Derry criticizes CEO: misplaced priorities, failure to negotiate in good faith with bargaining units

Tuesday, October 4, 2011 – 05:00 p.m.

SAN BERNARDINO, CA – San Bernardino County CEO Greg Devereaux made comments at the Fontana Rotary Club regarding the county budget that Supervisor Neil Derry does not believe accurately reflect the ongoing budget discussions taking place within the county.

Devereaux intimated that two board members were an impediment to change, including Supervisor Derry, and also uttered political statements indicating his opposition to the re-election of two board members.


The impetus for these comments stems from the entrenched position Derry holds on two issues: fair and open contract negotiations with bargaining units and our commitment to public safety.

Before examining these items, it is important to note that Supervisor Derry, as has the entire board, fully supported the CEO in nearly every course of action he has taken to this point in his tenure. For Mr. Devereaux to express his view that the changes being made are only on a “very narrow margin” is a reflection of his efforts and placing the blame at the doorstep of two board members is a mischaracterization of reality, Derry said. Moreover, the board slashed the county budget by $84 million and fully understands that additional cuts must be made in order to address the $134 million deficit over the next five years.

The CEO also praised Chairwoman Josie Gonzales and Supervisor Gary Ovitt for their leadership despite the fact that they are the two longest serving members of the board and signed off on the budget deals that have put us in this situation.

Commitment to Public Safety

“My obligation to the people is to ensure that government performs essential functions and there’s nothing more important than public safety,” Derry said.

While the state is on the verge of dropping thousands of criminals on our county doorstep, the county is considering investing $150 million in a decade-old 800 MHz communications system that many have deemed of questionable value and may be obsolete by the time the project is completed.

“There is no way I am going to lay off deputies, probation officers and prosecutors so that we can drop $150 million on the next boondoggle,” Derry said, alluding to the “airport to nowhere” scandal. “The CEO’s desire to balance the deficit by laying off deputies and investing in antiquated communications technology is a nonstarter.”

Failure to Negotiate in Good Faith with Bargaining Units

Derry acknowledges the need to make tough decisions and cuts. He:

• successfully rolled back the lavish benefits package given to all county elected officials
• led the way in capping leave time for exempt employees
• reduced his own staff by 35 percent while the CEO’s staff grew
• was the catalyst for the removal of Mark Uffer who failed to address the budget deficit
• was the catalyst for the removal of Bill Postmus

Derry also advocated for shrinking the size of county government through employee attrition. Over the last three years, we have continued to backfill positions left vacant by attrition and early retirement programs. This is unacceptable, Derry said.

“The CEO has an unacceptable ‘his way or the highway’ approach with our employees at the bargaining table,” Supervisor Derry stated. “He wants to ram concessions down their throats and treat each unit differently.”

Last year, one of our bargaining units voluntarily and permanently gave up their 3.5 percent raise. It was a show of good-faith and a commendable gesture on their part. During negotiations with the CEO this year, this bargaining unit was told that that concession would not be considered during this year’s negotiation and that they were “stupid” for agreeing to that.

The budget issues are real and require tough choices, Derry said. The toughest choice of them all will be whether or not the county decides to work in good-faith with our bargaining units, treats our employees with fairness and dignity, and truly considers the opinions and feedback of each member of the board.

“The divide and conquer mentality is doomed to failure and unnecessary,” Derry concluded. “I firmly believe our employees are willing to work with us, as they have in the past.”