The Star-News


Thought we got past this

Sat, Oct 22 2011 12:00 PM Posted By: Tom Basinski

I noticed an ad in The Star-News paid for by the Chula Vista Police Officers' Association. I received a mailer from the cops with the same information.

The ad pointed out how understaffed the police department is and urged concerned citizens to contact the mayor and council about how safe - or unsafe - the citizens feel. This ad puzzled me. What in the name of collective bargaining is going on?

Last year there was a dustup between the POA and city administration over potential layoffs and the re-opening of contract negotiations, even though a contract was already in effect. Last January I did some research and conducted a few interviews.

You may recall that the city said the cops wouldn't talk to them about giving up certain benefits in order to avoid police layoffs. In response to those accusations the police said they actually were willing to talk. Who was telling the truth? I finally got to the bottom of it.

I was the only scribe out of the big-money writers to delve into the legal nuances of collective bargaining. The police were willing to talk informally but not willing to re-open contract negotiations. You see, if the cops formally re-negotiated and failed to reach an agreement, the city could take away any benefits the city wanted. It's a law few people know about.

Previously the police had talked informally and agreed to delay benefits entitled to them. The police said informal talks would be fine now and they were willing to give back, even though they didn't have to.

If the cops are the bad guys I'll write it. But, I didn't like it when the city manager said the cops wouldn't talk when the cops really would talk. The cops eventually gave concessions that eliminated layoffs and I thought everyone was happy.

When the two sides reached an agreement, the police press release praised Assistant City Manager Scott Tulloch for his professionalism. A name noticeably absent in the kudos handout was City Manager Jim Sandoval. I didn't care enough to weigh in on that one. The cops perceive Sandoval as an "enemy." He probably revels in that role.

What the heck was going on now with the ad? Yes, we know Chula Vista has the lowest number of officers per citizen in the county, known that for a long time. Why bring it up now?

I sent e-mails to the mayor and City Council and to the police association president. My message to Mayor Cox was, "What is the reason for this ad? I thought it was settled."

Mayor Cox's two-word answer was succinct and clear, if not curt, maybe even angry. To my statement of, "I thought this was settled," Her reply was, "It was."

Councilwoman Patricia Aguilar wrote she hadn't seen the ad and asked me to send it to her. I informed her free copies of the paper are available all over town. It was surprising to me that, even though we are a small publication, a government official did not read this paper faithfully.

Councilman Steve Castaneda responded, "I agree that we have cut too much from the rank and file patrol resources and the Public Safety Committee will take up the issue. We did it before and avoided some devastating layoffs." Castaneda invited me to the next Public Safety Commission's meeting.

Councilpersons Rudy Ramirez and Pamela Bensoussan didn't trouble themselves to respond. I guess they haven't heard that a polite "no comment" is better than ignoring someone who is trying to find out what is going on.

Police union president Fred Rowbotham's response threw me for a loop. He wrote, "I haven't seen what ran. I just OK'd an ad run. I never looked at what my guy submitted."

My questions are the same as when I first saw the ad. "Why run the ad? Why now? What is going on?"

Retired Chula Vista police officer Tom Basinski is a former president of the CVPOA and former member of the bargaining unit.


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