Calif. fire union attempts to block cuts
The blocking may create an obstacle for the city to gain bankruptcy protection
By Imran Ghori
The Press Enterprise
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — San Bernardino's police and fire unions plan to seek permission to fight salary and benefit cuts imposed by the City Council, creating another possible obstacle in the city's efforts to gain bankruptcy protection.
Attorneys for both unions announced their intentions during a status hearing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Riverside on Tuesday, Feb. 12. They plan to file motions for relief from the automatic protection from creditors and lawsuits under bankruptcy law that came with San Bernardino's Aug. 1 Chapter 9 petition.
Last month, the council imposed contracts on the police, fire and mid-management employees after declaring an impasse in negotiations.
The unions hope to file an injunction to block the salary and benefits cuts from taking effect.
"The cuts are draconian," said Steve Turner, president of the San Bernardino Police Officers Association. "Not many of our members are going to be able to continue paying their bills with these kinds of cuts."
Paul Glassman, the city's bankruptcy attorney, acknowledged that the council's action was not popular but necessary to implement the city's pendency plan, aimed at getting the city's finances in order.
"It shows the City Council's resolve to do what is necessary to survive in the Chapter 9 case," Glassman said.
Most of the discussion in the afternoon hearing centered on requests for financial documents by creditors who, at the December hearing, had accused the city of failing to be transparent.
Glassman told Judge Meredith Jury that the city has made "monumental efforts" to provide financial documents to CalPERS, the city's largest creditor.
CalPERS attorney Michael Lubic agreed that progress has been made since the last hearing, but said he still had concerns about the city's transparency and whether its finance department had enough resources. He also said it was worrisome that two key officials, interim City Manager Andrea Travis-Miller and Finance Director Jason Simpson, have quit to take jobs elsewhere.
"The city is working diligently to fill these two positions as quickly as possible with highly qualified individuals," Glassman said.
The City Council is scheduled to hold a closed session at 8 a.m. Friday, where it will interview two finalists for the city manager position. They could decide on a replacement that day, Glassman said. The city has not provided the names of the candidates.
Jury ordered the city, CalPERS and the unions to meet to resolve the issue of access to financial documents before returning to court for another status conference March 5.
The judge said she hoped to see progress so that the court can begin considering the city's eligibility for bankruptcy protection "sooner rather than later."
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