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Beverly Hills News – City of Beverly Hills Charged with Unfair Practices in Rejecting MOUs

Posted Wednesday, July 30 – 1:25 PM

By Victoria Talbot
In a letter bearing a return address identical to The Courier’s own former address, an anonymous sender informed the newspaper that two of the City of Beverly Hills’ employee groups – the Beverly Hills Confidential Employees Association and the Beverly Hills Supervisors Association, have charged the City of Beverly Hills with unfair practices after the City Council voted 3-2 to reject the employees agreements (Memorandum of Understanding – MOUs) at the City Council meeting on June 24.The cover letter contained a broad range of complaints about City Staff and City Council members, as well as claims about city spending.In addition to the rambling cover letter, the envelope contained a letter from the City Employees Associates addressed to City Manager Jeff Kolin and to the Public Employee Relations Board. The Associations “assert a blame for bad faith bargaining,” and claims that “the City did not vote to accept or reject the MOUs until June 24th,” following the first reading at City Council on May 20, “which is not ‘within 30 days’ as required.”The letter claims that “councilmembers, especially Bosse, Mirisch and Krasne consistently misstate and misrepresent the facts and are abusive to staff.” It goes on to say that “costs from $30,000 to $50,000 each Monday… when the entire employee raise being sought is roughly [sic] 900,000. So negotiators have received over 900k to stop the 900k raise and the Mayor wastes millions.”

“The entire cost of the Walk is about $1000 in staff time,” said Beverly Hills Public Information Manager Therese Kosterman.

“The Walk is part of the job for marketing and communications. We, as a community and as a council, have said we want to do a better job of outreach. We have a waiting list of businesses that want to be showcased on the walk. We have an international interest in the Walk. We are becoming a model for open government where residents and businesses can speak to their mayor. That was some of the feedback I got from my colleagues at the Conference of Mayors,” said Mayor Bosse.

The staff that accompany the Walks do so voluntarily. “I have need asked to join. This is something they wanted to do,” said Bosse. Kosterman confirms that the staff time is not additional staff hours, but time that would already be spent on the job.

The letter also claims that $400,000 spent on holiday banners were “so poorly planned by Business and Communications staff and Mayor Bosse that the banners were trashed after one week with $400,000 quite literally thrown into dumpsters.”

“No banners have been trashed,” said Kosterman. The funds for the City’s Holiday Program are part of the City’s marketing budget and come from the Transient Occupancy Tax as part of an agreement with Beverly Hills hotels and businesses. The funds are earmarked especially for this event. “The banners did not cost $400,000,” said Kosterman. “The banner program from last year cost $61,000 to refurbish the existing banners.”

The anonymous author takes aim at Beverly Hills’ commissions and Team Beverly Hills, which is the City’s community education program to train residents to participate in City government, saying “How ’bout a million dollars or more wasted each year on needless commissions and the team BH project.”

“These claims are ludicrous,” said Mayor Lili Bosse. “Everything we spend money on that is not employee salaries is not wasteful spending. There’s no comparison whatsoever. Team Beverly Hills, commissions and holiday celebrations are part of what makes our City special. We promote public involvement and transparency.  We just received the Livability  Award at the U.S. Conference of Mayors because we are a Civil City. It’s really quite sad.”

The MOUs were originally brought to City Council on May 20 for the first reading. The Civic Openness in Negotiations (COIN) ordinance, passed late last year, mandates a second reading of the MOUs for public comment, which took place on June 24.  At that second reading councilmember Nancy Krasne and Mayor Lili Bosse reversed their support following negative public input about unfunded mandates, pensions and the terms of the agreement, which built the employees retirement contributions into their raises to comply with new state regulations.

Vice Mayor Julian Gold maintains that the negotiation are ongoing. “I don’t know that anyone understood the unintended consequences of this new COIN ordinance,” he said. “Its a work in progress.”

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