The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

January 31, 2012
Furlough lawsuit deal affects only SEIU workers, drops further litigation

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100602 yolo county gavel.jpg

Correction, 2:57 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the Office of Administrative Hearings is one of the five departments included in the SEIU settlement.

Roughly 700 state workers covered by SEIU Local 1000 will receive back wages from an furlough lawsuit agreement between the union and Gov. Jerry Brown's administration.

The deal, which we first reported this afternoon, also dumps four much larger furlough lawsuits the union was pressing in Northern California trial courts.

Only Local 1000 employees at First 5 California, the Prison Industry Authority, the California Earthquake Authority, the California Housing Finance Agency and the California State Lottery will receive back pay without interest for days that they were forced to take off without pay in 2009 and 2010. State workers represented by other bargaining units and managers in those organizations aren't part of the settlement, said Lynelle Jolley, spokeswoman for the state Department of Personnel Administration.

The agreement is a good deal for the state on two fronts:

• It costs taxpayers nothing, since all five departments are completely self-funded -- which was the basis of the argument that their employees shouldn't have been put on furlough in the first place.

• SEIU also agreed to drop four other furlough lawsuits pending in Alameda, Sacramento and San Francisco courts, Jolley said. Those lawsuits had the potential to cost the state tens of millions of dollars in back wages and interest for roughly 80,000 of the 95,000 workers the local represents. The litigation argued that for a variety of reasons furlough policy itself was illegal, not merely its application to a select departments.


January 31, 2012
Special fund furlough litigation settled; more details to come

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100602 yolo county gavel.jpgEmployees in five departments will receive back pay for wages lost to furloughs according to a settlement reached between labor and Gov. Jerry Brown's administration.

The deal includes workers at First 5 California, the Prison Industry Authority, the California Earthquake Authority, the California Housing Finance Agency and the California State Lottery, according to sources familiar with the agreement who spoke on condition of anonymity because the affected employees hadn't been told as of this morning.

The number of employees affected and the amount of money they'll receive aren't yet known, although one source said that the back pay will not include interest. The departments are all relatively small.

We expect more details later today as the unions and the departments divulge them to their employees.

The settlement lays to rest union litigation that argued that it was illegal to furlough employees in departments that received a significant portion of their budgets from outside the state's beleaguered general fund.


January 31, 2012
Poll: What do you think of the CCPOA union paid leave deal?

As we reported last week, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association has reached a deal with the state to settle its union paid leave bill for $3.5 million by making payments over the next nine years sans interest.

The figure represents $1 million less than the state said the union owes on the tab that runs back to 2005, but it's $500,000 more than CCPOA said it owes the state.

Click here to read the language of the settlement, which we wrote about in last week's State Worker column.

So what do you think about the agreement?

January 31, 2012
California state, local government workers among best-paid

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100831 calculator.JPGCalifornia state and local government employees remain among the highest-paid in the nation, according to revised 2010 data released this month by the U.S. Census Bureau.

DATABASE: State worker salaries

Full-time monthly pay for March 2010 in the District of Columbia averaged $5,900, followed by California at $5,774 and New Jersey' s $5,540. Nationally, the average pay for full-time state and local public employees was $4,388 for the March 2010 period sampled by the bureau.

The statistic divides a state's total payroll by the number of full-time equivalent employees. The District of Columbia is included because the data takes into account all government jobs below the federal level. The figures don't account for differences in cost of living.

California, the nation's most-populous state, also claimed about 1.8 million state and local government workers, a tad over one-tenth of the nation's non-federal government employees. Still, the Golden State's ratio of 478 state and local employees per 10,000 residents has been a cellar-dweller for years. The state employee-to-California resident ratio runs at about 110 per 10,000, which is also close to the nation's lowest.

Click here for U.S. Census' revised data summary. The link opens a spreadsheet that extracts the state-by-state totals from around the country.


January 30, 2012
Department of Corrections sends out another 545 layoff warnings

Thumbnail image for 100625 CDCR logo.JPGThe California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has issued 545 layoff warning notices to employees, including 140 correctional officers.

Department officials said in this email that the letters went out Thursday and Friday, prompted by the penal system's shrinking inmate population. There are now 14,000 fewer people in California's state prisons than when Corrections and county jails launched so-called "realignment" on Oct. 1.

CDCR is still offering opportunities for staff in danger of layoff to move to jobs at other facilities with vacancies. "That offer stands but interested staff must act quickly," according to the Friday email announcing the layoffs.

From the outset, Corrections officials have said that the department's size will track with the prison population as it shrinks through attrition. That means more layoff notices and are coming.

Click here to open CDCR's layoff resources website.


January 30, 2012
California has spent $277,000 fighting prison officers' union

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has spent more than a quarter-million dollars on outside attorneys to fight the long-running union paid leave battle with the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, spokeswoman Lynelle Jolley said in an email to The State Worker.

As we mentioned last week in our Thursday column the tab for contract lawyers -- $277,393 to be precise -- was spent with no clear end in sight. That was one of several reasons that DPA decided to cut a $3.5 million deal with the union rather than allow the matter to drag on in court, probably for years.

We've contacted CCPOA spokesman JeVaughn Baker and asked how much the union paid for representation in the UPL tussle. We'll update this post with CCPOA's response.

The settlement is for about $1 million less than the state claimed the union owed, and about $500,000 more than CCPOA said it owed.

Below you'll find the agreement signed last Wednesday by the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. (If your browser doesn't support Scribd, click here to see the document.)

Watch for a blog poll later today to gauge your opinion about the UPL agreement.
CCPOA UPL Settlement Agreement

Correction, 1:04 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the Department of Personnel Administration had paid for UPL attorney fees. DPA led the litigation for the state, but did not pay outside attorneys with its money.

January 30, 2012
A.M. Reading: CA labor's 'high-stakes battle'; CalPERS' 'headwind; NY, TN propose civil service changes

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifHigh-stakes labor battle coming to California
SACRAMENTO -- The raging battle over the political and economic clout of labor unions is headed west to California. The state's powerful labor groups have anxiously witnessed union rights and benefits being gutted in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana. Now, unions in California are girding for an all-out war over a ballot initiative that would curb their ability to raise political cash. (Mercury News)

Jerry Brown says cap-and-trade fees will fund high-speed rail
Gov. Jerry Brown said in an interview airing in Los Angeles today that California's high-speed rail project will cost far less than the state's current estimate of nearly $100 billion and that environmental fees paid by carbon producers will be a source of funding. ... Brown has also proposed changes to reduce pension costs, and he suggested he may take that measure to the ballot, too, if the Legislature does not act. (Sacramento Bee)

NY: Cuomo Seeks Civil Service Law Changes
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is quietly seeking more leeway to hire and transfer state employees outside of a competitive process, a move unions say would weaken civil service rules designed to prevent patronage. (Wall Street Journal)

January 27, 2012
Percentage of unionized California workers drifts down slightly

The percentage of employed Californians with a union affiliation fell slightly last year, according to new 2011 figures released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Our Capitol Bureau colleague Dan Walters sums up the state and national data on our sister blog, Capitol Alert.

Click here for the Union affiliation of employed wage and salary workers by occupation and industry table, then scroll to the bottom to see the national public and private sector details.

This link will open the state-by-state look at the organized workforce vs. unorganized workforce.

The federal survey doesn't break down state union membership by private and public sectors.

January 27, 2012
Does Jerry Brown's plan cut some pension contributions?

Blog User J, whose recent email follows, asked a question that we field every so often:


You wrote: "All of the pension-change plans in play would alter guaranteed benefits for future employees and increase the out-of-pocket contribution costs for nearly all current workers."

