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Jon Ortiz

The State Worker: Upcoming audits a test for Jerry Brown

Published: Thursday, May. 16, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Thursday, May. 16, 2013 - 9:53 am

On Friday two state agencies will release the results of their probes into departments giving salaried managers secondary jobs that pay an hourly wage.

Gov. Jerry Brown's human resources unit and the State Personnel Board have been auditing "additional appointments" at 11 departments.

It looks like they'll condemn the policy.

A few weeks ago, the administration banned the practice for California state managers and supervisors, signaling auditors have uncovered some abuses.

The Bee has reported that departments have interpreted and applied the 34-year-old policy in different ways.

One department, for example, paid managers the overtime rate for hourly work they performed. Another department appointed all 101 managers in a certain work group to second hour-wage positions.

But beyond the nuts-and-bolts policy question, the audits are a laboratory test of Brown's grand vision to re-create government, starting with how it manages people.

The state's personnel system has limped along for years with tomes of obscure and out-of-date personnel policies, as rules and laws built up over the years like layers of paint.

About two years ago, the governor pushed through a reorganization plan aiming to clean up the state's confusing personnel system.

The arrangement stripped the State Personnel Board, created by voters in 1934, of everything but its duty to guard the state merit system.

All other personnel functions went over to the renamed California Department of Human Resources, which, by the way, is under gubernatorial control.

Before that, the line between the two entities was blurry. In the late 1990s, for example, the Personnel Board sued the human resources department – then called the Department of Personnel Administration. The debate: Who has authority to handle state employees' disciplinary appeals? The courts said the constitution gave that power to the Personnel Board.

Think about that: The two agencies at the top of California's state civil service pyramid fought over civil service law.

Daniel J.B. Mitchell, a public union historian at UCLA's Anderson School of Management, said those kinds of turf wars are common.

"You had very long-standing rules and civil service procedures that already looked like union contracts," Mitchell said. "Then unions came in, and it produced parallel government systems in conflict."

Now spread that same sort of who's-on-first confusion across the lower-level human resources units in 150 state departments that answer to the higher agencies. Toss in unions trying to make sense of it. Add confused job applicants trying to break into civil service.

Confused. Like additional appointments policy.

On Friday we'll see if Brown's personnel reorganization produces clarity.

Call The Bee's Jon Ortiz, (916) 321-1043. Follow him on Twitter @thestateworker and read his blog, The State Worker.

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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Note: The State Worker blog switched blog platforms in October 2013. All posts after the switch are found here. Older posts are available using the list below.


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