The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

October 22, 2010
CCPOA airs its finances in federal court hearing

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100609 gavel.jpgThe California Correctional Peace Officers Association owns two homes in Sacramento, bought half the seats in an Arco Arena luxury suite as well as season passes to the local Triple A baseball team and purchased eight new vehicles last year, according to a federal court hearing this morning.

The inside glimpse into how the prison officers' union has spent its money was part of the punitive damages phase of Dawe v. Corrections USA, CCPOA, et al.. CCPOA is already on the hook for $2.3 million in damages after a jury on Monday found it guilty of defamation. Now the jury must determine how much in punitive penalties, if any, CCPOA will pay after losing the 3-year-old case in Sacramento.

(This is a very complex case, as evidenced by this 27-page verdict. For more background than we can share here, click here for Brian Dawe's side of the story and click here for CCPOA's version. )

Among the union financial figures presented at the morning hearing:

Net worth: CCPOA's net worth has fallen from $16.55 million in 2006 to about $4.7 million now. Jeff Nicolaysen, CCPOA's chief financial officer, attributed the decline to a number of factors, including increased legal costs brought on by furlough litigation and more expenses for individual member representation triggered by the union's lack of a contract. Attrition and members who refuse to pay their fair-share fees have also cut revenue to some degree.

Dues: CCPOA member dues amount to about $30 million in annual revenue for CCPOA. The union's 31,000 to 32,000 individual members pay dues of roughly $80 per month.

Houses: The union owns two homes in Sacramento's Natomas neighborhood for which it paid "about $300,000 each," Nicolaysen said. Two union executives, Perry Speth and Chuck Helton, live in the homes.

Apartment: The union rents a Natomas apartment for Juan Vasquez, an assistant to CCPOA President Mike Jimenez. The amount of the rent was not disclosed in court testimony.

Cars: CCPOA purchased eight vehicles last year for about $20,000 each. Nicolaysen said that the purchases were "about what we buy each year" to replace worn-out cars for union field representatives.

Tickets: The union spent $230,000 for Sacramento Kings season tickets. The price gives the union and its guests the rights to half of a luxury box. It also paid $23,000 for Sacramento River Cats Triple-A baseball tickets.

Employees: CCPOA has budgeted $7.7 million for employee wages and another $3.37 million for employee benefits. The union's 2010-11 budget is nearly $30 million.

Other budgeted items: Advertising and public relations, $1.8 million; lobbyists, $409,000; executive board expenses, $350,000; travel-food-lodging, $380,000.

The numbers came up in court this morning after a jury earlier this week decided unanimously that union officials, including Jimenez, had spread falsehoods about Brian Dawe, a founder and former executive director/treasurer of Auburn-based CUSA and two other men.

Corrections USA is a coalition of individual correctional officers and correctional officer unions from around the country. CCPOA was a member. The union eventually took over the organization's board and ousted Dawe, who had started "investigating improprieties" in the coalition's bank account five years ago.

Dawe successfully argued that the unjust firing and remarks and publications issued to explain to impaired his ability to earn a living and damaged his company, Flat Iron Mountain Associates. The jury awarded Dawes $1.6 million for defamation. Another former Corrections USA employee involved in the matter, Gary Harkins, won a $315,000 defamation claim against the union.

The 27-page verdict also levels damages against Corrections USA and a few individuals from that organization. The bottom line for all the defendants: $2.6 million so far.

It's not clear when the jury will decide on punitive damages in the case. A scheduled witness fell ill in the hall outside Judge Lawrence Karlton's courtroom this morning and was taken to a local hospital. Another witness seemed confused and upset on the stand after seeing the other person become ill. The turmoil prompted Karlton to call an early lunch recess.

The State Worker will be keeping an eye out for what the jury decides.

IMAGE: www.yolocourts.ca.gov

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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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