In November of 2013, Senator Lois Wolk, Assemblymember Mariko Yamada, Supervisors Don Saylor and Jim Provenza, and former Supervisor Helen Thomson wrote a letter opposing the City of Davis-UC Davis agreement for shared management services between the City of Davis and UC Davis Fire Department.
Despite this outside pressure, the Davis City Council voted 3-2 to implement the agreement which placed then-UC Davis Fire Chief Nathan Trauernicht in charge of both departments. Since that time, the Davis firefighters’ union has done everything it can to undermine the agreement.
The Vanguard has learned that Bobby Weist, who is the head of the Davis Professional Firefighters Association, has enlisted Lou Paulson, President of the California Professional Firefighters, to put political pressure on UC Davis.
After months of their attempts at a meeting with UC President Janet Napolitano, the UC Office of the President (UCOP) referred the matter to UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi.
They eventually arranged a meeting in September, which was originally scheduled to be between the chancellor and Lou Paulson; however, it was discovered that Bobby Weist and Captain Joe Tenney would also be in attendance. This caused a furor that got Joe Newman, President of the UCD Firefighters, and Melissa Cheney, who is in charge of Human Resources for the city, also to attend.
At the last minute, Chancellor Katehi could not attend, and Vice Chancellor Karl Mohr was the UC Davis point person.
The Vanguard has acquired correspondence between Bobby Weist, UC Davis and Lou Paulson.
In an email dated September 11, 2014, from Bobby Weist to Associate Vice Chancellor Karl Engelbach and Interim City Manager Gene Rogers, Mr. Weist writes, “Local 3494 embraces the suggestion that a mutually agreed upon, qualified neutral third-party be retained for the purpose of conducting an evaluation and independent audit of the agreement.” He continued, “Doing so will ensure that all parties are provided an objective examination and understanding of the adequacy and compliance of stated goals, as well as the effectiveness of the agreement’s implementation.”
Mr. Weist then offers that Local 3494 “fund the evaluation/audit and requests your support in establishing a reasonable time frame for parties to submit their respective recommendations and develop a scope of work to be conducted.”
On September 19, Vice Chancellor Mohr and Interim City Manager Rogers “provide” CPFA President Paulson with “additional information about the Agreement.”
They write, “We wish to provide additional information on three topics that we discussed during our meeting; liability with respect to personnel actions; the ‘pilot phase’ nature of the Agreement and assessing the efficacy of the shared management arrangement; and creating venues for ongoing discussion of local concerns.”
They continue, “Regarding your question about liability for personnel actions, both the City and the University believe the Agreement contains the necessary indemnification clauses. In particular, as was noted during our discussion, in executing the role of Fire Chief, decisions affecting City employees are made under the auspices of City labor agreements and are the City’s responsibility. Likewise, decisions affecting the University’s employees are made under the auspices of University labor agreements and are the University’s responsibility.
“Our colleagues from Local 3494 raised a question about the nature of the Shared Management Agreement in relation to a reference in a City staff report about a ‘pilot program,’ and whether an independent audit of the Agreement is needed,” they wrote. They noted that the term of the agreement is one year with an automatic renewal, unless either party provides written notice within six months.
They write, “Because July 1, 2014 has passed with no such notice being provided, the current Agreement will be in place at least through December 31, 2015.”
They add, “The City and the University have and will continue to assess the value and efficacy of the Agreement. Chief Trauernicht presents quarterly reports to the Davis City Council and monthly briefings to both the University and City Fire Departments. City and University executive leadership meet at least monthly to coordinate and collaborate on providing supervision to Chief Trauernicht.”
Most critically, they write, “We will continue to advise our respective leadership about the advisability of continuing the shared management arrangement pursuant to the Agreement. We do not believe an audit of the Agreement is necessary or appropriate at this time.”
Lou Paulson pushed back on September 23, arguing, “While your joint September 19th letter touches on some of the liability concerns raised during our September 5th meeting, what remains unclear is whether liability associated with scope of representation issues impacting Local 3494 members, should they arise, is the sole responsibility of the City of Davis and not UC Davis, or a combination thereof.”
More critically, however, he appears to question the veracity of Chief Trauernicht’s monthly reports, arguing, “The quarterly reports and monthly briefings provided by Chief Trauernicht may or may not provide an accurate assessment of the true efficacy of the arrangement given that a qualified, neutral third-party has not been retained to date for the purpose of properly examining the program.”
Mr. Paulson continues, “From programmatic deliveries to cost analyses, and a myriad of related deliverables in between, the Davis City Council has not had an opportunity to utilize information on the agreement that is provided by a neutral, third-party evaluator for the purpose of enlisting public discussion or debate at its regular Council meetings.”
He adds, “Has UCD independently engaged the services of an auditor and/or recently performed its own internal audit of the agreement’s cost-impact where findings may be useful in determining the effectiveness of the agreement? If not, CPF continues to question whether taxpayers to whom the City of Davis, UCD and their respective employees are accountable, are being adequately informed.”
Mr. Paulson writes, “As such, we support Local 3494’s offer to fund an audit in this regard and encourage both the City of Davis and UCD to partner with Local 3494 as soon as practically possible to move forward with such an independent examination.”
He continues, “Finally, we are encouraged by your commitment to enhancing communication among affected employees via regular meetings and look forward to hearing back from our affiliates — Local 3494 and Local 4920 — that such future meetings prove productive. To this end, please clarify your statement that ‘[t]o the extent that there are issues that transcend local boundaries, we will also convene meetings with both groups and fire management as appropriate.’
“The inter-agency agreement between the City of Davis and UCD is for ‘Shared Management’ of the City of Davis and UC Davis Fire Departments. As was mentioned in our September 5th meeting, the spirit and scope of the agreement does not provide for expanding beyond management positions or beyond City of Davis borders, including ‘mission creep’ into other municipalities or municipal services traditionally provided for by government.”
The Vanguard was informed that neither UC Davis nor the city of Davis responded to this letter.
This correspondence illustrates a few key points.
- First, Bobby Weist is actively working to undermine the shared management agreement.
- Second, the Davis firefighters’ union, led by Mr. Weist, wish to end the agreement and install a Davis chief in charge of the department, one whom Mr. Weist feels he is more likely to be able to control.
- Third, he has solicited statewide union leader Lou Paulson to help put political pressure on UCOP and UC Davis to end the agreement.
- Fourth, Mr. Paulson and Mr. Weist have reportedly gone so far as to solicit state legislators to pass legislation that would prohibit the University of California from shared agreements with municipalities for emergency services. Even if they found a taker, that legislation would be considered a long shot at best.
Clearly, the actions of Mr. Weist indicate that the firefighters’ union believes that UC Davis rather than the city of Davis is the weak link – but, for now, the chancellor is standing strong. At least right now UC Davis has signaled that they are strongly behind the agreement and rejected the idea of an independent auditor – which most feel is a canard that would give Mr. Weist an additional point of pressure.
The City of Davis, in the meantime, seems to still have three councilmembers backing the agreement. The two returning members of the Davis City Council who voted for the agreement have told the Vanguard that they strongly back the agreement. Recently-elected Councilmember Robb Davis stated during the campaign that he supported the agreement and has since reiterated that support. While the new city manager has not publicly weighed in on this issue, the council majority is likely to be the most critical factor.
—David M. Greenwald reporting