I think the proposal by Brown would require current workers to pay "the equal share of the normal cost of the system." That is 14% which would require workers to pay 7%. We currently pay 8% and the buzz is that under Browns proposal we'd actually get a 1% decrease.

What do you show?

January 27, 2012
Darrell Steinberg: Pension reform must pass 'strength test'

110701 Steinberg Cap Bureau.JPGSenate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said Thursday that the Legislature will consider some sort of pension reform bill this session, and he didn't rule out sending a hybrid plan for new hires to Gov. Jerry Brown for a signature.

The Sacramento Democrat talked at length about pensions during a morning meeting with the Capitol press corps on Thursday. The Bee's Torey Van Oot was there and passed this six-minute audio file from the event.

(Warning: To hear the file, you'll need software that plays m4a files, such as RealPlayer or QuickTime.) The recording is clear but low-volume, so turn up the sound on your listening device.)

A few highlights of Steinberg's responses to reporters' questions:

January 27, 2012
A.M. Reading: 'Unfiring' at Caltrans; SD debates collective bargaining; AL pension fund's problems

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifEditorial: Caltrans sidesteps accountability - again
This week's settlement between Caltrans and Duane Wiles is disturbing on several levels. The deal, which essentially "unfires" a technician who falsified safety tests and allows him to resign, shows how difficult it can be to dismiss state employees, no matter how badly they violate the public trust. (Sacramento Bee)

Interim director: PDC is not closing
The possible closure of the Porterville Developmental Center, potential layoffs, the status of the secure treatment area and the center's budget were the big topics of a town hall meeting Wednesday afternoon inside the facility's Carl F. Broderick Auditorium. (Porterville Recorder)

Editorial: State should put an end to plum patronage boards
To save money and make government more efficient, Gov. Jerry Brown, like his predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, proposes to eliminate dozens of state boards and commissions that have outlived their usefulness. (Sacramento Bee)

January 26, 2012
Fire Department called for fumes at DMV headquarters

Diesel exhaust from a construction lift forced officials to evacuate a part of the Department of Motor Vehicles headquarters in Sacramento this morning. Two employees went to the hospital after breathing in the fumes. The Bee's Bill Lindelof has the story here.

January 26, 2012
Column Extra: CCPOA's statement about its paid leave debt agreement

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, some of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Before we filed today's column, we asked JeVaughn Baker, spokesman for the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, to comment on the union's paid leave agreement with the state. We asked if the agreement was fair to members and whether the deal was prompted by CCPOA's pending Dawe litigation.

We received Baker's emailed reply shortly after we filed the column on Wednesday, but we still want to give voice to the union's perspective.

Here's Baker's email:

Hi Jon,

We reached what we believe is an equitable settlement that avoids the cost of further litigation and is fiscally responsible to the taxpayers of the state. ... As for your second question, the settlement is a stand alone case and there is no correlation between it and the Dawe matter. Chuck Alexander and our legal staff have been working on UPL for some time now and we are pleased that the agreement has been made and both parties can move forward. Thanks Jon.


January 26, 2012
Read the agreement that 'unfires' Caltrans worker Duane Wiles, allows him to retire

From reporter Charles Piller's story in today's Bee:

Duane Wiles, recently fired by the California Department of Transportation for fabricating bridge tests, has been allowed to resign instead.

This marks the second time Wiles has been "unfired" by Caltrans. The first was in 1998 for incompetence, insubordination, dishonesty and other problems, but the agency was overruled by the State Personnel Board.

This week's settlement agreement with Caltrans prevents a public airing of Wiles' admitted fraud and errors, and removes a public forum for examining whether agency higher-ups responsibly addressed the problem.

