San Bernardino Seal

By Ryan Hagen, The Sun
Posted: 05/08/14, 7:41 PM PDT |

RIVERSIDE >> Continued assurances from San Bernardino and CalPERS that mediation is going well, without further details, are threatening to wear out the patience of the city’s fire union, police union and perhaps the bankruptcy judge handling the case, it was reported in court Thursday.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Meredith Jury said she didn’t “mean to place aspersions on anybody,” but she understood police and firefighters’ concerns about the effects of keeping mediation confidential and focusing first on the California Public Employees’ Retirement System — the largest creditor — before moving to other parties.

“I think that both fire and police have expressed their frustration with not getting to them yet,” she said. “The bond companies seem to be more patient in that area, but that’s probably because it’s not affecting how they put food on the table for their kids.”

Since November, retired bankruptcy Judge Gregg Zive has been leading periodic mediation talks among city officials, CalPERS and other creditors under the theory that it would lead to a negotiated agreement that would be better for everyone than something hammered out in public.

The parties have been primarily focusing on how much of the city’s massive debt to CalPERS needs to be paid, according to a statement Zive authorized for a previous hearing.

But it’s also beginning to hurt pocketbooks and morale, the attorneys representing the public safety unions said Thursday.

So Jury said she might decide at the next bankruptcy hearing — June 19 — to give the city a deadline to file a plan of adjustment. That plan, a requirement of exiting bankruptcy, will outline what it proposes to pay its creditors.

She urged the city to meet with representatives of the police and fire union to hash out issues with them — and if Zive isn’t available to mediate, as he has been, then meet without him.

“If there is some concern about loss of confidentiality (because they’d be negotiating outside of formal mediation), I’m becoming less convinced that confidentiality is a condition we should have,” Jury said.

Jury’s comments came after Corey Glave, the attorney for the fire union, said firefighters wanted to leave the mediation talks.

They were frustrated that City Manager Allen Parker had said at a meeting of the city’s charter review committee that police but not firefighters had discussed the possibility of mutually agreeable changes to Charter Section 186, setting public safety salaries.

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