The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

May 18, 2010
Blog back: The sin of omission; outsourcing furlough lawyers

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

One of the most common criticisms that we receive in comments, phone calls and e-mails is that a news story, State Worker column or blog post excluded vital information -- the sin of omission. The critics often ascribe a sinister motive to what's left out:

May 12 Breaking news: NY judge bars state worker furloughs

Hey, Jon?! How come you didn't print this line from the article on the blog, instead hiding behind the "Click Here?" Oh, yeah, because that would have been accurate and fair . . . .

"State and federal courts around the country have largely upheld challenges to mandatory furloughs ordered by state officials."

When we call attention a news story and link to it, we quickly copy a few paragraphs that we think will encourage blog users to read the entire story. We give the decision about what to copy just a few seconds, and we don't try to lay out all the points made in the report.

If we had some sort of agenda to conceal court actions around the country that have blocked furloughs, why would we have called attention to the news from New York in the first place? Ditto for court decisions overturning furloughs in Hawaii and elsewhere that we've followed through links on this blog.

May 13 Schwarzenegger's 'unusual' letter to the state Supreme Court

I think this state worker blog is a doing a terrible job at reporting. Why doe (sic) this article fail to state that Kronick Moskovitz Tiedeman and Gerard, which has been retained by the Schwarzenegger administration for furlough litigation is being paid with our tax dollars?? This is because the AG wouldn't represent him. The last figure I saw at attorney costs we're paying for the Governor was over 500k last year. I can only wonder what the total is now. Sickening, absolutely wrong.

We regularly report on what Schwarzenegger is spending on furlough litigation, Perhaps we should have included it in this post, since we have a fairly fresh number.

The last figure we reported in this April 23 news story was $736,283.50 for litigation costs in 30 lawsuits launched since the the governor issued his first furlough order in December 2008.

Click here, here, here and here for earlier furlough litigation cost reports, and you'll get a sense of how the bills stacked up more quickly over time as more lawsuits and appeals were filed.

Clicking this link opens a post that has a PDF of the original Kronick contract. This August post has a copy of the renewed deal, which runs through June 30.

That contract carried a $350,000 cap, but, as this PDF image shows, the deal was amended about 8 months ago to increase the limit to $850,000. DPA tells us that another contract amendment is in the works to extend the contract's expiration date and dollar amount.

And yes, taxpayer money is paying for the litigation costs. To be more specific, the money comes from the state's general fund.

Attorney General Jerry Brown "isn't representing the Administration in the furlough litigation because his position on furloughs is at odds with ours," DPA spokesman Lynelle Jolley tells The State Worker, "so there's a conflict for that office to represent any of the departments named as defendants in the lawsuits. Departments are required to seek AG representation and get AG approval before DPA's allowed to represent them. The AG's office has given approval to departments to use DPA's legal services on these furlough lawsuits."

Brown, who is running for governor, hasn't publicly taken a position on whether the executive has furlough power, just that the power doesn't extend to constitutional officers' employees. In this report, published in Sunday's Bee, Brown says he would enter talks to settle furlough litigation that he might inherit from the Schwarzenegger administration because, "Litigation is always hazardous, so good-faith settlement talks should never be excluded."

May 13 Column Extra: Steve Poizner talks about unions and pensions

Has anyone actually reviewed CALIFORNIA CONSTITUTION, ARTICLE 16 to determine if Poizner's idea has merit/legality?

Click here to read the constitutional language. As we understand it, the legal question hinges on whether pensions are long-term liabilities in the same class as, say, general obligation bonds.

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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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