Rachel Reeves

Lawyer to probe city’s workplace environment

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The City Council of Redondo Beach has contracted Todd Simonson of law firm Jackson Lewis PC to conduct an investigation into the workplace environment at City Hall, which hundreds of employees have bemoaned in recent months.

A six year legal battle that began with the arrests of day laborers along Artesia and Manhattan Beach boulevards added another chapter as the Ninth Circuit "en banc" panel weighed in last week. Photo by Mark McDermott

A six year legal battle that began with the arrests of day laborers along Artesia and Manhattan Beach boulevards added another chapter as the Ninth Circuit “en banc” panel weighed in last week. Photo by Mark McDermott

The Redondo Beach City Council at its Nov. 19 meeting — the first time city unions turned out to air their grievances publicly. Photo by Rachel Reeves

The Redondo Beach City Council at its Nov. 19 meeting — the first time city unions turned out to air their grievances publicly. Photo by Rachel Reeves

“We do not take anything that has been going on lightly,” Mayor Steve Aspel said Tuesday night before voting to hire Simonson. “We are paying attention… We’re trying to get to the bottom of this, and this [investigation] is going to at least get it going.”

City unions have staged demonstrations in recent months, protesting what they allege is unfair and hostile treatment by their employer. In late December, the City Council agreed to discuss labor relations in closed session; on Jan. 14, the council directed City Attorney Mike Webb to hire an independent firm to conduct an administrative investigation. Now it has authorized the hiring of Jackson Lewis, a San Francisco-based firm, at a cost of $300 per hour for services rendered.

“You charged me to find someone who had a balanced point of view,” Webb explained at Tuesday night’s meeting. “Simonson is the best pick… The firm is clearly a management firm, but if someone does labor law you’re either going to pick somebody on the management side or the labor side, and I was looking for somebody who had experience on both.”

Councilmember Pat Aust suggested that the Council impose a $30,000 cap on the cost and duration of the investigation, meaning any additional funding must be approved during a future City Council meeting.

“I’m not in favor of spending any money,” said Councilmember Bill Brand. “I won’t be voting for this. We have other avenues, and I think this is a waste of money.”

“We’re not going to spend a million dollars on this thing to take away from future payroll,” Aspel countered. “But it’s not going to be whitewashed.”

The motion to approve Simonson’s contract passed, 3-2. Councilman Steve Sammarco also voted in opposition.