Judge Rules San Diego
by Richard Bermack
San Diego Judge J. Richard Haden, ruling in Giles vs. Horn, (involving retired SEIU Local 2028 member Jacquelyn Giles and a community activist Ardelia McClure) declared that San Diego County acted unlawfully by contracting out the county's CalWORKS program to private contractors. Judge Haden has ordered the county to end its contracts with the private contractors, pending an appeal by the county. According to Local 535 field representative Willas DeMorst, "the ruling is a major victory for the union, workers, and clients. It's a tremendous morale boost to our workers, who have been living under the threat of losing their jobs."
Contracting Out Violates County Charter
In his ruling, Judge Haden stated that the county failed to meet any of the criteria necessary to justify the contracting out of civil service work to a private contractor under San Diego County's charter. The charter states, "In cases where the County intends to employ an independent contractor, the Chief Administrative Officer shall first determine that the services can be provided more economically and efficiently by an independent contractor than by persons employed in the classified services." The county administrators never demonstrated that the private contractors were more cost effective than county workers.
The judge rejected the county's attempt to get around the charter provision by relying on a policy adopted by the board of supervisors that purports to create exceptions to the charter requirement. First, the judge ruled that the policy was unlawful and of no effect because the charter cannot be overridden by a board-adopted policy. Then the judge ruled that even if the policy were valid and effective, the facts would not fall within any of the exceptions stated in the policy.
Violation of Welfare and Institution Code
According to Judge Haden's ruling, San Diego County violated not only its own county charter, but also California Welfare and Institution Code Section 10619. Judge Haden stated that under this statute, a county cannot "contract out determination of eligibility, or actions related to the granting, termination, or modification of aid payments."
Writ Terminates Contracts, Pending Appeal
Judge Haden concluded, "the County has abused its discretion in contracting out the CalWORKS program." He issued a writ terminating the contracts between the county and private contractors and enjoined the county from making any further expenditures to the contractors. However, he stayed execution of the order pending the county's appeal, which the county has approximately 60 days to file.
Seamless Transition Desired
According to DeMorst, Judge Haden is concerned that clients continue to get services and that any transition be seamless from their standpoint. The union is suggesting that the private contractors' line workers be hired by the county.