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Court employees face new employment terms, conditions

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COURTHOUSE EMPLOYEES will pay their entire share — 7 percent — of the contribution to the Public Employees Retirement System. Democrat photo by Pat Dollins

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From page A1 | May 10, 2013 | 16 Comments

After labor negotiations with El Dorado County Superior Court employees failed, the court will impose new terms and conditions including employees having to contribute to their own retirement plan.

After eight months of negotiations with a neutral mediator, no agreement was reached, a press release stated. As such, the new terms and conditions will be imposed as of May 18.

The changes are the result of statewide cuts to trial court budgets, about $1 billion in the past five years. This fiscal year, El Dorado County’s court budget was reduced by $2.6 million.

“This is a challenging time for all employees serving the public,” Court Executive Officer Tania Ugrin-Capobianco said in the press release. “Our court employees are valued professionals who provide an important service to the community. We regret having to take such drastic measures to meet the economic challenges created by the reductions to trial court funding.”

She noted that the number of staff has already been reduced to a “critical number” and that any further reduction could have an impact on the services provided by the court. Neighboring courts have either closed locations or reduced hours in response to the fiscal hardship.

The amount of savings sought from the 52 represented employees was $275,000, the press release states, a little more than 10 percent of the total cut from the court’s budget. Personnel costs represent about 78 percent of the overall court budget.

On May 18, employees will have to contribute 3.5 percent towards their own retirement, with another 3.5 percent effective July 1. The court had previously paid the employees’ 7 percent towards retirement.

Other changes will also take place on May 18. Among them, the court will no longer pay for retiree health care for new employees; longevity pay, a benefit for employees committed to careers in public service, will be reduced from 10 percent to 6 percent over 20 years; and an end to the $92.30 every two weeks pay differential for employees doing the same work as other employees at the South Lake Tahoe Courthouse.

Non-union employees, including management and the court executive officer, had agreed to these terms and conditions in February.

Meetings began in August 2012 with the court and the International Union for Operating Engineers, Stationary Engineers, Local 39 and arrived at a tentative agreement; it was rejected by employees. The two parties went back to the table, assisted by a state mediator, but the results were still unsuccessful. The court then presented its “Last, Best and Final Offer.” Employees rejected this, too.

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Discussion | 16 comments

  • AnonymousMay 10, 2013 - 12:21 am

    I don't understand why an article can be out in the paper and the employees are not asked by the paper to comment? Because they are not interested in the fact that the employees have been taking the biggest hits regarding all of this. Between the loss if sum 18 employees over the past 8 months to court employees being furloughed over the past two years to now the biggest cuts out of their pay. Seems to be the biggest cuts from any California Courts at this time. The employees have been negotiating in good faith with the court administration and have just asked not to cut the pay to bare bones. The court employees have bills to pay as well, kids to feed etc... The administration have not been negotiating in good faith at all. The negotiating team for the employees have offered several possible solutions to the administration for cutting costs in other areas so that the employees would not have to take such a big hit and the administration has said NO to any and all suggestions. They want what they want and to hell with the dedicated employees. So before a press release is printed it seems that there are two sides to every story and the employees should be heard as well as the court administrators who are not letting the public know the whole truth just what they want the public to know. Sad to see hard working dedicated court employees who service us, the public, being treated as if they don't matter. Shame on the court administrators.

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  • Walking TallMay 10, 2013 - 6:54 am

    But the County can spend millons on an update or replacement of the IT ( Information Tech knowledge ly) system and give additional money to a department head to admister that program (suggested by Ray Nutting and passed for our DA). Well again we see that the true "CountyEmployees" are leaving and are to take cuts in pay while others(adminstrators)do not. The public will suffer in silence as do those who want to keep their jobs or retire at another cost to the County Tax Payers. But let's build another County Courthouse on another County Supervisor's Land and oh let's not forget that all important New County Sheriff's Building that is and has been requested for the past several years. One thing for sure there won't be any "County Employees" to fill it unless we use undocumented aliens at a lower rate of pay with no benefits plan...

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  • 1036-FrankMay 10, 2013 - 9:17 am

    The court employees, I thought, are now state employees and not part of county personnel and are subject to the state court budget and their system, which doesn't appear to me to be a good place to work unless your a judge.

