On June 23, 2021, the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) found the County of Sonoma violated the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (MMBA) by unilaterally placing Measure P on the November 2020 ballot. Measure P significantly increased the authority of the County’s Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach (IOLERO). In part, Measure P authorized IOLERO to independently investigate Sheriff Office employees, recommend discipline, directly access and review evidence from confidential internal affair files, and post body worn camera videos online.

 

On August 20, 2020, Kathleen Mastagni-Storm and Tashayla Billington filed a PERB Charge on behalf of the Sonoma County Law Enforcement Association (SCLEA). Due to the pending vote on Measure P, SCLEA’s attorneys also filed a Request to Expedite the Charge at all levels. PERB granted the request, and ultimately sent the decision directly to the Board for decision.

 

Ultimately, PERB held Measure P was subject to bargaining over both the decision and impacts and effects. PERB rejected the County’s argument that its decision primarily affected the quality and nature of public services and was therefore outside the scope of bargaining. Rather, PERB held the amendments related to employee investigations and discipline were subject to decision bargaining. PERB held numerous other amendments were subject to effects bargaining.

 

Further, PERB rejected the County’s argument that it could simply meet and confer with SCLEA over the “implementation” of its decision to amend IOLERO’s authority. As such, PERB found the County had a duty to provide SCLEA notice and an opportunity to meet and confer in advance of placing Measure P on the ballot.

 

Because Measure P passed before PERB rendered its decision, the Board declared nearly all of the amendments “void/unenforceable” and severed them from the rest of the Ordinance. PERB ordered the County cease and desist its unlawful conduct.

 

This decision is an enormous victory for public safety bargaining. Many cities and counties are creating and expanding the authority of its citizen review boards. However, this decision makes it clear that the employer must still provide notice and meet and confer with its public safety unions before making changes related to discipline, investigations, and confidential files.