This column starts where last weeks left off, with a simple question, the governments nonresponsive response and what it all says about public transparency.
As we reported seven days ago, a state executive started a new state job one day before a state investigation portrayed her as a non-reliable witness in a state probe. An investigator found that the executive, Monica Rea, contradicted herself in written statements and interviews about an employees illegal promotion at the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Ironic.
The day after the State Personnel Board issued its scathing assessment, The State Worker asked a few questions of the spokeswoman for Reas new employer, the Department of Aging. Spokeswoman Christin Hemann answered them all, confirming that Rae had started at Aging on July 14 as a deputy director earning $101,422 annually.
Other questions: Does the fact that employees are under investigation travel with them when they transfer? (Nope.) Did Aging know about the investigation into Reas role in the scandal at Fair Employment? (We were not aware of the SPB investigation of Ms. Rea, Hemann said.)
The next day, the column about the Fair Employment investigation mentioned Rae. The report was posted on The State Worker blog.
On Friday, we called Reas former employer. Fair Employment spokeswoman Fahizah Alim said she had heard Rea was no longer working at the Department of Aging, Alim also said Rea could not come back to her old job. Attempts to reach Rea were unsuccessful.
We also contacted the Department of Aging, but. officials wouldnt answer a simple question: Does Monica Rae still work for you?
This is a personnel matter and (Aging) cannot comment, Hemann said in an email.
Lets put this in context. The courts have said public employees pay, employment history, pensions and job titles are all public record. The Department of Aging had already disclosed Rea worked there and when she started. Sure, disciplinary actions arent public, but thats not what was asked.
The fact that someone worked there on Monday and wasnt working there on Friday cant possibly be confidential, said Peter Scheer, executive director of The First Amendment Coalition in San Rafael.
And the rationale that new roster information isnt available, Scheer said, is hiding behind a legal technicality that the government must only produce a record that already exists.
How can you possibly protect a date? Scheer asked.
Other legitimate questions:
Why is Aging withholding innocuous information?
Does the leadership think refusing disclosure strengthens their public posture?
How would they react to a potentially embarrassing information request; how would they react to something more serious?
How far are they willing to go to keep public information from the public?
Call Jon Ortiz, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1043.