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Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

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Brian Nguyen/ The Sacramento Bee
Scaffolding forms a protected walkway to elevators that service the parking structure at the Board of Equalization headquarters in downtown Sacramento.

Work crews this weekend will replace leased scaffolding outside the defective Board of Equalization headquarters with scaffolding purchased by the state, prompting board Chairman Jerome Horton to blast the Brown administration for failing to find a new facility for the agency.

Horton said Thursday that while the change may make financial sense in the short term, it sends a signal that the Department of General Services intends to keep Equalization’s 2,200 or so employees in the troubled building. The downtown Sacramento structure has a history of toxic mold, defective elevators, leaking windows, corroded wastewater pipes, floods, and exterior glass panels that spontaneously break or pop off. Employees have blamed some illnesses on the building, and Horton and other board members want a new facility for the tax-collecting department.

Horton said General Services’ decision to move from renter to owner is “officially making the scaffolding permanent” around an “irreparably broken building” that sparked a $50 million tort claim earlier this month. The board has paid out $2.3 million in connection with building-related employee injury claims.

“We have to relocate these affected BOE employees and consolidate our operations,” Horton said.

Thursday, July 24 2014
California state tower gets Ohmanized
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Jack Ohman/ The Sacramento Bee
At the BOE

Our Sunday story about the Board of Equalization headquarter’s sorry, soggy history inspired this visual commentary by Bee cartoonist Jack Ohman. The Bee’s editorial board also weighed in with its opinion, “State’s tower of horror in downtown Sacramento is nice for bats, not humans.” Read it here.

This column starts where last week’s left off, with a simple question, the government’s 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 employee’s 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 Rea’s 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 Rea’s role in the scandal at Fair Employment? (“We were not aware of the SPB investigation of Ms. Rea,” Hemann said.)

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Randall Benton/ The Sacramento Bee
A doctor examines an inmate at the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in Corcoran.

California state doctors and dentists earned far more than other unionized state employees last year, with base pay averaging $204,764 – and half of them earned more than $234,000.

That more than doubled the average and median salaries of the next highest-paid group, state lawyers and administrative law judges.

It’s difficult to compare the state’s overall pay to employees covered by the Union of American Physicians and Dentists because the government data doesn’t parse the various specialists in the state. In 2012, the last year for which overall federal data is available, physicians practicing primary care medicine received median annual compensation of $220,942 while specialists earned $396,233. Dentists’ median pay that year was $149,310.

The state-pay numbers over the last three years:

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Brian Nguyen/ The Sacramento Bee
A view of scaffolding skirting the Board of Equalization building in downtown Sacramento.

Crews will start work Friday at the vexed Board of Equalization headquarters, but it won’t be to fix the crumbling waste-water plumbing or to replace faulty exterior glass panels that were among the long list of tower defects chronicled by The Sacramento Bee on Sunday.

Instead, the three-day project that kicks off at the end of the work week will replace the rented scaffolding erected two years ago with scaffolding that the state is purchasing.

Officials ordered the pipes and plywood installed on the 24-story tower’s sidewalk and its parking structure’s top level after an exterior glass panel popped off the building’s 8th floor and nearly struck a pedestrian in 2012. According to a BOE memo sent to employees last week, the scaffolding has to be replaced “due to the expiration of the contract with the previous fencing vendor.”

Renting the scaffolding cost the state about $10,000 per month, Department of General Services spokesman Brian Ferguson said. The state is paying $100,609 for the new scaffolding.

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Courtesy City of Stockton
Scott Carney

Scott Carney, who sometimes endured withering criticism from lawmakers for his department’s perceived inefficiencies, is leaving his administrative post at the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to become a deputy city manager for Stockton. He begins his new job on Sept. 2.

Carney is stepping down from state job that paid him $143,774 last year as director of Corrections’ Division of Administrative Services to take a city job with an annual salary of $192,000.

Administrative Services has an annual operating budget of $178 million and nearly 2,100 staff that manage human resources and business services for the entire $10.7 billion state correctional system and its 61,000 employees.

By comparison, Stockton’s annual budget is $633 million and the city employs about 1,500 workers, city spokeswoman Connie Cochran said. As one of two deputy city managers, Carney oversee city fiances and some other operations.

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Brian Baer/ Sacramento Bee Staff Photo
The California Board Chiropractic Examiners meets on Thursday Oct. 25, 2007.

Four years after a Sacramento jury found a Board of Chiropractic Examiners supervisor liable in retaliating against an employee and more than a decade after the case first went to court, Gov. Jerry Brown announced Friday he has signed legislation authorizing payment of a $2.7 million judgment in the matter.

