The Emergency Reserve Fund and the $80,000 Labor Negotiator

On September 3, the City Council Consent Agenda included a request to approve an $80,000 Supplemental Appropriation from the City’s Emergency Reserve Fund to pay for a labor negotiator. The Consent Agenda is reserved for matters considered routine, and all items on the list can be approved by one motion; in other words, there is no public discussion unless someone requests it to be pulled from the list.

Quené and I had questions, so we asked to pull it. The Mayor didn’t seem very happy, but even Councilmember Schwab questioned Nakamura about paying someone from the outside when we have highly paid staff that should be able to do it — thankfully, she has continued to ask him about things that don’t make sense. Nakamura said some stuff, and then Councilmembers Sorensen and Stone made some excuses.

Quené was very concerned that this request had somehow made its way onto the Consent Agenda with absolutely no public discussion beforehand. She also noted that Administrative Services Director Constantin had recently said there was no cash in the Emergency Reserve Fund. She asked, “If there is no money, where is the $80,000 really going to come from?”

When I first read the agenda report, three more things caused me concern:

(1) In an attempt to justify the new Administrative Services Director’s $160,000 salary, supporters of Nakamura’s “rightsizing” efforts have repeatedly said that Constantin is doing four people’s jobs, including Human Resources Director.

I went back and pulled Nakamura’s February 19 agenda report (which, perhaps not-so-coincidentally, is no longer on the web), wherein he described the new departments and attached directors’ job descriptions for Council’s approval. Quoting directly from Attachment_A: Administrative Services Director, he is to “…act as Chief Negotiator.”

Then I went to the City’s website and looked up the official job description that was effective July 8. Lo and behold, that phrase is absent!

(2) This request was not included in the recently approved budget and required a Supplemental Appropriation. Didn’t the Executive Team know it would want a labor negotiator in addition to its $160,000 executive? So, will we be seeing an $80,000 pay cut for the City’s Administrative Services Director?

(3) The money for the labor negotiator was being taken from the Emergency Reserve Fund, which, in addition to having no cash, is restricted by Budget Policy E4a(2): “The purposes for which funds could be allocated from the Emergency Reserve Fund include, but are not limited to, payment for compensated employee absences and other emergency needs as determined by the City Council.”

How is failure to hire an Administrative Services Director who is qualified to “act as Chief Negotiator” determined to be an emergency?

Peter Durfee, President of CPOA, also expressed concerns. He pointed out that three members of the Executive Team have labor negotiations in their job descriptions and asked why they can’t negotiate. Then he pointed out that $80,000 would surely not be enough money to complete negotiations with all nine bargaining groups and asked, what then?

Finally, Emily Alma read letters from two individuals with additional concerns.

So then, we find out that the Council had already interviewed negotiators and selected a top candidate. When did that happen? It obviously happened without any public discussion, and it was pretty clear that the entire Council was aware.

As usual, the Council went barreling forward and approved it, once they convinced themselves they might not really even need the money… Right.


Posted on September 29, 2013, in Budget and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I love that – “more of the new Chico transparency…” See, they tell you what they’re doing, even if it’s bad, then they can say, they told you.

    Thanks for doing this All.

  2. Let’s see, $80k for someone to tell the employee groups that there is no money for raises or improved health insurance & etc. Hmm, what else could that $80k have gone to? Keeping fire stations open 24/7 like they’re supposed to be? Cleaning the park? Glad to see that Sorenson is so business like…

  3. Hm. Is this new “emergency personnel” going to be another crony? WTH is wrong with these people?

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