San Bernardino Seal

Judge Meredith Jury ruled Thursday the city hadn’t met its legal obligation to bargain with the fire union before outsourcing the Fire Department. FILE PHOTO

By Ryan Hagen, The Sun
Posted: 09/17/15 – 11:00 PM PDT |

RIVERSIDE >> In a decision she acknowledged “puts a bunch of marbles on the road to reorganization” for San Bernardino, Judge Meredith Jury ruled Thursday the city hadn’t met its legal obligation to bargain with the fire union before outsourcing the Fire Department.

Now San Bernardino has to follow that meet-and-confer process before it can implement the fire outsourcing, a key part of the city’s bankruptcy plan that — between cost savings and a parcel tax that would be implemented as part of annexing into the county fire district — is expected to add about $12 million a year to the city’s general fund.

City officials have been pushing to keep on a tight timeline that would allow the outsourcing to become effective by July 1, because missing that deadline means waiting 12 months for the beginning of the next fiscal year, and other agencies have cooperated.

Those deadlines could still be met. Jury said the city couldn’t implement a new contract or make layoffs as part of contracting out, but it could continue negotiating an interim contract with the county fire district and working through the annexation process required by the Local Agency Formation Commission for San Bernardino County.

The ruling restricts the city, but it will still be able to implement its plans, City Attorney Gary Saenz said.

“We’re happy to meet with the firefighters and to meet and confer with them while we negotiate with the county,” he said after the hearing.

Beyond the practical effects, Jury’s ruling informs a long-running dispute about who’s to blame for the negotiation breakdown between the city and the fire union.

Jury herself said she wasn’t interested in assigning blame — the future should instead be the focus, she said — but she was critical of San Bernardino’s claim that it had met about outsourcing was contradicted by its own evidence.

In a transcript of a meeting last year at which the city said it had negotiated over outsourcing, for instance, labor attorney Linda Daube and City Manager Allen Parker both say multiple times that contracting out is not part of the proposal they were discussing.

To read expanded article, click here.