Rachel Reeves

Redondo Beach council authorizes investigation into city manager

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The Redondo Beach City Council has authorized an independent investigation into complaints against its sole employee, City Manager Bill Workman.

Bill Workman.

Bill Workman.

Responding to very public outcry arising from  city unions, the council voted during its closed-session meeting Tuesday to further probe employer-employee relations at City Hall.

In recent months, city unions have staged demonstrations in protest of what they allege is unfair and hostile behavior on the part of their employer. They are demanding “fairness, honesty, and respect,” as per the motto touted by C.O.R.E., the Coalition of Redondo Beach Employees. They are dissatisfied with labor negotiations and are calling for the city to make good on its promise to restore wages that suffered a six percent cut in 2010, at the height of the recession.

Of 297 unionized employees who participated in an internal survey conducted in November, 98 percent revealed a lack of confidence in city management and specifically in Workman.

“Our members expect and deserve a city manager we can trust,” Police Officers Association president Scot Martin said in November, after the first demonstration. “We just don’t feel like we have that right now.”

This week, following the City Council’s closed-session vote, Workman addressed the litany of attacks against him in a statement that defends City Hall as a “healthy and safe workplace for its employees” and its management as “terrific.”

“Redondo Beach is recognized as one of the best managed cities in Los Angeles County,” he said.

For months, he points out, he and the City Council have been attempting to negotiate with union leadership. Last month, five public unions rejected the city’s final offer of a three percent wage increase. For unrepresented employees, the raise went into effect in early December.

“The wage demands to the City Council from employee bargaining units have ranged from 6-12% which far exceed our ability to pay considering our modest general fund ongoing revenue base,” Workman said.

“Let me make it clear that I respect the rights of unions to bargain for improvements to wages, benefits and pensions. I still have my original Retail Clerks Union 1428 union membership card in my drawer at home.”

He insists the city is doing its best to balance compensating its employees and maintaining its financial obligations. According to Workman, Redondo Beach does not have the resources to cater to union demands, a reality over which he has no control.

“The repeated attacks on me in recent months have been harassing, hostile and in retaliation for my work as one of your designated labor relations representative and for carrying out the fiduciary duties mandated upon me as your city manager,” he said this week.

“Under the guise of public employee speech privileges, some labor unions zealots have made an assortment of false assertions about me in an attempt to vandalize my professional reputation. This is a tactic to discredit your labor negotiators and circumvent California’s labor relations law. Not protected by public employee free speech privileges are harassing, hostile and retaliatory attacks made by any city employee.”

Workman claims that on Jul. 29, an attorney representing the Firefighters Association and the Coalition of Redondo Beach Employees made personal threats against him. According to him, the attorney promised he would be attacked and his “health would suffer” if he rejected the unions’ demands for better compensation.

“This was an unequivocal intimidation and threat by the unions,” Workman said. “I told [lawyer Stewart] Adams I work for the City Council; received detailed negotiation directions from the council for me to carry out; and, that the council compensation offers were based on the fiscally sound principles adopted by the council to maintain a balanced budget.”

Union leadership has likewise claimed that Workman has made threats against their members.

“Here we are today,” Workman continued. “It [is] inconceivable that I am defending myself from these hostile attacks planned, organized and executed by public employee unions making good on their promise of revenge. We have a healthy workplace for employees and we intend to keep it that way.”

Within the next two weeks, the city attorney will compile a list of firms he recommends to lead the investigation into complaints against Workman.

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