See the Thursday print edition version of this story with comments from CCPOA's attorney.
The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has set aside about $350,000 to pay several hundred corrections officers while they attend their union's annual convention later this month in Las Vegas.
The arrangement with the California Correctional Peace Officers Association is unique among the state's collective bargaining agreements. Up to 10 rank-and-file employees from each of the state's 37 correctional facilities may claim three days of what's called activist release time while they attend the Aug. 16-19 convention. This means that the state will pay them for those days without getting reimbursement from the union. A department spokesman was unable to provide an exact cost figure because it's still unclear which employees will attend.
Between 2006 and 2010, when the union worked without a contract, the activist release time provision was not in place. Activist release time was agreed to more than a decade ago in exchange for the union accepting other concessions, according to Department of Personnel Administration spokeswoman Lynelle Jolley.
The state generally bears the cost when employees take time off from work to focus on activities directly related to collective bargaining or special contract-related hearings. For other union activities such as conventions and social events, the union typically reimburses the state for salary paid to an employee who wasn't actually at work.
CCPOA has worked in both activist release time, which does not require reimbursing the state, and a release time bank, which allows employees to donate unused personal days to a fund that other union members can draw from. The union has told this year's convention attendees to request three days of activist release time and one day from the time bank.
Activist release time accounted for 0.2 percent of union leave used by employees in the corrections department between 2000 and 2005, according to an Office of the Inspector General report issued in 2006. The report mainly scolded the department for potentially costing the state millions of dollars by not properly monitoring the release time bank.
But the report also said the department's activist release time costs had exceeded the annual budget of $368,000 by a low-ball estimate of more than $400,000 from 2002 through 2005. At the time, the department said it had already begun establishing policies to better account for union leave time.
CCPOA spokesman JeVaughn Baker did not respond to multiple calls seeking comment.
PHOTO CREDIT: California Correctional Peace Officers Association president Mike Jimenez in June 2004. (Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee).