said he’s "not happy about impasse, because it sends the wrong message to the rank and file that our board is not concerned about our public safety personnel,” he said.

Reportedly, supervisors are trying to find a way to offer some sort of pay raise immediately — as much as 4.5 percent. That could be followed next year by a hike for senior deputies, those with more than 15 years, engineered through a quiet step increase. Salary for entry-level deputies would likely be the hardest hit pay rate.

Yet on Friday, the formal deadline for the union to respond to the county’s "last, best and final offer," no one was willing to talk publicly about that kind of deal.

Earlier Friday, county Human Resources Director Steve Danley said supervisors’ direction was to declare impasse at 4 p.m. if the deputies did not accept the county offer.

Then two hours after the deadline had passed, Danley said deputy union officials had sent a letter seeking a delay.

Danley then said he would consult attorneys and other county officials before declaring impasse, saying, “I’ll hold off on any pronouncements until Monday.”

However, a spokeswoman for the deputy sheriffs on Friday night said a decision had already been made.

“Our understanding is we are at impasse,” said Kimberly Edds, spokeswoman for the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs.

That was followed by a formal letter sent to members that night.

“We have been advised that the Board of Supervisors will not extend the Last, Best and Final offer date,” wrote association President Tom Dominguez. “The Board of Supervisors declared impasse as of 1600 hours today. Their action will now begin the process of mediation.”

Dominguez advised members that mediation could turn out a deal.

“As the Board of Supervisors and AOCDS have seen progress toward reaching an agreement, there are still differences that need to be resolved,” he wrote.

Spitzer also was confident a deal could be reached, despite the ominous tone of the word “impasse.”

“Impasse is a term of art,” Spitzer said. “It means you will continue discussions but generally involves a mediator. I’m hopeful we’ll be able to continue the discussion.”

Please contact Norberto Santana Jr. directly at nsantana and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/norbertosanana.

‘Laura’s Law’ in Thomas scenario

BY TERI SFORZA and MIKE REICHER

Kelly Thomas attacked his 73-year-old grandfather with a fireplace poker on June 8, 1995, smashing the elderly man repeatedly in the head. “THOMAS told investigators that his grandfather made him uncomfortable because he looked at his crotch and it made him feel ‘weird,’” said a 2011 district attorney’s investigation.

On April 27, 1996, Kelly Thomas vanished from a locked treatment facility for mental patients. “THOMAS was ‘AWOL,’ absent without leave, and was currently on Haldol, a medication for delusions, and he believed he was Jesus Christ,” according to a Santa Ana police account.

On April 24, 2000, Cypress police received a “suspicious person” complaint: “Male white, early 20s, red hair, no shoes, possibly transient, kneeling down and appearing to be despondent …. identified as THOMAS, who stated he was upset over the recent death of his mother. …”

Kelly Thomas’ mother is not dead. But after a gruesome altercation with Fullerton police, Thomas, a homeless schizophrenic, is.

On May 13, after nearly three years of gut-wrenching debate, the Orange County Board of Supervisors is slated to consider adopting “Laura’s Law,” a controversial tool that would empower officials to order severely mentally ill people into court-imposed outpatient treatment, even if that treatment is against a patient’s wishes.

If O.C. had Laura’s Law on the books in 2011, some activists argue, Kelly Thomas might be alive today.

Orange would be the first large county to adopt the law, and the proceedings are being closely watched by Los Angeles (which has a pilot program). San Francisco, San Diego and other counties are also weighing its merits.

Civil libertarians are vehemently opposed, saying the decision to enter or refuse treatment should always rest with the individual, not with the state.

The May 13 meeting promises to be long and passionate. As the debate intensifies, the ghost of Kelly Thomas haunts the proceedings: Would Laura’s Law have helped him?

DEVIL IN THE DETAILS

Thomas had dozens of run-ins with local law enforcement dating back to 1993 – some more tempestuous than others.

After the attack on his grandfather in 1995, he pleaded guilty to felony assault with a deadly weapon. There were altercations involving indecent exposure, trespassing, panhandling, disturbing the peace. Stints in rehab, disappearances from rehab. Drugs that were supposed to stabilize him, drugs that he eventually rejected.

“According to THOMAS, he took himself off his psychiatric medications three to four months ago because they made him feel worse,” said a police summary of a 2004 episode in Brea.

Ditching meds is a common problem for mentally ill patients, and one of the key things Laura’s Law tries to address. But before authorities can order someone to take meds under Laura’s Law, a rather dizzying list of conditions must be met, including:

• “A clinical determination that the person is unlikely to survive safely in the community without supervision.”

• Proof that the person “has a history of lack of compliance with treatment.”

• Proof that the person has either been hospitalized or treated in the mental health unit of a jail or prison twice over the past three years; or that the person’s mental illness has resulted in “one or more acts of serious and violent behavior toward himself or another” over the past four years. (The incident that sparked authorities to invoke Laura’s Law does not count as one of these.)

So would Thomas’ history have allowed authorities to order him into treatment? That could depend, in large part, on what one considers serious or violent behavior.

ROCKS AND KNIVES

In December 2007, Thomas threatened his mother with a butcher knife, according to an Anaheim PD report.

In September 2009, he lit matches, threw them on the ground, and told a Placentia police officer that he didn’t care.

In December 2009, he threw a watch at a cook trying to shoo him away from the trash at a Placentia restaurant.

In June 2010, he hurled rocks at a fruit stand worker in Anaheim.

On Dec. 13, 2010, someone matching his exact description threw a chair from the patio of a Fullerton Starbucks at a car driving through the parking lot, cracking its left taillight.

On Dec. 27, 2010, his mother filed for the restraining order after he “held her by her neck and would not let go.”

All of these incidents – and more – happened in the four years before Thomas’ fatal interaction with police in July 2011. But were they serious or violent enough to allow for forced treatment?

“Kelly would have qualified,” his father, Ron Thomas, said. “It would have helped him then. The meds he was on always brought him back to being a reasonable person.”

Others aren’t so sure.

“Laura’s Law would not have saved Kelly Thomas’ life,” wrote Charmaine Asher, a member of the California Network of Mental Health Clients, to the Register.

“Laura’s Law does not provide desperately needed training for law enforcement in how to care for those of us labeled with mental health conditions. … If I were to sit on a curb like Kelly Thomas did and six police officers proceeded to beat me to death, then it would not be my mental condition that caused my death.”

County Supervisor John Moorlach was at first deeply skeptical of Laura’s Law, but eventually prodded state legislators to allow counties to fund it, and is now a believer. “There’s a really good debate on whether or not Laura’s Law would have helped Kelly Thomas,” Moorlach said. “Both sides make good arguments.”

Those arguments can’t change the past. Laura’s Law could, however, change the future.

“Families that are dealing with children who have mental health issues need another tool in the toolbox,” Moorlach told us. “A Superior Court judge cannot force someone with schizophrenia to take his medication. But he can tell him to take it. That’s the ‘black robe effect,’ and it can be powerful. A lot of people who are mentally ill just don’t know they’re mentally ill, and families are telling us, ‘We need some outside help.’ If we can provide this extra help, we should.”

‘DOUBLE STANDARD’

Laura’s Law could apply to some 120 severely mentally ill people who pose a danger to themselves or others in O.C., the county has estimated, and would cost $5.7 million to $6.1 million a year.

Through the lean years, that was prohibitively expensive. But a law passed last year – at the express urging of Orange County – allows counties to spend Proposition 63 money on Laura’s Law. (Prop. 63 added a 1 percent tax on those earning more than $1 million a year, to be spent on mental health programs.)

O.C. expects about $104 million in Prop. 63 money this year, and the O.C. Mental Health Board gave a unanimous thumbs-up to spending $4.4 million on Laura’s Law outpatient treatment for the severely mentally ill in 2014-15. The Board of Supervisors has the final say, which should make for much drama on May 13.

