The Redondo Beach City Council at its Nov. 19 meeting — the first time C.O.R.E. turned out to air its grievances publicly. Photos by Rachel Reeves
Tuesday night marked the second time in four weeks that disgruntled city employees have packed the city chambers during a council meeting in a show of frustration with their employer.
Most of the employees, who filled the public gallery and spilled into the foyer, wore Coalition of Redondo Beach Employees (C.O.R.E.) T-shirts. Murmurs of discontent arose from amongst them. During the public comment period of the meeting, C.O.R.E. spokesperson Jeffrey Monical read a letter to the City Council that made allegations of “arrogant, cavalier, and antagonistic treatment of the workforce by city management.”
Last month, C.O.R.E. conducted a survey among its members, and revealed during a council meeting that of 297 members surveyed, 291 – or 98 percent – cast a vote of no confidence in City Manager Bill Workman. In days since, the city’s department heads have come to Workman’s defense, saying he leads with “integrity, honesty and the highest possible ethical standards.”
A C.O.R.E. member wearing his t-shirt at the City Council Chambers.
C.O.R.E. resolutely disagrees, and Tuesday night insisted that the council launch an investigation into the labor relations between the city’s employees and its management, specifically Workman.
“The council should immediately implement a thorough, top-to-bottom investigation of the city’s administration to determine exactly how labor relations came to be so unnecessarily antagonistic and how and why working conditions have become so unnecessarily hostile,” Monical said.
C.O.R.E. intends to contract a firm to conduct the investigation, he said, in the event that the city fails to make the arrangements.
In response, District 2 councilmember Bill Brand made a motion to formally discuss the issue during a future meeting, which was seconded by councilmember Stephen Sammarco and approved unanimously.
“I’m moved by this second very large showing of the employee groups,” Brand said before making the motion. “I don’t know where to go with this, what to think about it, frankly… but given the turnout and what I’ve heard not just here but what I’ve listened to over especially the last month or last couple of weeks, I think it’s incumbent upon us to at least look into and investigate what I’ve heard here and elsewhere of the potential creation of a hostile work environment… I’m making no judgment whatsoever on the validity of [C.O.R.E.’s claims] but I think we should at least discuss it and air it out and honor their requests,” he continued, prompting resounding applause from the public gallery.
“I don’t see this as a couple of employees coming down here once or twice, here or there. This is yet another huge showing.”
City Attorney Mike Webb directed the city clerk to agendize a closed session item regarding the investigation of a complaint or charge against a city employee, namely Workman. Webb explained that technically, the city manager – who oversees department heads and more than 400 employees – is the sole employee of the City Council. It is within the council’s purview, he said, to evaluate the city manager’s performance.
Last month, after C.O.R.E.’s first public demonstration, department heads and the chiefs of the police and fire departments circulated a letter in defense of Workman.
“In his nearly nine years leading the City’s day-to-day day operations, Bill’s reputation as a committed, ethical, honest and transparent city manager is well known and is one of the City’s strongest recruiting tools,” the letter read.
“Those of us who worked for Redondo Beach before Bill was hired can testify to the positive changes he has brought to the organization – professionalizing it, increasing accountability and navigating it through the worst recession in American history.”
Tuesday night, Webb reminded the audience that Workman is entitled to the same due process as any city employee facing a grievance against him or her.
Taking note of guffaws coming from the gallery Tuesday night, Mayor Steve Aspel called for civility and respect in the Chambers.
“When an employee does something that isn’t quite correct, we’re not out there in the newspapers or laughing or blogging,” Mayor Steve Aspel said.
“I hear people laughing,” Webb added, “and I don’t view this as a laughing matter.”