The State Worker

Nepotism sanctions to end at California department

Scandals make case for tax board overhaul, Phil Ting says

Assembly Budget Chairman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, favors an overhaul of a tax agency called the Board of Equalization. Its recent scandals, he says, make a case for a new approach.
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Assembly Budget Chairman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, favors an overhaul of a tax agency called the Board of Equalization. Its recent scandals, he says, make a case for a new approach.

The California state government department where 30 percent of managers acknowledged they had a close, personal relationship with someone else in their organization will regain its power to make its own hiring decisions.

The State Personnel Board on Thursday voted to lift the hiring sanctions it placed a year ago on the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration.

The state human resources department and the personnel board found that the tax department had made significant strides in training supervisors on government’s merit-based hiring standards and in adhering to a new anti-nepotism policy that forbids employees from helping friends or family members get jobs in the organization.

“I can assure that you that we will continue to adhere to this,” tax department Director Nicolas Maduros said.

The Legislature created the tax department in July 2017 after it voted to strip the tax-collecting Board of Equalization of most of its power and staff.

By then, a nepotism audit was underway at the Board of Equalization and other investigations had drawn attention to questionable spending and public outreach programs there.

The tax department inherited most of the Board of Equalization’s employees, and the State Personnel Board’s nepotism audit initially concluded that almost a fifth of them had a relative on staff. The tax department later disclosed that 30 percent of its 484 managers had a personal relationship with someone else in the organization that could be considered a conflict of interest.

Since then, the CalHR has reviewed more than 500 hiring or promotion requests by the tax department. CalHR rejected less than 1 percent of the applicants.

Members of the State Personnel Board said the tax department had demonstrated that it was committed to its anti-nepotism policy.

“We want there to be a cultural change,” said State Personnel Board Vice President Lauri Shanahan.

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