Here's the stipulated settlement agreement signed by Wiles, his attorney and Caltrans representatives.
Duane Wiles Settlement Agreement with Caltrans

January 26, 2012
A.M. Reading: CCPOA's leave settlement; OR wellness program; CA realignment's impact; FL state worker drug test bill

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifThe State Worker: California settles up -- interest free -- with prison guards union
California's prison officers union is getting a loan from taxpayers - interest-free - to settle a multimillion-dollar debt it owes the state. (Sacramento Bee)

Local AFSCME union chapter at odds with leaders
State workers in an Oregon AFSCME local are staging a protest vote about a controversial new wellness program that, if successful, will hit their union square in the pocketbook. (Statesman Journal)

Public Pensions Increase Private-Equity Investments
Large public pension plans are pouring more money into private-equity funds, deepening ties between government workers and an industry currently under the harsh glare of U.S. presidential politics. (Wall Street Journal)

Atherton Interim City Manager John Danielson forced to resign Friday
Atherton Interim City Manager John Danielson will have to step down Friday because the California Public Employees' Retirement System rejected the town's request to extend his contract one more year while it searches for a replacement. (Mercury News)

January 26, 2012
From the notebook: Cal Fire management differentials

notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpgWe can never get everything we learn into a news story. "From the notebook" posts give you some of the extra details behind the news.

Our story in today's Bee examines various factors that have contributed to a management shortage at Cal Fire, particularly the dwindling number of assistant chiefs and the revival of department pay differentials this month intended to correct the problem.

To understand the last 10 years of wage history at Cal Fire, we looked at ...

The Legislative Analyst's June 2, 2006, evaluation of the contract with Bargaining Unit 8, California Department of Forestry Firefighters.

The Sept. 18, 2001, Assembly Floor analysis of AB 649, the bill that included the 2001 Unit 8 contract. (The LAO didn't run labor contract analyses until a 2005 law required them.)

We also looked at revised Pay Differential 369, below, which lays out the details of the recruiting and retention differential revived for Cal Fire assistant chiefs and others in the same Chief Officer series. Of note: The differentials count toward pension calculations, but the "PERSability" is phased in over two years.
Cal Fire Recruitment and Retention Differentials

January 25, 2012
Pension committee hearing set for today

The Joint Legislative Conference Committee on Pension Reform is scheduled to convene today at 1 p.m. at the Capitol. It's the third in a series of hearings on public employee pensions that is intended to vet the issue ahead of legislation.

Today's hearing will focus on hybrid pensions. The centerpiece proposal of Gov. Jerry Brown's pension plan would move future state and local government employees into hybrid plans, which blend a smaller traditional pension with a more risky defined-contribution component that yields retiree payments based on the outcome of investments.

California Pension Reform has proposed putting a similar hybrid plan or a tougher defined-contribution-only measure on the November ballot. The Sacramento-based group is hoping to raise money to circulate petitions for the measure it believes has the best chance of passing, but it hasn't yet announced which one that is.

Hybrid plans are a non-starter with labor.

All of the pension-change plans in play would alter guaranteed benefits for future employees and increase the out-of-pocket contribution costs for nearly all current workers.

The committee meeting today includes Assemblymen Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, Warren Furutani, D-Gardena and Jim Silva, R-Huntington Beach. Senate members include Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto and Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Niguel.

Click here to watch the hearing live on the California Channel, which also archives recorded events for later viewing.

January 25, 2012
A.M. Reading: CA pension hearing; cities consider dumping CalPERS; CT debates overtime and pensions

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifCalSTRS reports 2.3 percent earnings on investments in 2011
CalSTRS announced meager investment gains for 2011 - and repeated its plea to the Legislature for help. (Sacramento Bee)

San Jose council moves to end its pensions
San Jose city leaders took initial steps Tuesday toward ending their own state-run pension plan as they continue seeking workforce retirement concessions. (Mercury News)

Editorial: Lawmakers spin their wheels on pension reform
A joint Senate/Assembly conference committee will hold its third (ho-hum) informational hearing today on the 12-point pension reform plan that Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled with such fanfare last October. Don't expect anything to come of it. So far, a lot of talk has emerged but no pension bill. Efforts to substantially reduce state pension obligations are a sham in this Legislature, and most people who work in the Capitol know that. (Sacramento Bee)

GOP Senators: Take Overtime Out Of Pension Calculations
Two Republican state senators called Tuesday for passage of a bill this year to take pensions for future state employees out of union negotiations and to stop employees' widespread practice of "padding" of their pensions with heavy overtime as they prepare to retire. (Hartford Courant)

January 24, 2012
State Fund pays out $30 million; 705 jobs still on chopping block

State Compensation Insurance Fund has paid $30 million to 971 state employees who agreed to leave the agency by Dec. 31 and give up their preferential rights to other state government jobs.

The exit payments averaged nearly $31,000 per departing employee in addition to any leave time they cashed out. The money went to staff members in danger of layoff who accepted the so-called "transition package" under terms negotiated by the quasi-public agency and Service Employees International Union Local 1000. It was the first time that state workers whose jobs were in danger received extra money to leave.

The quasi-public State Fund, which competes with private-sector workers compensation insurance carriers and receives no tax dollars, has been downsizing for a couple of years in response to its shrinking market share. About 1,800 employees in 26 job classifications slated for elimination could have taken the deal at an estimated cost of up to $50 million to State Fund.

On a related note, State Fund spokeswoman Jennifer Vargen forwarded a revised layoff list (embedded below) that shows that 705 jobs are still on the chopping block after the voluntary departures have been figured in.

(The "auth." column shows how many jobs the fund has authorized to keep. The "final potential layoff" column shows how many jobs will be cut. Adding the two columns together indicates how many positions currently exist.)

The biggest cuts are planned for Los Angeles County (181 jobs), Alameda County (143) and Orange County (86). Sacramento County stands to lose 36 jobs and San Joaquin County is facing a loss of 28 positions.
120123 SCIF Layoffs by Class and County

January 24, 2012
A.M. Reading: CalPERS' investments; CA cities resist defined benefit pensions; public pension reform; NY state overtime

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifCalPERS reports just small gain in 2011
CalPERS, still struggling to recover from the market crash of 2008, said Monday it earned a return of just 1.1 percent on its investments in 2011. That was a fraction of the 12.5 percent it earned in 2010 and underscored the challenges facing CalPERS amid cries from some elected officials to curb the cost of public pensions in California. (Sacramento Bee)

3 Calif. municipalities sidestep pension debate
While most of the state's roughly 480 cities and towns are entangled in a heated debate about future pension costs, three small cities in Contra Costa County are quietly sitting on the sidelines. (California Watch)

Issue of the week: Pensions
THE ISSUE: On Wednesday, a Senate-Assembly conference committee will convene to consider part of Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to reduce state pension costs. Brown wants to offer hybrid plans to new state employees that would include traditional defined-benefit pensions and 401(k)-style retirement funds. Last week, we asked readers: Should lawmakers reduce pension costs by offering hybrid plans to new state workers? Does that change go too far? Or should it be more far-reaching? (Sacramento Bee)

Dan Walters: California civil service unions in denial on pension costs
Whenever someone suggests that California's public employee pension systems need reform, civil service unions react dismissively, often with attacks on the credentials or even the morals of critics. (Sacramento Bee)

January 23, 2012
California special agents seek halt to Jerry Brown's layoffs

The Association of Special Agents has filed for a temporary restraining order against Gov. Jerry Brown to stop the layoffs of its members at the Department of Justice.

The court filing, submitted Thursday in Sacramento Superior Court, is a new phase of the association's litigation against Brown. The group says that Brown targeted about 300 of its members for layoff in retaliation for their union's 2010 endorsement of Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman.

The agents are a subset of the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association.

The Brown administration has denied the ASA charge, saying that legislative Republicans' refusal to extend higher taxes triggered the cuts to Department of Justice jobs.

