August 13, 2009 | 10:24am
The union representing investigators in the district attorney's office, notified county officials this morning that it will file a lawsuit tomorrow in federal court to block District Attorney Tony Rackauckas' plan to implement a temporary layoff plan as a way to help solve a $3.1 million budget shortfall.
Officials at the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs (AOCDS), the politically powerful law enforcement union, say they believe that Rackauckas' plan violates the contract he has with his investigators.
The DA, a Republican seeking a fourth term in the 2010 election, has ordered his investigators to take off nine unpaid days during the next fiscal year. To lessen the impact on the agency, Rackauckas has divided his investigators into five groups of at least 25. On a rotating basis, each group will take off five consecutive days and, later, another four days. He claims that because the AOCDS was uncooperative in negotiations he has no choice but to eliminate benefits for the investigators during their temporary layoffs.
Today, Charles Goldwasser, an attorney for AOCDS, told me that the union's request for a temporary restraining order against the DA is being made reluctantly.
"We're doing to this reluctantly because we've spent a bunch of time trying to meet [Rackauckas'] needs," said Goldwasser. "We've made a number of proposals [to avoid the layoffs], but they've fallen of deaf ears. So we are kind of stuck in this position and our goal is to best protect our members."
I attempted to "meet and confer" with AOCDS leaders in good faith on numerous occasions to come up with a reasonable solution to a serious budget problem we are having in Orange County. AOCDS leaders would only agree to "meet" but refused to "confer" regarding the proposed furlough plans. During these conversations, AOCDS leaders did not offer reasonable alternatives which would have resulted in actual dollars to offset the budget gap attributable for their members. The only solution they are actually leaving me is to fire the most junior investigators. I don't wish to do this to my investigative team as it would severely limit my ability to investigate and prosecute cases, which is my constitutional duty. I believe that the union contract and the law allows me to do temporary layoffs to make sure we have enough personnel to uphold public safety in Orange County, avoid permanent layoffs, and protect our employees.
Most prosecutors and investigators aren't happy with the furloughs and temporary layoffs, a fact Rackauckas has attempted to address by speaking to groups of employees this week.
After this story was published, Rackauckas sent me the following response to the union's claims:
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly