The State Worker

Nepotism sanctions on California department could be lifted

The California Department of Tax and Fee Administration could regain control of its hiring practices one year after a state audit revealed that almost a fifth of its employees worked with a relative in the organization.

The State Personnel Board on Thursday is scheduled to consider reinstating the tax department’s authority to hire and promote job candidates without oversight from the state’s centralized human resources department.

Over the past year, the tax department had to allow CalHR to review its job postings and its promotion candidates. CalHR reported that it denied less than 1 percent of the 400 people the tax department attempted to hire or promote.

CalHR credited the tax department with creating a new anti-nepotism policy, and with carrying out new training on merit-based hiring for its supervisors. CalHR is recommending that the State Personnel Board allow the tax department to make its own hiring decisions.

“The CDTFA has been in strict compliance with (its hiring restrictions) and has agreed to continue established processes to ensure no inappropriate appointments are made in the future,” the CalHR recommendation reads.

The Legislature created the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration in July 2017 after it voted to gut the tax-collecting Board of Equalization. The tax department took over most of the responsibilities and staff that had been assigned to the Board of Equalization.

The State Personnel Board’s nepotism audit was one several investigations into the Board of Equalization that called attention to questionable spending and misuse of civil servants at events that looked to be political.

Initially, the State Personnel Board reported in November 2017 that 17.5 percent of the Board of Equalization’s 4,200 employees appeared to have a relative on staff.

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In May, the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration disclosed 30 percent of its 484 supervisors had a familial or other close personal relationships on staff that could give the impression of a conflict of interest.

Earlier this month, former Board of Equalization communications director Mark DeSio filed a lawsuit against the tax department alleging he was dismissed from his job because he cooperated with the State Personnel Board nepotism audit and other investigations into the agency.

The tax department in a written statement for the State Personnel Board wrote that it is “strongly committed to ensuring that all exams administered, selection and hiring practices are merit-based and uphold the principles of equal employment opportunity.”

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