Here's the 329-page filing by ASA President Mike Loyd:
120123 ASA TRO

January 23, 2012
CalPERS investment returns down in 2011

From The Bee's Dale Kasler:

CalPERS said today it earned a 1.11 percent investment return on 2011, a fraction of the gains from the year before.

The results were announced at a board meeting in Monterey by CalPERS' chief investment officer, Joseph Dear.

Click here to read the rest of Dale's breaking news report.

January 23, 2012
Severe water leaks force Caltrans office in Fresno to close

About 470 Caltrans employees in Fresno have nowhere to work today after their offices flooded over the weekend.

Around 7 p.m. on Friday, rain started leaking into the department's offices at the Manchester Center, said Caltrans Fresno district spokesman Jose Camarena.

The leaks at the two-floor office facility were so severe that they brought down suspended ceiling tiles, went into walls and seeped down to the lower floor.

"Maybe a quarter of the floor space was directly affected," Camarena said in a telephone interview this morning. "The entire building is closed off today."

The Caltrans offices in Manchester Center house project managers and design engineers. All were told to stay home today while inspectors and contractors check out the water damage and assess repairs. The department expects they will have an estimate by day's end.

"For the remainder of the week, we're looking at our other (Caltrans) worksites (in Fresno)," Camarena said. Those plans include converting training rooms and meeting rooms into workspace while the Manchester offices are repaired.

January 21, 2012
A.M. Reading: Whistle-blower bill; high-speed rail; OR pension privacy bill; WI 'recall cam'

Editorial: Assembly fumbles whistle-blower bill
Is it any wonder why Californians hold the Legislature in such low regard? (Sacramento Bee)

UCSF seeks to ease ties with UC

Unlike the other nine campuses of the University of California, UCSF enrolls no undergraduates, offers no world history classes and gets so much money from government grants that it barely depends on the tuition its students pay to attend the medical school on a windy San Francisco hill. Yet UCSF is attached like Velcro to the other campuses, required to spend millions of dollars to help support them and send officials to countless meetings where students protest rising tuition and regents debate educational policy. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Dan Morain: Brown buys a risky ticket on high-speed rail
You have to hand it to Jerry Brown. He's not shrinking from taking a big risk on high-speed rail. (Sacramento Bee)

January 20, 2012
California's DPA launches new personnel management guide

The Department of Personnel Administration has published a new "performance management guide." The department wants managers, supervisors, executives and other non-rank-and-file employees to use it to develop their leadership and build teamwork.

Click here to watch a brief video by DPA Chief Deputy Director Howard Schwartz.

Here's the 45-page guide. Do you think this is helpful? Will managers and supervisors use it? Do materials like this help make the state a better employer?
120120 DPA PMG

January 20, 2012
Four state unions, Jerry Brown administration to start bargaining

120119 negotiate.JPGDidn't we just do this?

With contracts covering tens of thousands of state employees set to expire this summer, the Department of Personnel Administration has scheduled meetings in February and March so that the government and four unions can publicly release their initial bargaining proposals.

Agreements with the International Union of Operating Engineers (Unit 12), the Union of American Physicians and Dentists (Unit 16), the California Association of Psychiatric Technicians (Unit 18) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (Unit 19) expire July 1. The four groups represent roughly 24,000 state workers.

January 19, 2012
First wave of top-step pay raises to show up on Feb. 1 checks

State workers in six unions will see a pay increase on their February checks in keeping with contract terms bargained in 2010 with former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Some managers and supervisors will also see similar pay bumps.

A state analysis of the negotiated pay hikes concluded that they will cost the general fund about $32.3 million and another $28.8 million from other funds for the last six months of the current fiscal year. For fiscal 2012-13 the total cost is an estimated $122.2 million. (Click here for the LAO's report and scroll down to page 16 for a breakdown.)

The state's higher payroll cost has been preceded by years of furloughs and contractual unpaid days off by state workers at all levels, as well as higher employee contributions toward their own retirement accounts.

The top-step increases started taking effect this month, so they will show up on Feb. 1 paychecks issued to employees in the following bargaining units who have been at the top step of their job classes for at least 12 months as of Jan. 1.



% Increase


California Association of Highway Patrolmen



California Department of Forestry Firefighters



International Union of Operating Engineers AFL-CIO



Union of American Physicians and Dentists



California Association of Psychiatric Technicians



American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees


January 19, 2012
Column Extra: More about reorganizing California government

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, some of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Here are a few sources that underpinned today's State Worker column in The Bee:

The Little Hoover Commission's summary of gubernatorial reorganization plans dating back to the first term of the Ronald Reagan administration.

"Boards and Commissions in State Government" by the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley.

"Little Hoover Commission's Role in Governor's Reorganization Process"

January 19, 2012
A.M. Reading: Jerry Brown's reorg and iPhones; CalPERS' $250m loss; NH bill bans perfume; Congress's pension costs

Hat tip to blog users J, B and M for their unwavering dedication to flagging news and editorials for our morning roundups.

The State Worker: Will Jerry Brown's reorg plan fix California's bugs?
To understand how Gov. Jerry Brown wants to reorganize government, just look at an iPhone. (Sacramento Bee)

CalPERS discloses $250 million realty loss
CalPERS took a $250 million loss on a massive land deal as it continues to reposition its battered real estate portfolio, the pension fund said Wednesday. (Sacramento Bee)

Op-ed: Public unions: What's the big deal?
On Jan. 17, 1962, President Kennedy signed Executive Order 10988, bringing collective bargaining rights to most federal workers for the first time. ... For 20 years after Kennedy's order, public sector union rights were not controversial. To the contrary, they enjoyed bipartisan support -- even from conservatism's leading light, Ronald Reagan. Reagan, as governor of California, presided over the extension of collective bargaining rights to state and local workers in 1968. (Los Angeles Times)

CalPERS Pressures Apple on Director Elections (Market Watch / Wall Street Journal)

January 18, 2012
What Republicans say about Jerry Brown's public pension plan

Republicans have briefly addressed Gov. Jerry Brown's call for public pension reform in a web video featuring Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway and Senate Republican leader Bob Huff. The GOP leadership crafted their remarks on Tuesday before Brown delivered his State of the State today. Here's the pertinent section of the GOP's "response":

Finally, every dollar we spend for pensions is a dollar we don't have to spend for our public schools and for local law enforcement.

So we will work across party lines to enact strong public pension reform.

Governor Brown has proposed a public employee pension reform plan that is actually a good starting point.

Republicans are ready to enact his pension changes.

But Legislative Democrats are stalling it because their special interest union allies don't like the reforms.

Check out what everyone is saying about Brown's speech on Capitol Alert. This link will open the full text of the Republicans' reaction to the State of the State. Here's the video:

Republican Response to Gov. Brown's State of the State from CA Assembly GOP on Vimeo.

January 18, 2012
One public pension initiative dies; more face looming deadlines

The herd of public pay and pension reform ballot measures is thinning out.

One pension fund reform measure is dead and several others will soon miss their petition deadlines.

Meanwhile, two plans backed by California Pension Reform are just a few days into the 150-day period to gather and submit signatures. The Sacramento-based group hasn't yet announced which measure it will promote. It has until mid-June to qualify a proposal for the November ballot.

We've called and left messages with the proponents of measures that are approaching their deadlines. If they call back with news, we'll report it here.

Here's a scorecard with links to measures facing deadlines this month or next:

January 18, 2012
Jerry Brown says public pension 'arithmetic doesn't add up'

Updated at 10:42 a.m. with Brown's extemporaneous remarks.

