[UPDATED with Judge Denies Part Of City's Motion To Dismiss Lawsuit:] Judge Blocks Costa Mesa Layoffs Until Civil Trial

UPDATE, NOV. 25, 1 P.M.:And, the outsourcing saga trudges on in Costa Mesa. 

Earlier this week, Superior Court Judge Barbara Tam Nomoto Schumann rejected the city's motion to dismiss part of the lawsuit they're facing after handing out some 200 pink slips to city employees this spring as a harbinger of their intent to outsource the jobs.

The Orange County Employee Association(OCEA), accordingly, filed an injunction against the city. A statement on OCEA's website Tuesday hailed Schumann's decision to deny the city's request to throw out two of the four causes of actions in the lawsuit as an "incremental victory."

The city, however, doesn't seem too concerned by the judge's ruling. "This ruling doesn't mean the union's interpretation will survive summary judgment or trial or otherwise withstand scrutiny on appeal," said

John Vogt

, an attorney representing the city. 

The trial is slated for April, but until then, there's an injunction in place that keeps the city from outsourcing jobs. jobs to private companies. (Thanks to Geoff West, author of A Bubbling Cauldron blog, for clarifying that the city can, however, look into the option of outsourcing to other public agencies.)

UPDATE, JULY 18, 4:49 P.M.: Though she made her ruling two weeks ago, Orange County Superior Court Judge Tam Nomoto Schumann issued the written order blocking the city of Costa Mesa from laying off employees and privatizing their jobs late Friday night.

The written order just added fuel to the never-ending press release battle between the city of Costa Mesa and the Orange County Employees Association (OCEA), who filed the injunction. 

Today, OCEA put out a press release in response to the city's last press release. OCEA spokeswoman Jennifer Muir says it was meant to clarify "a ton of confusion" and to "correct the record."

Muir says she thinks the "city completely mischaracterized what the judge said," calling "the whole first sentence of the press release incorrect." Muir says she was frustrated that even though the "judge's ruling didn't say anything affirmative," the city's press release was framed in a positive light. 

But, after all, it's hardly surprising that a city press release tried to make the city look good. PR 101, much? 

Then, a few minutes ago, City Spokesman Bill Lobdell released another press release, saying the city now realizes that the way they "originally interpreted" the judge's decision wasn't quite right. The city thought they could continue the outsourcing process as long as they showed that they followed "proper procedures," the press release explains.

Although the judge's written order makes no reference to "proper procedures," the judge used that phrase in her verbal ruling, Lobdell says.

Anyway, the city says they get it now and are happy to comply. 

"The injunction makes it clear that the judge has ordered the City to not outsource jobs to private companies until the OCEA lawsuit is concluded. We respect her decision and are now looking at our next legal options," City Attorney Tom Duarte says in the city's latest press release.

UPDATE, JULY 5, 7:17 P.M.: While the employee association who filed the injunction says the judge's decision today "removes a dark cloud" from above city employees' heads, the city says the judge's decision isn't much of a game-changer. 

"It doesn't have a huge impact on what we're doing," says Bill Lobdell, the city's interim director of communications. 

The Orange County Employees Association, who filed the injunction, is pleased with the judge's decision, but they say the fight is far from over.

"This is a positive outcome, but it is only one step toward holding this Council accountable," OCEA spokeswoman Jennifer Muir says in a press release. "It will prevent the City from laying off employees to outsource to the private sector. At least temporarily, it removes a dark cloud from over the heads of City employees, their families, and the entire community."

In a press release, Lobdell stresses that the judge's decision did not find the city had violated "proper procedures."

"From the city's point of view we followed the proper procedures and we'll continue doing that," he says. 

Previous Costa Mesa Layoffs Coverage:

ORIGINAL POST, JULY 5, 5:54 P.M.: Finally, the Costa Mesa employees who got layoff notices earlier this year have caught a break--or at least a reprieve. 

Joseph Serna of The Daily Pilot reports that an Orange County Superior Court judge ruled today that the city cannot lay off employees and outsource their jobs to private companies until the civil trial pans out.

Judge Tam Nomoto Schumann ruled today to enjoin the city from it's intended outsourcing, the article says, and "agreed that the city did not follow proper procedures earlier this year when it issued 213 layoff notices to employees telling them their jobs would be outsourced in six months to mostly private companies." 

Since the civil case probably won't go to trial before the eminent layoff date--the end of September--employees' jobs look safe, at least through the fall, Serna writes.


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