Orange County supervisors today tentatively approved an ordinance allowing more public scrutiny of labor negotiations, but not before hearing multiple outbursts from the leader of the county's largest union representing public employees.
The board unanimously approved the first reading of the Civic Openness in Negotiations Ordinance, modeled after one in Costa Mesa, that would primarily allow officials to release updates on contract proposals with labor as they are being considered.
Traditionally, those negotiations routinely happen behind closed doors and are announced when they are finalized.
"The only time the public ever finds out about these things is after the board has voted," Orange County Board Chairman Shawn Nelson said.
Supervisor John Moorlach proposed the ordinance.
Nick Berardino, general manager of the Orange County Employees Association, ridiculed the ordinance as a "big diversion," and claimed that his union has uncovered, through a more than yearlong investigation, that the supervisors have been collecting "millions of dollars" in campaign contributions from companies that have received substantial contracts with the county.
"Some of you like to say that doesn't influence your vote, but people aren't stupid enough to believe that," Berardino told the supervisors.
When Nelson tried to tell Berardino that he had exceeded his public comment allotment, Berardino shouted back that the board members did not want to hear embarrassing information about them.
"You don't want this discussion. You don't want the people to know," Berardino said.
Nelson noted that Berardino's union was able to gather the information about the campaign contributions because they are publicly disclosed.
The board will consider final approval of the ordinance next month.
--City News Service