Those of us who attended the annual State Bar Labor & Employment Law Section Public Sector Conference on May 3 got a special treat. The four members of PERB held a special meeting of the Board during a lunch-time question and answer session. With almost 300 people in the audience it was the best attended Board meeting in the history of PERB. During the hour-long session, each of the four Board members answered questions submitted by the audience. Here are the highlights:
- Cases on Board’s Docket: The Board was asked the average length of time from docketing (i.e. when all briefs have been submitted) to decision; and whether the Board was satisfied with that number. During fiscal year 2011-12, the Board issued 100 decisions which took an average of 280.3 days from docketing to decision. In the current fiscal year the Board has issued 48 decisions which took an average of 218.3 days. The Board had about 60 decisions on its docket in 2011-12, but has brought that number down to about 45. There are now about 10 cases over a year old on the Board’s docket, down from about 19. The Board said it was not satisfied with the current numbers and is working on bringing them down further. The Board’s goal is that no case will take longer than 6 months from docketing to decision.
- Training Conference: PERB used to sponsor training conferences for stakeholders. The Board said it still aspired to do that, but that its resources are currently stretched too thin. The Board said that maybe in a year or two it would be able to reconsider.
- ALJ Travel: The Board was asked if it will consider allowing ALJ’s to travel to hearings if the parties agree to split the costs. The concern is that travel time constitutes “down time” for an ALJ but the Board will still consider allowing ALJ’s to travel on a case-by-case basis.
- Factfinder List: The Board was asked if there was a list of factfinders that it uses and how one gets on the list. The Board said that there is a list. There is an application that a prospective factfinder must submit. The application requires 6 references, including ones from both union-side and management-side practitioners. The application is then considered by a panel of neutrals for addition to PERB’s factfinder list.
- On-Line Docketing System: The Board was asked if PERB would consider an on-line docketing system such as PACER used by the federal courts. The Board has not considered this but will look into it. The Board is currently looking into at least placing its docket of cases on its website.
- SMCS and Informal Conferences: The Board was asked whether it had considered using State Mediation and Conciliation Service mediators to conduct PERB informal (settlement) conferences. The Board said that SMCS was already short-staffed. Moreover, the Board was not in favor of allowing outside volunteer mediators to conduct informal (settlement) conferences as the Board believes knowledge of PERB law is crucial and that having a PERB agent conduct the informal (settlement) conference is the most effective way to achieve settlements.