Fullerton Councilmember Responds: New COIN Ordinance Has Teeth

This website recently posted articles criticizing Fullerton’s newly passed COIN ordinance, the Fullerton Transparency and Accountability in Labor Negotiations Ordinance. The author used Supervisor John Moorlach’s earlier writing to guide his criticism of our achievement. For the sake of clarity, I use the same template to correct the record. Supervisor Moorlach’s essential elements are, in fact, included in the Fullerton COIN ordinance. Below is a list of what the Fullerton ordinance accomplishes:

1. Independent Negotiator:  Even before the passage of this ordinance, Fullerton has had the practice of using independent negotiators for collective bargaining and now this ordinance requires the City Council to utilize an independent negotiator when either an employee organization or the City proposes significant changes to wages, hours or other conditions of employment, or when when the employee association is represented by a third-party negotiator or legal counsel, or at any other time the Council deems appropriate. Independent negotiator: check!

2. Cost of Contracts:  The Fullerton Transparency and Accountability in Negotiations Ordinance includes a requirement for independent audits of each and every negotiated agreement between the City and an employee organization. Our ordinance goes further, though, to keep the Council, employees and taxpayers aware of the financial implications of current labor agreements. We added a new requirement that the city post on-line and provide to Council annually, an analysis of those mid-contract labor agreements with updated CALPERS rates and other real-time benefit cost increases or decreases. With this new requirement, specifically, taxpayers will be able to see how changes at CaLPERS and with city health benefit providers directly impact the City’s financial liabilities. Cost of contracts: check!

3. Offers and Counter Offers:  In the Fullerton ordinance all rejected offers and counter offers are required to be made public immediately after the Closed Session of Council during which they were rejected. Offers and Counter Offers: check!

4. Board Disclosure:  The Fullerton ordinance requires Council Members to disclose any and all private communications one might have had with a member of an employee organization regarding a potential contract both in our Closed Session and in our public, Open Session. Council Members are also required to sign a written acknowledgment that he or she has read all of the financial analysis of the proposed negotiated contract. Board Disclosure: check!

5. Contract Approval:  The Fullerton ordinance requires that any tentative agreement be posted on the city website and given to the public at least 7 days before the first City Council meeting at which it is publicly considered. Additionally, each tentative agreement must be heard at two consecutive City Council public, Open Sessions before it is voted on in order to increase the public’s time to analyze the information. Contract Approval: check!

Here is a link to the Fullerton ordinance so you can see for yourself, it’s all there: http://cityoffullerton.com/weblink8/2/doc/539340/Page1.aspx

The effort in Costa Mesa, Fullerton and the County of Orange to bring more transparency and accountability to the labor negotiation process is an important one. 32 cities in Orange County have yet to consider an ordinance of this kind. Perhaps our focus should be in getting more cities to join our cause.

About the Author:  Jennifer Fitzgerald was elected to the Fullerton City Council in 2012. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Association of California Cities-Orange County Chapter and the Orange County Taxpayers Association and is a Past President of the Fullerton Chamber of Commerce. She and her husband, Sean, are longtime residents of Fullerton where they’re raising their two sons.

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    Barry Levinson says:

    Fullerton Councilmember Jennifer Fitzgerald’s June 30th article on the UnionWatch website titled “Fullerton Councilmember Responds: New COIN Ordinance Has Teeth” is referring to my earlier article about C.O.I.N. dated June 25th (read it on UnionWatch or FACT) without mentioning my name. She states that County Supervisor John Moorlach’s five components are in the Fullerton ordinance. She conveniently ignores every specific fact comparison I make for each of the 5 components. How is that responding to my very real concerns that the Fullerton ordinance will not make any major improvements to the transparency, timeliness and accountability of Fullerton’s labor negotiation process?

    Let us first start out with the keys to a good C.O.I.N. ordinance. The keys are transparency, openness, timeliness and accountability. Let us take up that subject as it may relate to Ms. Fitzgerald. Let us go to her byline entitled “About the Author“. She tells you “she serves on the Board of Directors for the Association of California Cities-Orange County Chapter and the Orange County Taxpayers Association and is a Past President of the Fullerton Chamber of Commerce.” Yet she leaves out what she does for a living and who her current employer is. Why would she not tell the audience how she earns a living? So I will tell you. She is currently Vice President of Curt Pringle & Associates which describes themselves on their Facebook page as follows:

    About: Curt Pringle & Associates is a full-service public relations, public affairs and government relations firm, providing a wide range of services to both private and public sector clients.

    General Information: The Curt Pringle & Associates team works collaboratively to maximize our knowledge, expertise and experience in tailoring a comprehensive strategy to fit the client’s specific goals, resources and abilities.

    While we are perhaps best known for our governmental advocacy efforts, employing an extensive breadth of relationships with elected and appointed officials throughout southern California and at the State Capitol*, we are also well versed in the areas of land use entitlement, public outreach, crisis communications and media relations, and have produced substantial benefits in each of these fields for numerous clients.

    I would very much like Councilmember Fitzgerald to tell us why she left out this very important detail in describing herself. I would say what one does for a living could have a direct impact on various public policy positions, especially when that is her business as VP of Curt Pringle & Associates as well as her elected obligation and duty as Fullerton Councilmember as well. Could it be that this is the very reason why Ms. Fitzgerald failed to mention her executive position with Curt Pringle & Associates?


    There is an excellent quote whose author I do not know. The quote is as follows:

    “You are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts.”

    It simply means that you are entitled to any opinion without the boundaries of accuracy, factuality, or even sanity. Facts by the very definition of the word, does not allow you to have your own set of facts simply because you are not the arbiter of those facts like you are with your own opinions. I know politicians wish that they could have their own set of facts and many times act like they are entitled to have their own set of facts. However, I am here to tell them unequivocally that they do not have that right if they also want to be honest communicators of the truth.

    Therefore, Ms. Fitzgerald certainly is entitled to her opinions but she is certainly not entitled to her own brand of facts.

    My earlier article took the five major components of a good C.O.I.N ordinance and found shortcomings in the just-passed counterfeit CO.I.N. ordinance thanks to the Yes votes by Mayor Chaffee and Councilmembers Fitzgerald and Flory.

    It is interesting that for each specific shortcoming that I factually pointed out, Ms. Fitzgerald did not address directly any of them. I would call that rather non-responsive.

    For instance, let us give the reader two examples starting with component No. 1 Independent Negotiator. This is part of what I wrote as follows:

    “Under Moorlach’s component, an independent negotiator is a requirement for all negotiations. Under Fullerton ordinance Section B.1. Principal Negotiator second paragraph states as follows: “The requirement for an outside negotiator may be waived by a majority vote of City Council.”

    Therefore, since the current council put this out clause into the ordinance they must want to be able to waive the independent negotiator requirement at their convenience with a simple majority vote. If a majority of our current council wanted a truly independent process there would be no language in the ordinance to allow for the independent negotiator’s status to be tampered with by this council or for any future council as well.

    Ms. Fitzgerald did not address this critical fact in her response.

    For Component No. 2., Cost of Contracts, I wrote the following:

    “Under Moorlach’s component the independently elected Auditor-Controller reviews the costs of proposed contracts and provides the information to all parties and the public before any contractual finalization can take place.” In the Fullerton version it states at A.1., Annual Analysis of Costs and Liabilities, second paragraph, as follows: “The annual fiscal analysis shall be submitted to the City’s independent auditor during the course of the annual City financial audit.” Under Fullerton law, there is no requirement to provide this information prior to the signing of the labor negotiation contracts, relegating the independent auditor’s information basically worthless because the public does not receive it in a timely manner. Therefore, the second component’s only purpose is not carried out under the Fullerton law.”

    Ms. Fitzgerald failed to address this critical point as well. To use her vernacular….CHECKMATE!

    I would also like to make one very important observation. I have been regularly attending Fullerton council meetings since early 2010. In those 4.5 years, any agenda item that even had the hint of potentially reducing union power, control and especially their salaries and benefits of their members always resulted in many, many city employees attending and speaking out at those meetings. Not one city employee, not one union president or member spoke out against the recently passed Counterfeit C.O.I.N. ordinance. Ladies and gentlemen, doesn’t that tell you all you really need to know about which version of C.O.I.N. — the Costa Mesa version or the Fullerton version — is going to work best for the taxpayers of Fullerton?

    In conclusion, Ms. Fitzgerald is certainly entitled to her opinions, but she is not entitled to her own facts. Unfortunately, we the people of Fullerton believed her when she told us that she would support an effective C.O.I.N. ordinance for the city of Fullerton. Now we know her opinion about C.O.I.N., and now the reader knows the facts.

    Post Script: What is truly sad is that Ms. Fitzgerald as well as Ms. Flory and Mr. Chaffee will be asked to account for these and other shortcomings in the Fullerton ordinance in upcoming Fullerton city council meetings by the public, and they will most likely not respond to any of the public’s questions. Is this the kind of government that our forefathers envisioned, or is this the kind of government they feared might materialize while the public was not closely watching our city leaders?

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