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Placer Superior Court to lay off more than 40 employees

Union, management reportedly have ‘heated’ discussion
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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Placer Superior Court officials announced they plan to lay off more than 40 employees by next month. Court CEO Jake Chatters confirmed Friday that 40 union-represented positions will be eliminated on or about Aug. 1 as well as four non-union represented, management positions. A memo obtained by the Journal indicates there was a “heated” discussion Friday surrounding the cuts and resentment toward past management practices. The layoffs come as the court system tries to cut $3.5 million to $4 million in expenses for the 2009-10 fiscal year to stay within its $20 million budget, Chatters said. The court expects to be about $550,000 over budget for fiscal year 2008-09. “The court is looking at having to reduce expenditures in all areas like peer court,” Chatters said. “Certainly that’s the situation we’re in today.” Peer court officials announced Wednesday that the 18-year program was forced to shut after Placer Superior Court officials revealed that it could not provide the $100,000 funding it typically gave the operation. Chatters said he anticipates the elimination of 40 positions, all but one of which are filled, to save $1.8 million for 2009-10. In addition to eliminating 40 represented positions, four unrepresented employees will be laid off in August. That announcement came in June when court officials announced that unrepresented employees will take 22 furlough days for the upcoming year and will not receive their cost of living increases in addition to other compensation cuts, Chatters said. Chatters said court executives are still negotiating with union representatives what positions will be eliminated. “We are still meeting and conferring about the impacts with the union,” Chatters said. He said layoff notices will likely be sent next week. A memo obtained by the Journal dated July 10 from business representative Kevin O’Hair to all Local 39 Placer Superior Court members states plans for which positions will be cut. They include more than 30 court clerks, a custodian, maintenance supervisor and one half time court reporter. The memo also outlines a “heated” discussion between the union and court management. Union representatives reportedly asked management officials why there were currently 18 management positions when four years ago there were six. “We called it the ‘Mendes Build,’” the memo stated. “Yelling began shortly thereafter, as the union noted that with less staff, it seemed only logical there would be less management.” In April, an Administrative Office of the Courts audit revealed that former Placer Superior Court CEO John Mendes may have given himself more than $400,000 in salary raises and benefits during his tenure between 2001 and 2009. When asked whether Mendes’ alleged actions could impact the current budget situation, Chatters referred to the 2008-09 fiscal year budget debt and the current cuts. He declined to speculate on the matter. Union representatives did not return calls for comment as of Friday. The Journal's Jenifer Gee can be reached at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com or post a comment.