Alex Gurza Out as San Jose’s Lead Labor Negotiator

San Jose's public employee unions will have a fresh face to spar with behind closed doors in the coming weeks. City spokesperson Lenka Wright confirmed to San Jose Inside on Friday that Alex Gurza will no longer serve as the city's lead negotiator on labor contracts.

"There is a change in Alex’s responsibilities," Wright said, adding that he is still employed by the city but she could not provide more details because the situation is a personnel matter.

Alex Gurza (via LinkedIn)

Alex Gurza (via LinkedIn)

Gurza, who became a deputy city manager in 2011 and has worked in the Office of Employee Relations (OER) since 1999, has been a frequent target of criticism of public employee unions, which have repeatedly said he and his team have negotiated in bad faith. This argument has been cited in the ongoing legal battle over San Jose's pension reforms enacted through Measure B.

A recent ruling by an administrative law judge for the state Public Employment Relations Board found that the City Council should never have even placed Measure B on the ballot in 2012. Union attorney Christopher Platten reportedly said the decision “kills Measure B.”

That's a matter that still has a long ways to be decided, perhaps for another couple years.

"For the time being,” Wright said, Assistant City Manager Pam Antil, a San Jose employee for all of seven months, will take over Gurza's role as lead negotiator head of the OER. (UPDATE: Wright called San Jose Inside to clarify that it's "to be determined" who will be leading the negotiating process in the future.)

Antil joined the city in May, after working for several years as an assistant city manager in Palo Alto. Antil reportedly has experience in leading labor negotiations with public-safety employees from her time in Palo Alto, where she was second in command.

"With a change in mayor this may be a way to get the negotiating tables to open back up," a councilmember, who asked not to be named, told San Jose Inside.

Gurza remains employed with the city, but it's unclear in what role and for how long. City manager Ed Shikada was not made available for an interview.

In an email to San Jose Inside, Wright said,  "Antil will provide day-to-day operational oversight of all city services and departments. As the highest level 'right hand' for Shikada, she will guide and coordinate the work of deputy city managers and department directors to achieve quality service delivery and citywide organizational and policy goals."

(H/T The Daily Fetch)

UPDATE 2: San Jose Inside confirmed that Alex Gurza was escorted out of City Hall by security officers.

UPDATE: The suddenness of Alex Gurza's departure as head of the Office of Employee Relations has been quite the topic of conversation today at City Hall. City Manager Ed Shikada sent the following email at 2:22pm to the mayor and City Council:

Dear Senior Staff:

In response to inquiries received, please be aware that Alex Gurza is currently out of the office, and management of the Office of Employee Relations has been temporarily reassigned to Assistant City Manager Pam Antil. Joe Angelo, Director of Human Resources, will also be helping Pam during this time.  If you need any assistance on employee-relations type matters, please contact Pam or Joe.

Thanks,

Ed

Josh Koehn is a former managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley.

14 Comments

  1. Pardon my outburst; but even at my advancing age I have no patience with public entities and their employees who crave secrecy and refuse to keep the public aware of what they are doing or not doing. The “personnel matters” privilege does NOT apply to job title, job description and responsibilities, or pay range. If Mr. Gurza has not been given a specific title yet, the public is entitle to know that, too…now.

    And shame on you Josh for just drinking the “personnel matter” KoolAid. We know that if you had pressed Ms. Wright on the matter you would have reported that to us along with her continued refusal to be specific.

  2. If all that changes here is a job title, there really is no change at all. Until there is a change in philosophy, it really will be more of the same. Just for disclosure, I am a retired Firefighter and past President of the Firefighters Union.The philosophy goes to the definition of negotiations. Unless, and until, the City Administration is engaged with the employee unions in an effort to reach an agreement, all we will see is more rhetoric and sound bites. There is an opportunity here for resolution-but only if there is substance and committment by all parties.

  3. Merc says he was escorted out of City Hall by Security and corroborates that he still remains on City Payroll.

    On the payroll until when? End of the year? I think he is probably a “Unit99″ confidential employee so the exact terms of his personal contract are gone be hard to find out. He may remain ” on the payroll” while the City figures how to payout the contract.

    These are things an informed investigative reported might want to inquire about , but like I said in an earlier post (that hasn’t appeared) When the City says/does something SJI just pu listed it -no questions asked.

    • “Merc says he was escorted out of City Hall by Security…” That sounds ominous…like they are killing the messenger. But, if there is to be any hope for a negotiated resolution, it is certainly essential that Mr. Gurza no longer represent the City, just as it is essential that Mr. Unland and any other SJPD negotiator in the past no longer represent the POA. Two entirely new negotiating teams are needed if there is to be any hope of resolution.

      Next step–go to the Court of Appeal and request that all matters re Measure B be removed from the court’s calendar indefinitely while the parties pursue a negotiated settlement. Bad facts can make bad law. Tier 2 needs to stay for now while we figure out how to keep a couple of thousand cops and retired cops from continuing to say that they get all theirs before anybody else gets anything.

  4. The updates are enlightening. But even more enlightening is the link “her time in Palo Alto” about Ms. Antil. Seems like the residents of Palo Alto had the same problems with their firefighters that SJ is having with its cops and firefighters. Hhhmm–the thick plottens.

    • It is not just with firefighters that Palo Alto has had problems with retention, although their exodus from PAFD has the been their most glaring staffing issue. My understanding is that PAPD also is suffering retention problems. Having spoken with a handful of public safety employees who work(ed) for Palo Alto, their chief complaints were the grossly disadvantageous negotiating position into which they have been forced, an atmosphere of hostility and entitlement toward public safety which exists both within much of the community and within City Hall – which also perpetuates that atmosphere – and an excessively restrictive set of operational policies which reflect that entitled and hostile atmosphere.

      Those with whom I have spoken have observed that too few people were paying attention to what has happened in Palo Alto, and that if more people had known what was going on there, perhaps the problems San Jose now faces could have been avoided.

      This isn’t just about public safety (or other classifications) employees getting “all theirs before anybody else gets anything”. It has vastly more to do with the fact that those people in our society who would be best suited for jobs in public safety are also smart enough to see the writing on the wall and know that they want nothing to do with work in public safety. I predict that, within our lifetimes, we will see the reality of a Catch-22 played out in the public safety professions.

  5. What has not been explained is if Gurza will still have some “to be determined” role with the City, why was he escorted out of the building? Such an escort is typically reserved for those that are either immediately or soon-to-be separated from the City.

    This timing is interesting as well, just before new council members come on board.

  6. Ed Shikada needs to go. He was not available for comment? He has assigned all his responsibilities to a deputy? This not leadership and he is bad for the City.

  7. Jack Slade on the City beat

    “because the situation is a personnel matter”. If he is still being paid a salary, his position is not a personnel matter!!!!!!!
    In a lawsuit with the City I read, in massive Discovery, emails between Al and his other henchmen. They basically talked about how to spin “Words” to deceive. It was like reading communications between top flight con artists and was amazingly deeply rooted morality challenged in nature. I think his conduct has always been that way and that’s why the City used him in the first place. Finding morally bankrupt minorities is difficult. I think he has no care about what you personally think of him and is a practiced liar and deceiver. I personally think he has been fired for other activity just like Figone’s con artist aide that thought she was a good con and the next day Poof she was gone and I got the word that she and her significant had pulled a fast one.

  8. BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!! See, Gurza, I told you karma is a beeyach. Buh-Byeeeeee. Next.

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