In cleaning up past messes, leaders of the California Public Employees' Retirement System should follow this maxim: Try not to create new ones.
They apparently didn't consider that possibility when responding to crushing workload demands to fix a troubled new computer system. To get the job done, CalPERS allowed managers to fill second rank-and-file jobs within the pension fund so they could earn overtime pay extra pay they were ineligible for as managers.
CalPERS officials insist that the practice is "permissible" and "relatively common" within state government. They point to other state agencies the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Social Services, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development where, they say, second-jobs-for-managers schemes were used, too.
Nonetheless, the day after The Bee's Jon Ortiz's story broke about their unusual hiring practices, CalPERS leaders suspended the policy to seek clarification from state personnel officials if the practice was legal or not. That's something they should have sought before they went down this road.
Ultimately, whether confined to CalPERS or more widespread, the practice suggests chaos within the state personnel system that the governor and lawmakers must address. How can there be no red flags when one person holds two jobs one a full-time salaried management position and the other an hourly wage job?
CalPERS officials say they had little choice. To avoid having to hire and train new workers or take on outside consultants, they appointed managers already doing the work to second jobs and paid them overtime. Ultimately, they say, CalPERS saved money.
Perhaps it did, but at some cost to this agency's credibility.
The biggest irony here is that a pension system with a mission of serving state workers chose to avoid hiring new ones so its existing managers could earn higher pay.
Consider all the laid-off, qualified candidates in our region and beyond who could have used those jobs. They should be pretty angry right now.
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