A three-judge Fourth District Court of Appeals panel has published a ruling that prohibits general law cities in California from laying off city workers by outsourcing their jobs to private sector companies. The ruling, which was issued Aug. 17, prevented the city of Costa Mesa from laying off 200 employees who received pink slips in March 2011.
Costa Mesa's ideologically driven cash-saving effort to lay off a third of its workforce that month was widely viewed as a precedent-setting test of public employee union power. According a press release issued today by the Orange County Employees Association (OCEA), which represented the workers, the city has “inexplicably failed to post the ruling on its website or otherwise inform the public” about the court's ruling. This is apparently why the OCEA took it upon itself to request that the ruling be officially published by the court, which did so on Sept. 16.
“The Court's decision has enormous significance for public employees throughout California, as well as the public they serve,” said Jonathan Yank, one of OCEA's attorneys on the case, in the press release. “It clarifies that general law cities and counties cannot contract with private entities to perform municipal functions except under a narrow set of circumstances, such as when contracting is specifically permitted by law or when the services would involve certain specialized skills that civil service employees do not possess.”
General law cities are those that lack their own voter-arppoved charter and which
therefore must strictly adhere to state law on issues such as hiring and firing workers.
One thing the ruling doesn't prevent cities from doing is getting rid of public employees they don't like by replacing them with other public employees, something that almost happened in Fullerton earlier this year when the city's new council briefly considered getting rid of the Fullerton Police Department in the wake of the Kelly Thomas beating scandal and letting the Orange County Sheriff's Department take over police responsibilities. On Aug. 7, the council voted 3-2 against doing that.