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Backroom Government Continues at Your City Hall: Garcetti and Wesson Cover Up New Labor Contracts

LA WATCHDOG--The lack of transparency concerning the economics of the new labor contracts for the City’s civilian workforce is nothing short of a cover up orchestrated by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council President Herb Wesson.

(Photo above, Mayor Garcetti in a playful mood with City Council President Herb Wesson.) 

And speaking of transparency, where is the Los Angeles Times, our paper of record?  And where is KPCC (89.3 FM) and the Los Angeles Daily News? 

On Friday, August 9, the Los Angeles City Council approved the new contracts for the City’s civilian unions that represent 20,000 city employees. There was very little discussion other than a seven-minute back and forth between Councilman Mike Bonin and City Administrative Officer Rich Llewellyn that provided very little information and insight. 

Bonin mentioned that he was concerned that he did not receive early notification about these contracts and stressed the need to be better informed about the significant commitment of resources, especially on the upcoming contracts for the police and firefighters.  

We agree.  Everybody deserves early notification of the details of the new contracts before they are discussed by City Council and its committees.    

Llewellyn said that the new contracts will cost $282 million over a three-year period, from July 1, 2018, when the old contract expired, to June 30, 2021.  

This represents a very generous increase of 15% increase over the next three years, significantly higher than the projected growth rate in General Fund revenues. 

This amount does not include $8 million from the elimination of the 10% employee contribution towards healthcare for selected employee organizations, the settlement of an outstanding grievance for $15 million, and increased pension contributions estimated to be in the range of $40 million over the next two years.   

This would push the increase to $345 million, a whooping 18% increase over the current salary level. 

No wonder the Garcetti and Wesson and the three other members of the Executive Employee Relations Committee (Paul Koretz, Paul Krekorian, and Nury Martinez) that oversaw these labor negotiations did not want transparency. 

In addition, the Coalition of City Unions is pushing the City to limit outsourcing and increase the number of civilian employees, even though the City has not benchmarked the efficiency (or inefficiency) of the its poorly managed, notoriously inefficient, and bloated civilian workforce.   

All this comes as the economy is beginning to show signs of slowing down, reminiscent of the disastrous 25%, five year raise in 2007, at the beginning of the Great Recession, that was approved without a thorough analysis by Mayor Villaraigosa and then City Council President Eric Garcetti. 

When Bonin asked Llewellyn how the 15 members of the City Council should respond to critics who will ask what the City got out of the deal, Llewellyn had no real answers other than to say that the City and its union partners ended up in the middle and that it was a ‘fair package.”  But Llewellyn provided no details or analysis.  Just more hot air. 

During the exchange with Bonin, Llewellyn referred to “our union partners.”  But that partnership consists of the campaign funding union leadership and the elected officials and their cronies, a massive conflict of interest.  It does not include us, the hard working Angelenos who are paying ever increasing taxes and fees for lousy service.  

In 2014, the LA 2020 Commission consisting of 13 City Hall insiders recommended that the City establish an Office of Transparency and Accountability to oversee the City’s budget and finances.  This recommendation was endorsed by Wesson.  But it never saw the light of day.  Garcetti even said that City Controller Ron Galperin served in this role.  But we have yet to see any report from Galperin on the labor contracts, or pensions for that matter. 

The cover up of the economics of the new labor contracts is why we cannot trust Garcetti, Wesson, and the rest of the City Council.  It is why there should be open and transparent labor negotiations, not behind closed doors, and why need and deserve an Office of Transparency and Accountability. 

(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council.  He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate.  He can be reached at:  lajack@gmail.com.)

-cw