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Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

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Paul Kitagaki Jr./ The Sacramento Bee
Gov. Jerry Brown talks with the Sacramento Bee Editorial Board.

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed four measures supported by California’s state psychiatric technicians’ union:

Assembly Bill 1340 (Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo): Creates enhanced-treatment pilot programs for treating the most dangerous patients at Atascadero, Coalinga, Napa and Patton State Hospitals. Takes effect July 1, 2015 subject to funding.

Assembly Bill 1960 (Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno): Allows California state hospital law-enforcement and licensed mental health staff to see patients’ criminal history to assess violence risks and help patient placement.

Assembly Bill 2186 (Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach): Allows for involuntary medication of psychiatric patients found incompetent to stand trial and for those medication orders to follow them to from facility to facility.

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Staff photo illustration/ The Sacramento Bee

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed two state employee bills on Monday, including one that would have set a standard that managers and supervisors earn at least 10 percent more than the employees they manage. The other bill would have required that supervisors bid for shifts on the basis of seniority.

The pay measure, Senate Bill 216 by Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, would have required the state to “address salary compaction and parity concerns” by establishing a goal to pay management at least 10 percent more than their highest-paid subordinate employees. If the Department of Human Resources determined that the state’s finances didn’t allow that differential, it would have had to report its salary data to the Legislature.

In a letter explaining his veto, Brown said, “My administration has made progress on this issue within the past 12 months and will continue to meet with representatives of excluded employees to discuss compaction issues as appropriate.”

An example: The administration in August increased pay between 8 percent and 42 percent for state managers in the scientific and civil engineering corps.

Tuesday, September 30 2014
CHP honors 100-year-old volunteer

Homer Bosserman Jr. is a century-old marvel, a World War II Marine veteran who flew in the Pacific Theater with actor Tyrone Power. On Thursday, state officials honored him for his latest mission: 14 years of volunteer work for the California Highway Patrol.

Bosserman, a retired automobile industry employee, has been working in the department’s Monterey-area office since 2000. He files citations, enters them in log books and performs other duties. On his 100th birthday on June 20, he arrived at the office and announced, “Still alive and kicking!”

Monterey-area CHP Capt. William Perlstein said Bosserman brings energy and humor to the office and exemplifies service. More than 800 seniors do similar volunteer work for the patrol statewide.

“He inspires us to do more for the public,” Perlstein said. “You see him and realize how much sacrifice his generation made.”

G8I32TH5I.3Senior Photographer
José Luis Villegas/ The Sacramento Bee
Mike Jimenez, the long-time head of California’s prison officers’ union, is retiring at the end of this year.

Mike Jimenez, the mercurial leader of the California Correctional Peace Officers’ Association, is retiring at the end of this year and members have elected the union’s executive vice president, Chuck Alexander, to head the organization starting Jan. 1.

The leadership change, announced Thursday after a vote at the union’s annual convention, will mark just the second time CCPOA has turned over administrations since organizing more than 30 years ago.

Jimenez, 52, assumed the union presidency when Don Novey retired in 2002. The dozen years that followed were some of the most turbulent in the union’s history: Contract battles with former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, furloughs, Gov. Jerry Brown’s prison system downsizing program and a defamation lawsuit that cost CCPOA millions of dollars all created unrest among the union’s 30,000 members.

Jimenez was known for bizarre and provocative antics, such as refusing to cut his hair and beard during a bargaining impasse with Schwarzenegger. At one point during contentious labor talks the union ordered up a large unflattering picture of the movie star-governor in a Speedo and had it driven around the Capitol.

This week’s State Worker column started with a tip that Caltrans employees were planning a barbecue and golf tournament on state time. Caltrans officials said that the off site at Land Park last Tuesday was on the up and up, that managers paid for it with their own money and that anyone who golfed had to burn leave credits.

You have to wonder how many little things that would make state work just a little more pleasant never happen because management doesn’t want to risk criticism. But it doesn’t have to be that way, said Paul Harvey, a University of New Hampshire management expert who we quote in today’s column. Here’s some of what Harvey said that didn’t get into Thursday’s column, followed by a department email that explains the event.

On why government shies away from morale-boosting activities:

It’s very difficult to explain the indirect benefits of a team building exercise, especially to a lot of people. ... The goal really is to communicate the benefit of what you’re doing ahead of doing it. People are less likely to think something is suspicious. If they’re coming right out, and saying, ‘This is a team-building activity,’ people might still say that’s not the best use of resources, but at least (management) is going through the effort to say its intended to be valuable.

G8I32R7G1.3Staff Photographer
Brian Nguyen/ The Sacramento Bee
The Board of Equalization building on N Street in Sacramento.

After two decades in its defective high-rise headquarters and facing tens of millions of dollars in repairs and litigation, the state Board of Equalization should move, a new state audit concludes.

“We believe there could be a net fiscal benefit for the state to move BOE staff to a new facility,” state Auditor Elaine Howle said in a report released Thursday. She noted, however, that the tax agency’s case to leave is built on suspect cost assumptions and inflated staff-growth projections, not sound analysis.

