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December 08, 2006

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redperegrine

Moorlach takes aim at law-enforcement union
The new supervisor demands an audit of the deputy sheriffs' health-insurance fund.

By NORBERTO SANTANA Jr.
The ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Orange County's deputy sheriffs are finding out that there's a new sheriff in town.
He's called Supervisor John Moorlach.
Just a day into the job, Moorlach has already lobbed the first salvo in what could turn out to be a full-fledged war with law-enforcement union leaders.
He's calling for a full audit of a multimillion-dollar health-insurance fund administered by union leaders with public tax dollars. And he wants the sheriff's deputies to accept the same trims on retiree medical benefits imposed on general employees this year.
"Nobody's untouchable," Moorlach said Wednesday as he fiddled with his office furniture and took in the view from his new fifth-floor office at the county Hall of Administration.
"I don't know why the deputy sheriffs should be different than the rank and file," Moorlach said. "In fact, treating the deputy sheriffs differently is what got us into this financial quagmire.
Moorlach was referring to the county's unfunded pension liability, estimated at more than $2 billion. A large part of that amount stems from the law-enforcement pension benefit.
Union leaders say Moorlach is taking a shot at them because they didn't support his bid for supervisor.
"The guy is firing rounds at us," said Bob Macleod, general manager of the deputies union. "He's using the power of his elective office to retaliate against individuals that did not support him."
Union officials have called an emergency meeting next week to discuss Moorlach's statements with their members.
"Your security, and that of your family is being attacked," said a memo union leaders sent out this week to sheriff's deputies. "We will either succumb to the county's unprofessional, unethical bullying, or we will do whatever is necessary to overcome it."
Macleod declined to comment on what options could be considered but said some job action – a labor term meaning some sort of strike or work stoppage – is "one arrow in the quiver. But certainly not the only one."
The deputies union has been in the middle of stalled labor talks with county officials for most of the month, and state mediation was required.
Recent hopes that a deal was close changed when Moorlach was sworn in Tuesday, Macleod said.
"He was on the board four hours before he took a shot at us," Macleod said.
Macleod said after a closed-session meeting Tuesday that included Moorlach, county negotiators came back to the union and included the health insurance audit and the demand that retirees be split from employees' health-insurance funds.
Macleod said union leaders threw the county negotiators out of their building.
Tension has been brewing between Moorlach and the deputies union since his election in June. Moorlach cried foul after the union spent large sums on independent mailers attacking him.
After the election, he called the union's leaders "thugs." He stands by that characterization today.
Union leaders sent a letter to Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Campbell last month asking that Moorlach be recused from negotiations involving them. The letter came after Moorlach refused to shake hands with union officials at a restaurant.
Contact the writer: 714-796-2221 or nsantana@ocregister.com

Elroy El

RP.

I read that article yesterday. Can someone from the deputies union explain why this is even an issue? The county gives them millions of dollars a year to spend on health care for its membership. Doesn't the county (and by extension the taxpayer) have the right to know if those monies are being spent properly?

Their secrecy is very confusing to me.

Mark Leyes

Finally, something Elroy El and I can agree on!

Elroy El

Stick around Mark. You may come kicking and screaming, but I'll bring you to a higher level you've only dreamed about.

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