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Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

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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.

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Hector Amezcua/ The Sacramento Bee
Daniel Lubin, left, an environmental scientist for the State Parks and Scott Tidball, a seasonal biologist, look at the soil near the Lake Tahoe golf course East of Meyers to determine the wetland’s boundary.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration has filed its rebuttal to a lawsuit aimed at forcing the government to reimburse state scientists for work-related travel and meal costs at the same rate as other state workers.

Documents filed in Sacramento Superior Court this week attempt to discredit a decision by arbitrator Catherine Harris that the scientists should receive the same per diem increases negotiated by other state employees. Brown has refused to give employees in the California Association of Professional Scientists higher reimbursement rates than other unions negotiated for their members last year because the scientists are still working under the terms of their expired contract and its lower per diem provisions.

Department of Human Resources attorneys Joan Markoff and Frolan Aguiling say in their filings that Harris “exceeded her powers and violated public policy” by incorrectly applying narrow protections in the scientists’ expired contract to per diem. The arbitrator’s ruling also undermined the Legislature, Markoff and Aguling wrote, because lawmakers didn’t review the higher rates as part of a contract and didn’t appropriate money to pay more for lodging and meals to scientists.

The difference in the rates is relatively little. The per diem breakfast rate increased from $6 to $7, the lunch rate went from $10 to $11. Dinner per diem increased $5 to $23 for qualifying meals. State lodging reimbursements formerly ranged from $84 to $140 per night, depending on location. The new contracts reset the range at $90 to $150.

The State Worker caught up with San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed on Wednesday as he made the rounds in Sacramento to talk about his plan to give governments the power to reduce their pension debts.

Here are highlights of an interview in the Capitol’s basement, during which Reed discussed with whom he met, his plan to keep pressing for a pension ballot measure in 2016, and his thoughts on the fight over pension obligations in the City of Stockton’s bankruptcy case.

story mug Ortiz
Jon Ortiz

The I-word – “impasse” – has butted in on contract talks between Gov. Jerry Brown and a state employees’ union that has been without a labor agreement for more than a year.

The Public Employment Relations Board, which decides when union negotiations have deadlocked, recently put that stamp on negotiations between the governor and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 39. The union represents 850 state workers who run power and water systems at hundreds of state facilities, from the Capitol to Calipatria State Prison to China Camp State Park.

For years, their pay has lagged by 30 percent or more the wages for similar jobs in federal and local governments, and the private sector. The union says the gap is so severe that the state struggles to recruit and retain workers that literally keep the air conditioning running and toilets flushing. Brown hasn’t budged from offering the same 4.5 percent salary increase given to SEIU Local 1000 and several other unions.

Last month, the operating engineers union rejected the deal and voted to authorize a strike. Then it filed for and won a declaration of impasse. So what’s next?

The State Worker column this week focuses on the promise and peril of impasse for the bogged-down contract talks between Gov. Jerry Brown and 850 state operating engineers in Bargaining Unit 13. It offers a path to mediation, but it also opens the door to management imposing terms and for the rank and file to strike.

Worth noting: While state university employee unions have staged strikes, no union that bargains with the governor has ever walked off the job en masse.

What’s next? Will the union strike? Take our poll.

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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