The State Worker

The State Worker: Fearless ‘forecasts’ for the year gone by

The interior of Bg’s bar at Mel’s and Faye’s Diner in Jackson, where some Cal Fire employees allegedly drank while on duty during cadet graduation parties.
The interior of Bg’s bar at Mel’s and Faye’s Diner in Jackson, where some Cal Fire employees allegedly drank while on duty during cadet graduation parties.

Ahead for 2016: State employee contract talks. Legal fights for Cal Fire. Pension politics.

Other scribblers might guess how those stories will play out, but The State Worker dares run counter to convention with 100-percent-guaranteed-accurate “predictions” – for the year past:

▪ Cal Fire starts 2015 by dismissing, demoting or accepting resignations and retirements from 15 managers at its Ione academy. Some of the reasons alleged or admitted: on-the-clock drinking, misuse of state property including liaisons with prostitutes, inappropriate photos and Web links stored and shared on state phones, cheating for promotions and sexual harassment of women.

▪ Some punished Cal Fire employees say their disciplines were too severe or illegal. Separately, families of firefighter pilots killed in the line of duty claim Cal Fire knowingly kept survivor benefits from them. The year closes with the department facing a slew of legal fights.

▪ Caltrans finishes outfitting 7,400 fleet vehicles with monitoring systems, then notices that speeding incidents nearly double. Is accountability one reason? Despite the whiz-bang tech, the department doesn’t fully use a system feature that electronically identifies drivers. The department explains that efficiency is the program’s priority, not cracking down on speeders.

▪ A July report ranks state buildings in greatest need of renovation or replacement. The Board of Equalization’s notorious 24-story tower on N Street – its drain-system core crumbling and sidewalk scaffolding shielding pedestrians from exterior glass panels that might fall – ranks just No. 16. The worst-off state hall of shame? The 51-year-old Resources Building at 1416 Ninth St.

▪ Four state unions bargain for new contracts. Only state engineers take a deal. Correctional officers and maintenance workers fail to reach terms. State scientists reject an offer and stage rallies to signal their displeasure. Pay raises and the Brown administration’s insistence that state employees pay into a retiree health fund complicate talks and portend trouble for 2016 negotiations with other unions.

▪ A probe by The Bee exposes evidence of widespread cheating on Cal Fire academy exams, calling into question the training received by hundreds of firefighters over several years. Cal Fire acknowledges lapses but downplays their significance, while noting it purged academy management in January.

▪ Two ballot proposals would limit pension benefits for new state and local government workers hired after a certain date, unless voters say otherwise. The proponents will pick one, then see if they can raise at least $27 million to pay for signature collection and a campaign. Union spokesman Steve Maviglio predicts labor will “throw the kitchen sink” at the measure.

A safe bet, given the unions’ avowed opposition to cutting retirement benefits. Almost as safe as forecasting the events of 2015 after they’ve happened.