For weeks we'd heard from various union sources that the Schwarzenegger administration used a toaster oven to belittle the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, the 32,000-member union that has been at odds with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for several years.
Now the truth can be told.
Indeed, Schwarzenegger's Chief of Staff, Susan Kennedy, did send a Black & Decker toaster oven to CCPOA President Mike Jimenez a few months ago. The State Worker saw the appliance on Monday during an hour-long visit in Jimenez's office. The toaster was still in the box with a white bow on top, sitting against a wall near his desk.
"It was a gift," Jimenez said.
The appliance arrived in September, he said, with a handwritten note from Kennedy recognizing a milestone in the number of unfair labor practice complaints filed by the correctional officers' union against the administration.
"It said something like, 'Here's a little something to commemorate the 75th ULP. Hope you haven't lost your sense of humor,'" Jimenez recalled.
Kennedy said this week that the toaster was just a gag and nothing more. But as word of the the appliance's delivery spread to other unions over the last few months, it's meaning morphed.
The speculation cast Kennedy as an erstwhile Vito Corleone in "The Godfather" and the toaster was like the horse head put in Jack Woltz's bed to convince the Hollywood producer to cast actor Johnny Fontane in a film. (Click the viewer to see the famous scene from the movie).
In this case, the rumormongers speculated, the message to CCPOA was, "You're toast."
Jimenez didn't see it that way. "I took it as being like a prize," like what banks used to give customers for opening an account, he said. "But I have to say, I didn't spend a whole bunch of time thinking about it."