Former chiropractic board office assistant Carole Arbuckle claimed in a whistle-blower lawsuit in 2003 that she was demoted and pushed from her job from reporting a chiropractic license had lapsed on a former board member.

The 3rd District Court of Appeal initially barred Arbuckle from suing under the California Whistleblower Protection Act, saying she failed to exhaust her administrative and judicial remedies. But the California Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s decision in 2009, reviving the case.

The following year, a Sacramento jury sided with Arbuckle. Finding that her boss, Kim Smith, acted with malice, a Sacramento Superior Court jury awarded Arbuckle about $1.2 million in economic and non-economic damages and $7,500 in punitive damages. According to a legislative analysis, the state was later ordered to pay more than $900,000 in attorney fees, plus costs and interest.

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Hector Amezcua/ The Sacramento Bee
An inmate prepares a piece of sheet metal to build one of the components that will be used in a modular building built at the Prison Industry Authority compound at Folsom State Prison.

A state system that uses inmate labor to provide goods and services will see its revenues jump 15.6 percent in fiscal 2014-15, according to a plan recently approved by the board of the California Prison Industry Authority.

The self-sustaining program will take in an anticipated $196.3 million this year that will fully fund its operations at 34 Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation facilities. The authority oversees inmate training programs that operate manufacturing, service, and agriculture industries. They produce everything from modular buildings and fire protection gear to furniture and pre-packaged meals. Most of what PIA makes is purchased by the state or other government entities. About 6,700 inmates will participate this year, earning nominal wages for their work.

Just a few years ago, the program was losing money, pinched by factory-closure costs, higher benefits costs for its government employees and money it put aside in anticipation of settling lawsuits.

This year’s rebound is fueled by an expansion of the authority’s construction and maintenance operation into specialized healthcare facilities at all of CDCR’s institutions. The expansion will employ over 900 inmates and generate $18.8 million in new revenue, the authority said in its annual plan.

Personnel Board Resolution and Order Following Investigative Hearing Case 13-1216A

The State Worker column this week delves into alleged shenanigans at the Department of Fair Employment and Housing detailed in a new investigative report by the State Personnel Board.

The gist: A department personnel officer allegedly manipulated in-house candidate lists for an investigative position to exclude qualified candidates and select an employee for the job who wasn’t qualified. Then, according to the report, the department’s second-in-command gave contradictory statements about the degree to which the promoted employee’s qualifications were vetted.

But there were other details of the report that we didn’t have space to chronicle, including:

The State Personnel Board’s more aggressive pursuit of hiring shenanigans and promotion miscues in state government may be bearing fruit: A new report says a state personnel officer manipulated the civil service system to promote an unqualified employee and a manager displayed “blatant dishonesty” to mislead an investigator.

Although Tyra Gilmer and Monica Rea have transferred from the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, both still face discipline. They could lose their jobs.

The investigation released this week follows a January lambasting of the department for promoting Angelina Endsley into a job for which she had neither the education nor experience. Endsley applied for the position believing she was qualified, the State Personnel Board decided, but Fair Employment officials knew better. So the board ordered a deeper investigation to find out who did what and when.

It was the first time in memory that a personnel investigation called out a department for acting in bad faith and not merely bad judgment, and a sign that a 2-year-old auditing program is cutting teeth.

An Emmy Award-winning documentary airing in Sacramento this weekend features California state employees and their work on alternative energy.

“We’ve Got the Power” will be broadcast this Sunday at 1 p.m. on CBS 13. The show was produced by Professional Engineers in California Government and is the sequel to the union’s 2010 program, “The Next Frontier, Engineering in the Golden Age or Green.”

The latest one-hour show has aired around the country. It outlines a number of fossil-fuel alternatives in California and around the world and the role of government in developing and regulating renewable, non-polluting energy sources.

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Michael Allen Jones/ The Sacramento Bee
Michael Pinto of Sacramento looks over state job information during a military job fair at Arco Arena in 2008.

The California State Fair is hosting two workshops on Thursday to give veterans information about how to apply for state government jobs.

The workshops are scheduled for 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on the Golden 1 Concert Stage as part of Military Appreciation Day. Active military, veterans, guard and reserve personnel will be admitted for free to the fair that day with appropriate ID.

The job events are open to the public, but will be focused on state employment for veterans. Several high-level state leaders will discuss hiring on with the state and veterans will share their experiences transitioning from the military to state civil service.

Including its university systems, California state government employs more than 400,000 workers, making it the largest source of jobs in the state. Last year the government hired more than 11,000 veterans.

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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