Ryan Hagen, Staff Writer
Posted: 07/17/2012 08:52:11 PM PDT
SAN BERNARDINO – As the public battle rages over how the city developed a $45 million deficit, much of the attention has focused on union contracts – and the blame for those contracts has included some explicit claims.
“There are some members of this council who are bought by the unions,”
Mayor Pat Morris has said several times, using a phrase that has also been used by other City Council members.
They point to campaign contributions by the San Bernardino Police Officers Association and San Bernardino Professional Firefighters that in some cases paid for nearly all of a successful campaign, saying it’s impossible to expect independent decisions from elected officials who depend on unions for their election.
But there’s nothing inappropriate about accepting money from people who share your values – that’s how campaigns are always funded, said Councilman Robert Jenkins.
“I received union support because I strongly believe the role of government is to provide protection for its residents,” Jenkins said.
“Every single labor group that I have spoken to has encouraged me to do what’s best for the city, and that is what I’m doing.”
Jenkins, who first joined the council in August 2011 to fill the seat vacated in February by Jason Desjardins, received $19,722 from the police union and $33,041 from the firefighters union, according to campaign filing documents. A few other individuals made contributions of $1,000 or less.
Since August, Jenkins said, he’s focused on the city overall.
“I would like to remind my colleagues that as of yet, I have not voted on a contract with a labor group,” he said. “It’s not our residents or our employees who put us in this position. It’s been the leaders. …
Residents have clearly said they are tired of us pointing fingers.”
But with tough negotiations almost surely coming up as the city prepares for bankruptcy, Councilman Fred Shorett says he’s worried some council members won’t be able to distance themselves from the unions.
“The unions were given overly generous contracts,” Shorett said. “My major concern is that I don’t believe we have a majority on our council that will make a bankruptcy court ready to accept our plan.”
The council is independent, said Steve Turner, head of the police union.
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