Civic Openness In Negotiations
Last updated on 4 March 2017
Civic Openness in Negotiations (COIN) is a set of Collective Bargaining rules involving government agencies and public labor unions intended to ensure transparency and accountability. The process allows for independent fiscal analysis and public scrutiny with a goal of reducing conflicts of interest, accounting for the full cost of agreements, ensuring adequate board review of contracts, and reducing long-term unfunded liabilities and unplanned expense.
COIN is also known as OPEN (Open Public Employee Negotiations).
COIN processes vary but usually have five distinct components:
- Independent Negotiator – Agencies hire an independent negotiator not impacted by any outcome in the negotiation process. This avoids conflict where agency staff - subject to the same provisions as the bargaining unit they are negotiating with - negotiate on behalf of Agency.
- Cost of Contracts – Under COIN, an agency's independently elected Auditor-Controller or one engaged by the independent negotiator, will take on the responsibility of analyzing the cost of any contract proposal. This ensures an equal playing ground for both labor organizations and the agency as both will be given the ability to comment about the analysis.
- Offers and Counteroffers – COIN requires all offers and counteroffers be disclosed to the public within 24 hours.
- Board Disclosure – Each member of the governing body of an agency will be required to disclose any and all verbal, written, or electronic communications they have had with an official representative of a recognized employee organization.
- Contract Approval – COIN ordinances require, before the final proposed contract is placed on the Board agenda, the Memorandum of Understanding to be posted on the Agency's website, usually 30 days or two Board meetings prior to board ratification. This allows the public to review contracts and perform independent financial scrutiny and provide public comment prior board ratification.
- Acknowledgements - Each Agency officer must certify in writing he/she has read and considered the fiscal impacts of each offer.
- Public Ratification - Voters in an Agency's district must ratify by referendum any contract resulting in benefits that cannot be reduced in the future due to constitutional protections or ERISA. Typically, these are changes to pension plans and tenure provisions.
The first COIN ordinance was adopted by Costa Mesa, CA in 2012. In subsequent years, it was also adopted by Beverly Hills, Fullerton, Fountain Valley, Rancho Palos Verdes, and Orange County, CA. It has been strongly championed by California State Senator, John Moorlach.
In 2015, a Civil Grand Jury in Marin County recommended the adoption of COIN by county agencies including the operator of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Generally, COIN has been opposed by organized labor. In 2015, California Governor, Jerry Brown, signed an act officially called CRONEY in the California Public Contract Code, intended to reduce the number of California municipalities adopting COIN. Referring to Crony Capitalism, the official title was changed through an opposing legislator's last minute amendment without public disclosure or comment to illustrate the problems of closed and nontransparent government practices.
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