The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

December 2, 2008
Blog back special edition: nepotism

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Last Thursday's column on nepotism at the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board drew strong comments online, over the phone and in e-mail. Here's a small slice of what you said:

Nov. 27 State Worker: Nepotism poisons the workplace

The problem is pervasive throughout all state departments, agencies, and commissions. Between the unqualified civil service cronies and relatives and the politically connected or campaign donor appointees (equally unqualified), is it any wonder the state is in a shambles. The middle management through executive ranks in state government is PACKED with chair warmers who do little more than show up and collect paychecks (some don't even do that- 4C status allows a full day's pay just for making a brief appearance). There is no fear of consequence or repercussion- it is a common and well-known practice. "Merit system"? not in this state.

The State Worker responds: One huge problem with nepotism is that it trades leadership credibility for favors. Once employees witness a single instance of nepotism, they will assume that every management decision is colored by personal relationships. We have yet to hear someone talk about "a little" nepotism in their workplace.

The low number of reported cases is attributed to an employee's fear of retribution, not ignorance of the complaint process. Even the Whistleblower Protection Act of 2007 will not protect employees from employers who opt to ruin an individual's career instead of addressing the issue. It is my opinion that the problem of nepotism will continue until our institutions are mandated to implement HR policies that will make nepotism an exception to the rule.

TSW: We wonder about the 300 UIAB folks who didn't respond to the auditor's survey. How many didn't chip in out of fear that they'd be outed and suffer retribution? (A point we didn't mention in Thursday's column: auditors required UIAB staff to disclose their work e-mail addresses as a way of authenticating responses and weeding out duplicates.)

On the other hand, how many didn't share their thoughts because they don't see a problem? And how many didn't respond or played down the issue because they are part of the problem?

One blog user had this frank assessment:

This is nothing new in any career field whether in the public or private sector. You would hope the gov't would be better about such a thing but when it comes down to it, people hire people they know or have a connection to. Basically you can get upset about the matter or accept reality and get to networking (kissing you know what and making friends). I've been both the victim and the benefactor... definitely preferred the latter.

TSW: Another blog user familiar with the BSA sent a couple of e-mails to us with these tidbits:

Following your mention of BSA Report 2007-041 "Report of Recommendations Not Fully Implemented After One Year", in Thursday's edition, the report has been moved to quick link section at the top of the BSA webpage. I can assure you the report had been relegated to obscurity long ago as I check the BSA website regularly.

While BSA staff are great and the do a good job for the most part, the BSA process is simply a feel good exercise in futility ...

Prior to your mention last week one had to search sequentially in the main body of reports to find it. 2007-041 was released in early 2008 and was far down the list and was not linked directly at the top of the page as it is now. Your story either caused it to be moved to a more visible location or it is a function of most popular hits that moved it to the top of the page. Either way nobody cared about 2007-041 until you mentioned it.

In my opinion, BSA wants and needs attention paid to their work in order for serious improvements to be made. So if you contact them BSA's response to you will be something along the lines of: "Thank God someone finally took note of our work."

TSW: We've been running this blog and writing the Thursday State Worker column for about four months. We're still learning the ins and outs of the state bureaucracy. As we do, with your help, we'll get better at telling state workers' stories. That's why we're here.

On October 14, The Sacramento Bee will temporarily remove commenting from While we design the upgrade, we encourage you to tell us what you like and don't like about commenting on and other websites. We've heard from hundreds of you already and we're listening. Please continue to add your thoughts and questions here. We also encourage you to write Letters to the Editor on this and other topics.

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


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