Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

Orange County supervisors and the union representing the county’s attorneys have reached a tentative agreement to end a nearly two-year legal battle over pension contributions, the union’s president said Tuesday.

“We are extremely close to a settlement that would result in a resolution of all the past legal issues,” said Larry Yellin, president of the Orange County Attorneys Association. “Our goal is to get it done in March.”

In March 2013, county supervisors voted unanimously to impose a new contract on the county’s attorneys and prosecutors. It led to a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court and a complaint before the Public Employment Relations Board, or PERB.

The attorneys won a favorable ruling from the PERB, but got a mixed ruling from Orange County Superior Court Judge Thierry P. Colaw. The attorneys, however, felt the PERB ruling superseded part of the judge’s ruling. County supervisors appealed the rulings.

The ruling from a PERB administrative law judge has been appealed to the agency’s full board. From there a ruling could be challenged in appellate court, Yellin said.

Three new members have joined the Board of Supervisors since the contract was imposed, a change that has breathed new life into negotiations, Yellin said.

“This board recognizes the amount of money bleeding and seems to have decided to take a better stewardship of the finances of the county,” Yellin said. “They are going to save the county money by the agreement we are heading toward.”

Yellin declined to discuss specifics of the agreement until they are finalized.

At issue was how much the attorneys should pay toward their pension.

The county picked up the employee contribution to the pension benefit since 2002. It was a perk the attorneys accepted in exchange for not receiving a 3.5 percent pay raise.

Requiring the attorneys pick up more of their pension expenses stood to cost some attorneys thousands of dollars annually.

Colaw ruled that the county could impose higher pension contributions for the attorneys, but said officials could not also force the lawyers to pay any part of the employer’s share, known as a “reverse pickup.”

Yellin said the PERB ruling conflicted with that judgment.

City News Service

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