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  • Outside looking inMay 10, 2013 - 9:18 am

    I think it is interesting that this article about our courthouse is being said and the people who work at courthouse and deal with all the work and people have no say in this article. I read this newspaper as much as I can and have always loved to get a true side to the stories, but this one seems like it is missing something. This is not a true story for it is missing the court workers side. I think those are the true heros in this story and need more light on their stories for they are human and have families and bills to pay. There is no need for this story to be posted without the other side of the story. Shame on you!

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  • James E.May 10, 2013 - 10:33 am

    Mr. Outside, nothing from the workers because they are unlikely to have made a statement to the MtDemocrat because of their being in fear of their jobs. Remember, a nail sticking up gets hammered down.

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  • Cole MayerMay 10, 2013 - 10:55 am

    For those looking for the other side - I've already been invited by court employees to their next meeting regarding the matter. Their side will be told.

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  • Do Judge The King, And Bury The Hatchet...May 10, 2013 - 12:39 pm

    After reading this article one must understand a few things: The Mountain Democrat will not report objectively about courthouse matters in fear that doing so with cost them courtroom access and other priviledges that have been granted to them by the court's administration; The captioned photo and this article are evidence of this. It should also be noted that many of the statements in this article are completely false. The underlining issue, which was not mentioned is the administration's agenda to proceed with the construction of a new courthouse while El Dorado County court employees take the biggest pay cut of any of California's courthouses. The court's administration has not gone to the AOC (Administration Office of the Courts) to ask for more money, so that employees wouldn't have to take such historic pay cuts. They haven't done this for fear that plans for a new courthouse would be abandoned. A previous poster mentioned that the employee representatives presented numerous options, which were all denied by administration. This is a true statement. Court Executive Officer Tania Ugrin-Capobianco is not concerned with the court's employees, but is rather wrapped-up with leaving her own “legacy”. You see, she really wants to build a new courthouse. "The amount of savings sought from the 52 represented employees was $275,000." By eliminating just one employee, Tania Ugrin-Capobianco, nearly 65% of the $275,000 budget cut could be accounted for. But guess who hasn't taken a pay cut from her nearly $180,000 compensation package? You guessed it, Ugrin-Capobianco hasn't received a single pay cut, nor a hit to her benefits. Why is she excluded from such harsh pay cuts? That's a question she'd stumble over; even the President has taken a pay cut. It's no secret that Ugrin-Capobianco is pushing for a new courthouse, regardless of who it hurts along the way. She should however, be more concerned with the undercurrent that's gaining mass that would leave her with no such legacy. It's also worth mentioning that Ugrin-Capobianco was terminated from her previous employer, Mendocino County Superior Courts. Misleading Statement “Non-union employees, including management and the court executive officer, had agreed to these terms and conditions in February.” “Had agreed” is deceiving and misleading! The non-union employees and management “had” to agree to these terms because they're at-will employees. Terrible Caption “COURTHOUSE EMPLOYEES will pay their entire share — 7 percent — of the contribution to the Public Employees Retirement System.” Cole Mayer, or whomever captioned this article's photo did so at the courthouse employees' expense; more evidence that this article is biased. It reads that the employees will now pay for their retirement. To the average reader this doesn't speak to the magnitude of the situation, the families effected or to the truth. Most MD readers are probably thinking, “whoopty-do, the courthouse employees have to pay for their own retirement like the rest of us.” An appropriate caption could have been: Courthouse Employees Given Unprecedented 16% pay cut-highest in California. Plans for new courthouse still in the works. Or, Courthouse Employees forced to take 16% pay cut, courthouse administration no such pay cuts. Or, El Dorado County to build new courthouse despite historic pay cuts for employees. Shame on the Mountain Democrat for this article. Shame on Tania Ugrin-Capobianco for not caring about the courthouse employees and more about her personal agenda. And, shame on those who know who they are, but are unwilling to stand up for their employees; Those men and woman who make four and five times as much as the staff that support them. Yes, those men and woman who are also excluded from such pay cuts.

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  • Frustrated tax payerMay 10, 2013 - 2:30 pm

    After reading this article and the comments it's clear to me that what the public hears is very one-sided and that there is obviously another side to this and any legitimate news agency would now follow up and report the other side. My biggest complaint in this as in all negotiations of government agencies is that it's always the rank and file that are asked (or in this case told) that they have to take the cuts. In the private sector I have no problem with the owner making the big bucks while the employees don't because that owner risked his/her money and it's his/her name that is legally liable whereas in the public sector the administration has risked nothing nor has no legal liability so I want to know why should they make so much more than the rank and file? I want to know why should this Tania Ugrin-Capobianco be making $180,000.00 and why is she not taking a cut in pay. If you want people to follow you then you need to lead by example. Perhaps Cole you need to dig into this issue a little more and get the entire story. Find out the salaries of some of these employees and maybe you'll see that they have sacrificed so much already. Some of these clerks make less than $16.00/hr. That's not much to live on.

