No Vote On SB Charter Revision This Year

(August 10)  An effort to have city voters in November vote for or against keeping provisions of the San Bernardino city charter which lock in a pay scale for policemen and firefighters at a level that is roughly 15 percent higher than that paid to public safety employees in California cities sized similarly to San Bernardino failed this week on a 3-4 vote of the city council.
Some members of the community and at least three members of the city council are in favor of rescinding that portion of the charter relating to the pay of police and fire department employees. That provision was passed in a citywide vote years ago during less austere financial times. The city of San Bernardino has now filed for bankruptcy, however, and it is the contention of San Bernardino Mayor Patrick Morris that the generous salaries being paid city employees are  major factors in the erosion of the city’s financial condition.
The portion of the charter that relates to police and fire salaries, known as Charter Section 186, cannot be removed without another vote of the city’s residents. But the normal process for qualifying citizen initiatives requires that ten percent of the city’s registered voters sign a petition calling for such a ballot measure. Gathering that many signatures by August 10, the deadline for qualifying a measure for the November ballot, is a logistical impossibility. The other alternative would be for the city council to use its authority as an elected body to ask the registrar of voters to put the initiative on the ballot. A vote to do just that was taken by the city council on August 6. Councilmen Rikke Van Johnson and Fred Shorett and Councilwoman Virginia Marquez voted to place the measure on the ballot, but that was not sufficient, since councilwoman Wendy McCammack and councilmen Robert Jenkins, John Valdivia and Chas Kelley opposed the move. Morris, who is not empowered to votes unless there is a tie, did not participate in the vote.
The council did, however, collectively and unanimously vote to make it easier to lay off non-safety employees and to suspend cash-outs to employees who are resigning or being laid off.
The council voted to change civil service regulations such that employees will now have only two days rather than the previous ten days to appeal a layoff and a single day to ask the city’s personnel department to determine if there are employees of less seniority who can be removed in the laid off employee’s stead. The council also acted to suspend payouts to departing employees and initiate negotiations with them on a reduced payout. According to acting city manager Andrea Travis-Miller, 56 city employees have resigned since the city council indicated on July 10 it intended to seek bankruptcy protection. Some city employees took flight to prevent being subject to an anticipated future effort by the city to reduce pensions. Others wanted to cash in on accrued leave payouts. Some employees have as much as $300,000 in accrued leave time due them under the policy the city had in place. With the city’s bankruptcy filing, which was made last week, that policy has now been suspended. In July during the three weeks following the announcement of the intended bankruptcy filing alone, the city paid out $2 million to employees who had abruptly resigned.

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