Alameda Mayor Trish Spencer and Councilmember
Tony Daysog were accused by the firefighters’ union
president Tuesday night of breaking labor laws. 

ALAMEDA CITY COUNCIL | What appeared to be a simple administrative staff request to appropriate $3 million to further seed a city employee pension trust fund negotiated last April has reignited the perennial debate over unfunded liabilities on the Island.

Mayor Trish Spencer and Councilmember Tony Daysog voted against a previously set aside, but unappropriated $3 million, to fund city employee retirement benefits. The item passed, 3-2, but led to accusations by the Alameda firefighters’ union president that each violated the law. An inquiry into whether laws were broken was requested Wednesday by Daysog.

“It’s disappointing and sickening that we have two public officials who break their word on labor contracts,” Alameda firefighters union boss, Jeff Del Bono, told the East Bay Citizen. “We negotiated a contract in good faith and these two derelicts decided to make a political statement.” He added, if the council had rejected the appropriation negotiated by the city and bargaining units, serious legal ramifications would have followed.

Del Bono maintains both public officials committed unfair labor practices by voting against funding the account created to help the city pay down its long-term unfunded debt. In the contract negotiated earlier this year, the city agreed to seed the trust fund with $5 million by January 2016. On Tuesday, the City Council was asked to appropriate $3 million on top of $2 million previously deposited into the account, said Elena Adair, the city’s finance director. The account is due to grow to $7 million by 2021, said Del Bono, which includes additional contributions by the city. Del Bono fears future city appropriations to the fund could again be in stymied by the council.

The agenda item appeared to be purely administrative until it was pulled from the consent calendar by Spencer. “I think long-term it does jeopardize the fiscal health of the city,” said Spencer. Later, she called for a “serious solution and not a partial solution” to the city’s unfunded debt.

Councilmember Jim Oddie, who supported the trust fund last April, said voting no violates the terms of the agreement negotiated in good faith. “This is a contract that we signed with our bargaining units and that we have to honor.”

Daysog, similar to his critique last spring, said the trust fund is undercapitalized. He also questioned whether it will be solvent by 2034. “I know the counter argument is, well, some point in time we will fix it. You just never know,” said Daysog. Unforeseen situations in the future may make it difficult for future councils to close the gap, he added.

Meanwhile, Daysog is taking serious Del Bono’s accusation, first lodged on Twitter, that he broke the law. On Wednesday, Daysog formally asked the city attorney for an inquiry into whether he violated any laws Tuesday night. “I think it’s important for the public to know if any such thing occurred last night. I don’t think any such thing occurred—but let’s gather the information,” Daysog said in a statement Wednesday. He also stressed Del Bono has a right to opinion.

“What law I broke I am not sure, but I think we must look into this,” Daysog wrote to the city attorney. “I know I did not purposefully mean to break any law, and am pretty sure I did no such thing, but still this is a serious allegation.”