The audit doesn’t make any assessment of what could be done with the 22-year-old structure, which has a history of water leaks, toxic mold, plunging elevators, corroded plumbing and falling exterior glass panels. The state’s landlord and real estate agent, the Department of General Services, has never assessed the property’s market value. Nor has it made plans for what to do with the tower if lawmakers approve moving the business- and excise-tax collecting agency to a new facility.

When auditors asked an assistant deputy director of General Services’ Real Estate Services Division why the state didn’t know the 24-story tower’s value, “he stated that it would be challenging for an appraiser to provide an accurate value because there are no comparable properties within the Sacramento region, given the building’s current condition,” the audit says. “We believe General Services should be more proactive in assessing whether the building should remain a part of the State’s property portfolio.”

The anonymous email said that Caltrans employees had recently scheduled a barbecue and golf tournament under the guise of a “safety meeting’ at Land Park.

File attachments showed a homemade flier soliciting dishes for a food contest and an intradepartmental email sent out on Sept. 17 at 6:53 a.m.: “(I)f you’re interested in joining a few of us for golf after the off-site safety meeting next week please let me know by COB today as I am making the foursomes and reservations today!”

The tipster even included five pages from Caltrans’ policy manual that explains in excruciating detail how often employees must attend a safety meeting and what the meetings should cover. A Bee analysis of the document found no mention of barbecues, food contests or golf.

To the tipster it sounded outrageous. But hold your judgment and ask this question: How nicely should government treat its employees?

Wednesday, September 24 2014
State savings fair to feature Kelly Brothers
G3P32I5D0.3Photojournalist
Autumn Cruz/ The Sacramento Bee
Financial planner and broadcaster, Kelly Brothers tapes a radio program from his desk in his office.

California’s supplemental retirement fund for state employees, Savings Plus, is hosting an information fair on Friday featuring long-time Sacramento broadcaster and investment adviser Kelly Brothers as the keynote speaker.

The “Achieve Your Dream Fair” at the Sacramento Convention Center also will include retirement-planning workshops with topics such as how to invest lump-sum separation pay, personal finance, estate planning and more.

Financial management experts from the private sector will be on hand along with representatives from Savings Plus, CalPERS and the Social Security Administration.

The free event on the convention center’s third floor starts at 8 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. Brothers is scheduled to speak at 9:30 a.m. Click here to register.

CalPERS members have less than a week to cast their votes for this year’s Board of Administration candidates. This week the retirement system released video from last Tuesday’s candidate forum at CalPERS’ downtown Sacramento campus. You can watch the forum above. Click here to download the transcript.

Click here for more details about the election. Ballots must be returned to CalPERS by Monday.

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Brian Nguyen/ The Sacramento Bee
Scaffolding on the top level of the Board of Equalization’s parking protects employees from glass panels that might fall.

In case you missed it, crews went to work at the Board of Equalization headquarters on Friday to fix damage from water that spilled out of an air-conditioning cooling unit.

Just a few hours earlier, Gov. Jerry Brown announced he’d signed legislation that requires his Department of General Resources to come up with a management plan for the three dozen or so state-owned buildings in the Sacramento area and designate which three are in the worst shape. Those facilities would be prime candidates for replacement, although the Legislature still would have to authorize the hundreds of millions of dollars needed for new facilities.

The law’s author, Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, said he assumes the 24-story Equalization tower would make that list, given it’s long history of defects. But would that lead to a move for the 1,900 or so workers in the building? Take our poll, then come back later today to check on the results.

GUC31MKK4.3Staff Photographer
Brian Nguyen/ The Sacramento Bee
The Board of Equalization building at 450 N St. in Sacramento.

With new repairs starting over the weekend at the troubled Board of Equalization building, Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday signed a measure aimed at eventually moving state employees out of the downtown Sacramento high rise.

Assembly Bill 1656 allocates $2.5 million to assess state buildings in the Sacramento area and sets a July 2015 deadline to develop a long-range plan for managing them.

The review also will identify the three facilities in the worst condition as first in line for replacement. The bill’s author, Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, said he was “delighted” that Brown signed the measure and predicted that Equalization’s 24-story tower will easily qualify as one of the state’s worst facilities.

“It’s the most catastrophic disaster” in the state’s building inventory, he said.

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The Sacramento Bee
Senate District 6
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The Sacramento Bee
Assenbly District 7

The Bee has launched a new tool that allows users to track political money in state races, including three Sacramento-area districts where Democrats are battling in closely-contested races: Assembly District 7 (Steve Cohn vs. Kevin McCarty), Assembly District 9 (Jim Cooper vs. Darrell Fong) and Senate District 6 (Roger Dickinson vs. Richard Pan). State workers and retirees form a major voting bloc in all three districts.

You can track the money in those races and others and learn more about the districts here. For even more detail, including daily updates on individual contributions and independent expenditures, subscribe to the Capitol Alert Insider app in your app store.

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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