“Forced treatment is wrong,” wrote psychologist John M. Grohol in a 2012 article titled “The Double Standard of Forced Treatment.” “Just as no doctor would ever force someone to undergo cancer treatment against their will, I can no longer back the rationalizations that justify forcing a fellow human being to undergo treatment for their mental health concern without their consent. As a society, we’ve shown time and time again that we cannot devise a system that won’t be abused or used in ways that it was never intended.”

Civil rights lawyer Ann Menasche has argued that public funds are better spent on expanding voluntary programs and crisis intervention training.

Orange County is bracing for lawsuits if Laura’s Law is adopted.

‘TOOLBOX’

Laura’s Law was passed by the California Legislature in 2003 in honor of Laura Wilcox, 19, who was working at a public mental health clinic in Nevada County during her winter break from college. A man who had refused treatment stormed the clinic, shooting Wilcox and two others.

Nevada County is the only one in California to fully implement the law.

Opponents’ arguments are reasonable, but Moorlach expects the board to embrace Laura’s Law nonetheless. It’s one of the main things he wants to accomplish before he terms out as supervisor. “One more tool in the toolbox,” he said again.

If it passes in May, the board will vote on the budget in June. Training for police officers, psychiatrists and others would come next, and O.C. would be able to use Laura’s Law by October, Moorlach said.

Orange County’s Carla Jacobs, who has seen mental illness devastate her own family, thinks it’s about time.

“It’s constitutionally right and it’s morally right,” Jacobs said. “Yes, people can threaten to sue, and they can even file suit, but Orange County is planning on doing this right. I’m hoping the Board of Supervisors will vote for the resolution in May. They’re going to be saving a lot of lives.”

Would Laura’s Law have helped Kelly Thomas?

“After the fact, there’s no way to really determine that,” Jacobs said. “It didn’t exist here when Kelly was alive. We didn’t have the option. But if it passes, it’s going to save a lot of people like Kelly.”

Seen at the Scene – Celebrating 40 years of Grand Prix

By Shirley Wild

The 40th anniversary of the Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 13 was a wonderful celebratory occasion.

The etiquette books tell us the gemstone for the 40th anniversary is the ruby, because rubies are thought to possess an eternal inner flame — a symbol that the passion in a marriage is still very alive and strong after 40 years together. What better describes the marriage of the Long Beach Grand Prix race and the city of Long Beach! The love affair has grown each year since its beginnings 40 years ago.

The crowd, the largest attendance ever, was full of passion for the race, which holds a national reputation for excellence. In return, the city has garnered an international recognition to be envied. The checkered flag has been waved with enthusiasm, a win-win for all!

Even attendees who don’t necessarily understand motorcar racing, enter the spirit of the day with enthusiasm that generates tremendous energy. Whether it’s sheer numbers, the roar of the engines, the speed, the pageantry, the exhibition of power, the abundance of sensory sensations or the party atmosphere, it’s a day of tremendous fun and excitement.

Speaking of parties, there were three standouts among the multitude offered. The Grand Prix Association of Long Beach offers Pit Row race viewing in addition to a fabulous buffet that includes its famous lobster fare. The Keesal, Young & Logan affair begins with brunch and ends the day with dancing in their law offices high atop the Union Bank. And the Committee of 300, which has provided volunteer support for the race from its beginning, offers a three-day party with food, classic cars and dancing in their exclusive Paddock Club.

LBGPA: The excitement of seeing the precision team of mechanics in action during pit stops is thrilling; however, watching all of the pit row action is only part of the privilege of this setting. It’s a very glamorous and exclusive venue! It’s the ultimate thrill to see all the action from start (the opening ceremony, the flyover) to the end of the race. Hospitable and indefatigable LBGPA President and CEO Jim (and Mary) Michaelian join their notable guests, and one never knows which celebrity might be on the scene.

Seen at the scene: Supervisor Don and Julie Knabe with grandson Kaden, Beverly O’Neill, Diane Jacobis, City Manager Pat West, Jim Gray, Steve Goodling, Debbie and Charlie Riehl, Harry and Maria Saltzgaver, Tim King, Doug Krikorian and Heddy Drum, Dan and Desiree Gooch, Jay Oxford, David Wolfley, Justin Wolfley, Dan and Cindy Rodriguez, John Metcalfe.

