Thank you, City Councilman Shawn Nelson for letting Fullerton taxpayers know about the ongoing closed door city pension proposals.
Recent public employee pensions at the state, county and local levels have added billions in unfunded liabilities. They lure away our most experienced employees into early retirement and burden younger workers with added costs.
Yet, the City Council has apparently been negotiation a new pension boost in closed doors for months. State law permits closed door negotiations, but doesn’t require them. City employees were kept fully informed of all details and have already voted to approve the contract. All 430 employees have voted on a contract that has been kept from public view.
The retroactive part of the proposal is particularly onerous. Employees may retire almost immediately and receive enhanced pension benefits for which they’ve paid virtually nothing. Younger worker must forgo raises and pay more to support the payouts to the newly retired.
Nelson’s disclosure led to several editorials in the Register, which in turn sparked a council firestorm. Nelson’s council colleagues called him both a lawbreaker and a backstabber. He was told to be a “team player.”
Who’s back is he stabbing? The city staff who advises the council? (All of whom will benefit by the new pension).
Team player? The council is not a team with pre-rehearsed plays and a coach telling them all what to do. All must express their individual concerns.
Typically, agendas go public Friday for meetings held on Tuesday. That’s barely two working days, hardly enough for the pubic to respond to a complex pension-laden contract that was months in the making.
The council can negotiate a fair contract while informing the public of the stakes involved. When this does come to a public vote, all of us will be forewarned—thanks to Councilman Nelson.
I can personally relate to Nelson’s frustration. When I first attended closed session labor negotiations as a Supervisor, I was appalled that the Board received no information in advance. I tried to absorb complex presentations, but was prevented by staff and fellow Board members from taking any information out of the room to discuss with my staff.
“It’s confidential—not to be discussed outside the room” I was initially told by three of my colleagues. Yet, the union representatives passed all the information on to their members. The only people kept in the dark were the public. I made it clear I would never support any deals that I could not fully analyze with my own staff.
A new Board majority finally demanded back-up materials in advance and now regularly discusses all proposals with our own staffs. But most OC council members have no staff of their own, so they rely on city staffs, which often are the beneficiaries of the very proposals they bring to a council.
In 2002, Shawn Nelson was elected to fill my vacancy when I joined the Board of Supervisors. We have since shared our desire to make government pension, accessible and accountable.