Starting last week, in the midst of an investigation into his conduct as Redondo Beach City Manager, Bill Workman has been absent from city hall, ostensibly for health reasons.
Multiple sources at city hall said that Workman took medical leave.
In January, the Redondo Beach City Council approved an independent investigation into employee complaints surrounding Workman. In November of last year, the Coalition of Redondo Beach Employees (CORE) 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.
“He has not been fair, respectful or honest with city employees,” said Brad Sweatt, President of the Firefighters’ Association. “We have said that he needs to change how he does business or he should be asked to leave.”
“I’ve heard he is out on medical leave so I assume he is sick and not around,” Sweatt said. “The last time I saw him was at the State of the City address. He showed up with grandson and walked through the picket line into the hotel.”
Sweatt and a slew of other CORE members gathered outside last month’s State of the City address by Mayor Steve Aspel. They held signs with their motto “Honesty, Fairness and Respect.” and with the “98% No Confidence” vote for Workman. Mayor Aspel chose to not acknowledge the city manager during his speech, thanking every other city official.
Workman did not return phone calls seeking a statement.
CORE’s issues with Workman are separate but related to their greatest complaint: Wages were slashed during the recession and have not been brought back. Four years ago, city employees agreed to take a six percent cut in wages and benefits to help the city’s financial difficulties. CORE claims that they were promised restitution within two years.
Last November, the City Council presented their “last, best, final offer” to the employees, agreeing to raise wages by three percent. It was instantly rejected by the five unions, and negotiations moved to an impasse. The city skipped mediation and moved into fact finding.
“We won’t settle for anything less that the six percent we are owed,” said Sweatt. “June 31 is when the contract we should be under expires. We want our full six percent back by then so that we can start negotiations for a new contract on July 1. We have to return to zero so we can have fresh negotiations.”
“Let me make it clear that I respect the rights of unions to bargain for improvements to wages, benefits and pensions,” Workman said in January. “The wage demands to the City Council from employee bargaining units have ranged from 6-12 percent, which far exceed our ability to pay considering our modest general fund ongoing revenue base.”
The City Council discussed and imposed the city’s the “last, best, final offers” — a three percent wage increase from existing levels for public safety workers — at the council meeting last night. Workman’s seat was filled by Assistant City Manager Pete Grant. In the closed session of the City Council, held just before the 6 p.m. public meeting, the council discussed personnel issues surrounding Workman. According to the closed session agenda, there was a “Public Employee Performance Evaluation” of Workman.