San Bernardino garbage collectors trash city attorney over budget fight

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Garbage collectors have lodged a complaint against San Bernardino city attorney James Penman with the state labor relations board. They claim that Penman is leading a charge to dismantle the San Bernardino Refuse & Recycling Division and staff it with outsourced workers.

The complaint stems from a confrontation between Penman and trash collectors during a recent city council meeting. Union leader Paul Flores accused Penman of lying about meeting with union representatives to negotiate department budget cuts required by San Bernardino's bankruptcy.

The union also alleges that Penman is behind a move to outsource trash collection, an action that could put a few dozen city employees out of work.

“You are affecting the lowest-paid employees you have in this city,” said Flores during the July 24th council meeting. “All I say, Mr. Penman, is if you want to say you’ve met with all the union leaders, you can turn around and look at one now. Invite me to your office.”

Penman fired back that he never claimed to have met will all union leaders. He said some, like the ones representing the city’s trash collectors, did not return his calls.

“The union represented by Mr. Flores has refused to meet with me, refused to meet with members of the city council month after month,” said Penman.

A week ago, the city council voted to seek proposals from outside trash companies - a move the union said was payback because its members didn't Penman’s re-election.

Mayor Pat Morris, a longtime nemesis of Penman, vetoed that vote.

“I will not support this,” said Morris. “We need a carefully crafted process and I insist on that for this city and its taxpayers.”

It's likely the labor complaint filed with the state won't be resolved for a long time. All lawsuits and claims against San Bernardino are on hold until the city resolves its bankruptcy mess in federal court.

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