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  • James E.May 10, 2013 - 2:39 pm

    Regarding investigative reporting I'm sure Mr. Mayer is a nice "young" reporter. but he is no Seymour Hersh of Placerville. Probably we should not expect any revelations about the court, or its employees large or small.

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  • francescaduchamp@att.netMay 10, 2013 - 4:26 pm

    Things will really start falling apart--yet lots of money is being given for seeding grants...this is how other places have gone bankrupt. Read

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  • Who does this Tania Ugrin-Capobianco think she is????May 10, 2013 - 4:49 pm

    You have got to be kidding me!!! I really hope the public doesn’t fall for what is being said in this article. One may think that these clerks want more from how this article is written but I can assure you it is not. These clerks just want to keep what they have and what that do have isn’t much. Sacramento, Placer and Amador County Superior court clerks make more than these clerks and yet El Dorado County is pretty pricy to live in. These clerks work their butts off every day to provide service to the public. Some go above and beyond what is required of them and some even know more than some attorneys yet they are having their pay cut. Some of these clerks barley make it every month. As a tax payer I am very upset at how MY money is being spent. Does this Tania not have a soul? Does she not care about her clerks who make her look good by the service they provide? What this article neglects to point out is that these clerks are already taking 12 furlough days a year and will continue too if not more (possibly 18). I understand there isn’t any money, but cuts could be made elsewhere. Like why does this court need an assistance CEO, Placer doesn’t and El Dorado is smaller. The clerks have been making due with the provisions they have been given for some time so why is this Tania so set on getting a new court house? Give it a rest for now. Why not take care of what you do have? Also what this article doesn’t point out is that the ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) program is being cut. The pro tem Judge who handles that program is the one wrote the grant to get the money for that program but yet he is being cut for his accomplishments. Good job Tania! Oh and question for you Mr. Cole Mayer….when is this next union meeting you have been invited to go to? MD you really should get both sides to a story before you ever publish anything.

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  • Do you know....May 10, 2013 - 5:08 pm

    ....that once these cuts are in place that some of these clerks will qualify for food stamps? Yes some will, but becuase they are employed they would only be allowed to collect for three months. Some of these clerks are single mothers,some are trying to send their kids to college on a single income and then the others who have a double income also have children in sports. How are they going to feel when they have to tell their children they can't play their sports? These clerks aren't living high and mighty. I also find it odd that it's the Judges that hired Tania but yet they are all ok with this last and final offer being imposed. Maybe they need to speak up or be made aware of what is going on.

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  • The falloutMay 10, 2013 - 5:39 pm

    After professional daily contact with the employees that make up the face of the El Dorado Superior Court. I am appalled by what Tania Ugrin-Capobianco is doing to this group of hard working individuals. These employees have taken some tough cuts in recent years and have continued to run the court effectively under the "do more with a lot less" conditions of our state for awhile now. As one long time employee recently told me "I will lose my home and my children will go without while Tania balances the budget off my back and tries to impress the public and the judges with a new courthouse." If the good judges of El Dorado County are willing to sit back and let Tania Ugrin-Capobianco destroy their dedicated employees, they have lost my vote come the next election. Judges, fire Tania Ugrin-Capobianco and stand up for those hard working employees that work their asses off and make you judges look good. Your employees are the face of your courthouse, NOT Tania Ugrin-Capobianco. And save $180,000 on her salary. And does El Dorado Superior Court REALLY need two CEO's?

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  • JoeMay 10, 2013 - 8:17 pm

    I don't know much about the courts or the employees of the court, but I do know that I have been out of work for over a year. Before I got laid off I wish I would have been given a chance to only have to pay for my 401K contribution before I lost my job completely. I don't see any layoffs happening and I don't see any other big cuts. What is Tahoe pay? I am just confused by the outrage listed in these messages. I know times are tough, but from one who is out of work, it looks like every one is still working. I would trade places with any of them to get off of my $300 per week unemployment.

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  • LpMay 10, 2013 - 9:42 pm

    What would cookie dough 65 have to say about all this?

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  • clleaMay 11, 2013 - 12:17 pm

    There are 2 sides to every story. MD always for whatever their controllers expect of them. Lp, seriously, who cares about a rant vigilante.

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