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Divided L.A. council votes to outsource fire department ambulance billings over union objections

August 3, 2010 |  4:39 pm

Despite strenuous objections from one of its employee unions, a divided Los Angeles City Council agreed Tuesday to hire a private company to handle billing for the fire department’s ambulance services.

On a 9-to-5 vote, the council approved a six-year contract with Advanced Data Processing Inc., which will handle collections as the department moves to an automated billing system.

Proponents had warned that a rejection of the contract would force the fire department to absorb another $15.9 million in cuts. Budget woes have already caused department staffing to be pared back in recent months.

“This [contract] will allow us to save millions of dollars that will go to fire services -- and no one will need to lose their jobs,” said Councilman Paul Krekorian.

Although the plan would result in the elimination of 49 city employee positions, no layoffs would occur as a result of the new ambulance billing agreements. Nevertheless, the contract came under fire from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 36, which argued that the outside contractor would get to keep too much of the billing proceeds.

“City workers can do the work more effectively and ensure all of the revenue” stays in city coffers, the union local’s executive director, Cheryl Parisi, told the council.

Five council members voted against the contract: Tony Cardenas, Jose Huizar, Janice Hahn, Paul Koretz and Dennis Zine. Councilman Richard Alarcon was absent.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had pushed aggressively for the outsourcing plan, at one point summoning Koretz into his office and lobbying him on the subject in the midst of the council meeting.

Koretz was not persuaded, calling the billing deal a “sweetheart contract.” He tried to convince his colleagues to renegotiate the terms -- delaying the decision for the time being. That effort was defeated on a 7-7 vote.

-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall