Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, June 12, 2002


Page 3


Board Adds Broad Exception to Law Requiring County Contractors to Pay for Jury Service


By a MetNews Staff Writer


A broad exception to what had been a stringent Los Angeles County mandate that contractors pay for their employees' jury duty was adopted yesterday by the Board of Supervisors.

Without discussion, the supervisors unanimously amended an ordinance they adopted on Feb. 26 and gave themselves the opportunity to waive the jury service requirement for any contractor on a finding of "special circumstances."

The original ordinance, thought to be the first of its kind in the nation, required any firm bidding for a county contract to certify that it paid for at least five days of actual jury service each year for each fulltime employee.

That ordinance already exempted certain contracts, including those that would be superseded by labor agreements, involved contractors that did less than $50,000 a year in county business, or involved businesses of fewer than 10 employees or less than $500,000 in annual gross revenues.

It was originally to have taken effect last month. The amendment approved yesterday puts off the implementation date to July 11.

Principal Deputy County Counsel David J. Michaelson, who authored the first ordinance as well as the amendment, said he believed "on further reflection" it was appropriate to add the new provisions to take into account unforeseen contingencies.

He said the issue was brought to his attention by "the collective thought process" of county departments, each of which has its own contracting authority.

"It's my job to make sure that future situations can be accounted for if and when they arise," Michaelson said. "You never know what kind of situation is going to arise and we need the opportunity to deal with it."

The amendment explicitly excludes contracts under which federal or state mandates require use of a particular contractor or under which purchases are made through federal or state contracts, plus several types of purchases under county purchasing policies and programs, as well as the catch-all "special circumstances" exception.

Michaelson said the changes to the ordinance and the extension of the effective date were not implemented to assist any contractor or to affect any pending contract.

"There's always an opportunity for things to be misused," Michaelson said. "But any time the board wants to find a special circumstance they would have to put it on the agenda, come up with a finding and do it in an open meeting."

The county has a number of other special requirements for contractors, including requiring that employees are not in arrears in child support payments, and mandating payment of a "living wage" to contractors' employees under certain contracts. No "special circumstances" exception exists in the county Administrative Code for those contracts.

The contracting ordinance was first requested by county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky a year ago.

In a December report to the board, county Chief Administrative Officer David Janssen cautioned that a mandate for paid jury leave could increase county contracting costs.


Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company