Thursday, August 2, 2012
Judge Eradicates ADDA’s Win In Contest Over Failure to Bargain
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Association of Deputy District Attorneys has been stripped of a significant victory which the union secured last year when a county commission declared that the Office of Los Angeles County District Attorney committed an unfair labor practice in implementing a new system of performance evaluations without engaging in bargaining.
Bargaining wasn’t necessary, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ann I. Jones said in a ruling issued Monday, and made available late Tuesday. The jurist explained that the plan was already implemented before the ADDA was certified on March 24, 2008, as exclusive bargaining agent for deputy district attorneys in grades I through IV (non-management levels).
Certification was by the Los Angeles County’s Employee Relations Commission—known as “ERCOM.” It was ERCOM that on Jan. 24, 2011, in adopting a hearing officer’s report and recommendation, ordered that the District Attorney’s Office cease utilizing its new system under which fewer deputies received the top rating in their annual evaluations.
Jones said in her written decision, granting a writ of administrative mandamus:
“The uncontroverted evidence in the record demonstrates that the system was in place, that deputy DAs were being evaluated using new work plans and new measures of performance and that there was nothing meaningful to discuss at the time that the ADDA was certified.”
The fact that changes were still being made by the District Attorney’s Office to certain materials was not meaningful, Jones said, because “rating materials will always be evolving and under revision” and if finality were the test, “the program would never be fully implemented.”
The commission was without power to make its order, Jones determined, declaring that “ERCOM lacks jurisdiction to direct or effect any actions taken by Petitioners prior to ADDA’s certification.”
Although deciding that ERCOM had no jurisdiction, Jones proceeded to examine the merits underlying its decision, and found that a balancing test, dictated by case law, had not been applied.
Jones recited that under the old system, 85-95 percent of the deputies received the highest rating of “outstanding,” while under new criteria, about four percent garnered the highest rating of “far exceeded expectations.” She did not question the correctness of the hearing officer’s finding that the new system had a “significant and adverse effect on the...working conditions” of the deputies, but faulted ERCOM for not proceeding to discuss other relevant factors.
She said that “ERCOM failed to consider whether the significant and adverse effects” stemmed “from the implementation of a fundamental managerial or policy decision” and that it did not factor in “the employer’s need for unencumbered decision-making in managing its operations.”
Jones went on to offer “observations” to “facilitate further proceedings in this matter.” She spelled out that even where bargaining with the ADDA is required under county ordinances, that bargaining is not to take place between the union and the DA’s Office.
She pointed to Los Angeles County Code §2.08.115(C) which provides:
“The chief administrative officer shall, on behalf of the county, conduct and engage in all negotiations, meet-and-confer sessions, and consultations with recognized bargaining units and certified employee organizations in accordance with the directions and instructions of the board of supervisors and within the scope of authority granted by said board.”
Jones warned that “any future order requiring” the District Attorney’s Office to negotiate with the ADDA “would be in violation” of the code section “since the CEO has exclusive authority to negotiate with certified employee organizations.”
District Attorney Steve Cooley commented:
“We applaud the court’s decision. As a practical matter the DA’s evaluation system in place now works very well and assures integrity in the process and accuracy in the results.”
ADDA officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Still pending before Jones is a writ petition filed by the District Attorney’s Office seeking to upset another ERCOM decision: that Cooley engaged in union-busting activities in the form of punitive transfers. A trial-setting conference is scheduled for Oct. 31.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company