Objectivity in negotiations at issue
Chantal M. Lovell, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/16/2010 10:02:43 PM PDT

REDLANDS – Endorsements and campaign contributions were called into question last week by some who wonder whether one could objectively negotiate the contracts of city employees who had offered campaign support.

The Redlands Professional Firefighters Association endorsed Paul Foster, Bob Gardner and incumbent Jon Harrison for the City Council and the Redlands Police Officers Association endorsed Foster and Harrison. Since then, the firefighters contributed to all three candidates and sent out mailers on their behalf.

Some candidates who were not endorsed by the groups said Foster, Harrison and Gardner will not negotiate with the unions fairly because of the endorsements.

“It’s easy to say `I’ll take their endorsement and their money and I’m still going to be able to decide things objectively,”‘ said Mike Layne, who said he would accept an endorsement but not money from the unions. “I think all three of those guys are going to say they can stay objective, but that money buys a level of access and influence that other voters don’t have.”

Mike Saifie pledges to be the single “fearless negotiator” of the group and said he would refuse an endorsement and money from police officers or firefighters.

“I think if you read in the fine lines you will see there is no way to be objective,” Saifie said. “If someone is spending thousands of dollars on you, you will not be fearless when negotiating with them.”

But both Saifie and Layne met with the firefighters and police, along with the Redlands Teachers Association and Redlands Education Support Professionals Association, seeking their endorsements, said Bill Conway, president of the firefighters association.

The four groups held their endorsement interviews with each of the five candidates who attended, Conway said. Incumbent Pat Gilbreath, Doug Pew and Nancy Ruth White were invited but could not attend.

Layne and Saifie said they only met with the associations to discuss platforms and did not ask for the groups’ support. Conway said all five candidates sought endorsement.

“Everyone that showed up that day asked us for our endorsement in their closing,” Conway said.

Harrison said campaign contributions do not drive the negotiating process. Rather, , he said, the support shows the unions’ belief they will get fair treatment in the process, which makes them more willing to offer concessions.

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