At the request of Anaheim Councilwoman Kris Murray, the city council on Tuesday will take up the matter of conversations between Mayor Tom Tait and Orange County Fire Authority officials about the possibility of OCFA taking over the Anaheim Fire Department.
During council comments last month, Murray objected to only learning in a sideways fashion that the mayor has been exploring on the Q.T. such a significant restructuring of a basic city service.
According to the staff report:
Staff became aware that there had been conversations between Mayor Tait and OCFA Chief Jeff Bowman sometime in April or May regarding the interest of OCFA to provide services to Anaheim and to gauge the interest of the City in exploring a potential outsourcing of Anaheim Fire & Rescue. In addition, staff later learned that OCFA Chief Bowman also met with at least one Board Member of the Anaheim Fire Association (AFA) to gauge the union’s interest in requesting a study to evaluate outsourcing. City of Anaheim Executive Staff was not notified in advance of these discussions and did not take part in any discussion with OCFA, with the exception of Anaheim Fire Chief Randy
Bruegman sending correspondence to Chief Bowman after he became aware that these discussions had taken place. Staff has not engaged in any work effort to explore, research, or evaluate the feasibility of any outsourcing and; therefore, staff is not aware of any perceived violation of applicable labor law or protocol.
Although the City retains the decision to outsource as a management right, the City is obligated to provide any impacted labor group notice and the opportunity to bargain the effects of any decision made. Historically, the City’s assigned Labor Representative would always provide advance notice if any evaluation of contracting out was underway and continue with an open dialogue throughout the process. The City’s Labor Representative, while currently conducting general contract negotiations with AFA, was not aware of any conversations taking place and, as a result did not engage in any formal discussions with AFA regarding outsourcing.
In response to a public records request, we were provided this text message exchange between the mayor and OCFA Chief Jeff Bowman (a former chief of the Anaheim Fire Department) over April 5 and 6, 2017, (the blue text is Mayor Tait’s):
It’s interesting that it’s the outside agency advising the mayor to be transparent with staff about their conversations, and the mayor apparently disagreeing with that advice. There’s nothing wrong with exploring options for more efficiently providing city services; city leaders ought to continually be on the look out for opportunities to do so. But given the current council majority’s ostensible emphasis on transparency, this appears to be another example – remember the ultimately unfruitful exertions to exempt the Welcoming Anaheim task force from open government requirements – of the talk not being walked. This reached the point of the Anaheim Firefighters Association board taking a vote on the matter, and the city manager was still being kept in the dark.