Keesal Young and Logan: This party draws a crowd of 500 to 600 guests for a two-part event, brunch and after-party. The fun atmosphere is highlighted not only by a sky-high view, but with gorgeous floral displays intertwined with checkered flags among huge red oil funnels and race tires. Their gracious staff and hosts somehow make it all seem like a private party for pals.

The food is endless! Brunch began with mimosas, champagne and featured the usual breakfast fare plus salmon and capers, eggs Benedict and fruit; the afternoon buffet offered a carving station of tri-tip, chicken wings, taco bar and a Mardi Gras station with jambalaya and sausage on soft pretzel rolls.

Seen at the scene: Supervisor Don and Julie Knabe, Councilman Gary DeLong, Susan and Erich Wise, Rich and Yolita Dines, Lori Ann Farrell and Reggie Harrison, Beverly O’Neill, Ernie and Jackie Kell, Jim and Michelle Hahn, Charlie and Terese Parkin, Doug and Jill Haubert, Suja Lowenthal, Laura Doud, Linda and Doug Drummond, Robert Garcia, Dee Andrews, Steven Neal, Patrick O’Donnell, James Johnson, Roberto and Tonia Uranga, Suzie Price, Martha and Tino Bernadett, Michelle and John Molina, Arline and Mike Walter, Vicki and Blake Christian, Vern Schooley, John Hancock, Nancy Gaines, Rick and Joey DuRee, Marty Eisenberg, Larry Poe, Alex and Linda Bellehumeur, Mari Hooper, Anne Cramer, Jim and Chris Eaton, Cookie Braude and Greg Perrault, Jean Bixby Smith, Barbara Blackwell, Art Levine, Graham Vanhegan, Kalim Rayburn, Dennis Lord, Mike Murchison, Tom Shadden and Donna Bennett, Rocky and Julie Suares, Michael Cole, Al Moro, Noel Hacegaba, Michael Mais, Rex Richardson, Stacy Mungo, Graham Vanhegan, Victor Gonzales, Steve Miller, Mimi and Marie Song, Jim Zehmer, Jim Allen, Anna and Brian Russell, John Moorlach, Nuch and Noreen Trutanich,

Committee of 300: There were in excess of 650 guests attending the Paddock Club on Sunday alone, the last of the three-day package of parties. Attendees enjoyed an alfresco luncheon and all-day dancing to a live band. There were beautifully restored cars on display by the Sultans Car Club and a large-screen TV in the tented lounge area. Away from the crowds it was a perfect place to refresh and enjoy a delicious repast.

Seen at the scene: President Dian Morris and Rich Carry, event chairwoman Phyllis Covey, Cheryl LeMmon, Lynda Holcomb, Patti Maude, Rick Lorenzen and Kadee, Jimmy McCullough, Perry Cohen, Judie Johnsen, Lisa Veits, Vivian Tondreault, Ken Kern, Julie Nemechek.

News of social events with charitable purposes may be sent to Shirley Wild at spwild or by fax to 562-594-9668. Please include a contact phone number. Send high-resolution jpeg photos, by attachment, to spwild and include group name and identification of individuals from left. Call Shirley at 562-594-9468 for more information

Disclaimer: You have been added to my MOORLACH UPDATE communication e-mail tree. In lieu of a weekly newsletter, you will receive occasional media updates, some with commentary to explain the situation, whenever I appear in the media (unless it is a duplication of a previous story).

I have two thoughts for you to consider: (1) my office does not usually issue press releases to get into the newspapers (only in rare cases); and (2) I do not write the articles, opinions or letters to the editor.

This message should appear at the bottom of every e-mail you receive. If these e-mails should stop arriving in your mail box, it will be because your address has changed and you did not provide a new one. If you do not wish to receive these e-mails, then please e-mail back and request to unsubscribe.

Advertisements