Mayor Jerry Sanders yesterday talked about the California Public Employee Relations Board ruling that set the city’s privatization effort back months, if not longer.

He called the setback “no small matter,” and didn’t hesitate to place the blame squarely on City Attorney Mike Aguirre.

“As has happened so many times before, the city attorney’s advice turned out to be flat wrong, and his interpretation of the law was rejected by a judge,” Sanders said in a morning press conference, according to a copy of his remarks provided by his office.

Last week an administrative law judge ruled that the city didn’t bargain in good faith with its employee unions as it worked to implement the privatization program, dubbed “managed competition,” which was passed by voters in 2006. The judge also ruled that the city didn’t follow proper procedures after Sanders declared and impasse in the negotiations.

As a result, Sanders will have to go back to the bargaining table with the unions instead of putting the final touches on proposals to put some city services out to bid. Sanders said the city had already gone through 130 days of negotiating and 68 bargaining sessions before Aguirre advised Sanders to stop negotiating.

Aguirre said the city needs to appeal the ruling because it essentially gives City Council power over collective bargaining, which is not what the voters intended when they approved the strong mayor form of government in 2005.

“Right now we need the mayor to be a statesman not a politician,” Aguirre said. “If he doesn’t appeal, he won’t be in charge of collective bargaining on this issue or any other issue.”

Sanders has indicated that he will not appeal the ruling, but is consulting outside legal council.

Sanders’ far-reaching effort to force city departments to compete with private contractors on a variety city services, including trash pick-up and tree trimming has been beset with problems for more than a year and a half. Voters gave him the ability to privatize those functions in November 2006.

DAVID WASHBURN

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