In this morning's State of the State address to the Legislature, Gov. Jerry Brown said a little about public pensions and his proposal to change them at the state and local level. Here's what he said, reading from his prepared text:

"As for pensions, I have put forth my 12-point proposal. Examine it. Improve it. But please take up the issue and do something real. I am committed to pension reform because I believe there is a real problem. Three times as many people are retiring as are entering the workforce. That arithmetic doesn't add up. In addition, benefits, contributions and the age of retirement all have to balance. I don't believe they do today."

Then Brown deviated from his prepared remarks with these comments:

"Starting tomorrow if you work for 30 years, are you going to live to 80, 90, 110? How much is that? How many people are retired? How many people are working? How many people are coming along? How does it all work out? Anybody who tells me that you feel absolutely confident that 40 or 50 years from now things are all going to be paid for are not looking at the numbers and the other comparable investments."

January 18, 2012
Read the court order mandating wind-down of prison receiver

In case you missed it, the Associated Press has reported that the receivership overseeing the state's prison medical system needs to begin winding down:

A federal judge on Tuesday ordered California officials to prepare for the end of a six-year, court-ordered oversight of the prison system that has cost taxpayers billions of dollars and helped force a shift of lower-level criminals from state prisons to county jails.

U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson cited improving conditions in the prison system in a three-page order that says "the end of the Receivership appears to be in sight."

The ruling marks an important milestone in a process that began nearly six years ago when the judge appointed a receiver to run California's prison medical system after finding that an average of one inmate a week was dying of neglect or malpractice. He cited inmate overcrowding as the leading cause, but said in Tuesday's order that conditions have improved.

... Henderson ordered Kelso, state officials and attorneys representing inmates to report by April 30 on when the receivership should end and whether it should continue some oversight role.

Here's Henderson's Tuesday order:

January 17, 2012
Capitol Weekly ends print edition, continues online

Capitol Weekly, which started 24 years ago with a focus on state government jobs, said today that it will end its print edition this week but continue its online presence. Bee Bureau Chief Dan Smith has a bit more on our sister blog, Capitol Alert.

January 17, 2012
CCPOA deposits reach $1 million in Dawe defamation case

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100602 yolo county gavel.jpgThe California Correctional Peace Officers Association last month made a second court-ordered $500,000 security deposit while it appeals its loss in the Dawe v. Corrections USA case.

A the embedded document below shows, CCPOA made the payment on Dec. 20.

Federal Judge Lawrence Karlton ordered the payments last September as part of a cash-and-property collateral securing the $5 million awarded to businessman Brian Dawe after a jury found that CCPOA defamed him. Two other men also received smaller awards in the case.

While the union presses its appeal, it must make quarterly half-million-dollar payments into a court-controlled account until the amassed money equals 125 percent of the judgement.

A federal jury originally awarded a total of $12 million to Dawe, but Karlton lowered that to $5 million. While the union is trying to get the decision overturned, Dawe is appealing to get the original award restored. Here's an earlier post with more background and court documents.

Thanks to Blog User T for asking whether the second payment had been made.

CCPOA's Notice of Second Deposit


January 17, 2012
A.M. Reading: Jerry Brown's tax measure typo; AL worker has 286 parking tickets; Bloomberg's pension reform strategy

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifJerry Brown commits typo, forced to re-file tax initiative
Gov. Jerry Brown is taking a mulligan, tripped up by a typographical error and forced to re-file his ballot initiative to raise taxes. The Democratic governor on Friday filed paperwork with the state for "The Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act of 2012- ver. 2." The measure is identical to one Brown filed in December, the governor said in a filing with the attorney general's office, "except that we have corrected a typographical error that resulted in two numbers being transposed." (Sacramento Bee)

Colorado governor calls for privatization of state workers comp insurer Pinnacol
DENVER--Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper called for the privatization of Pinnacol Assurance during his State of the State address Thursday, saying the proposed move could support state businesses and schools. Denver-based Pinnacol submitted a proposal to the state in November that would restructure Colorado's workers compensation insurer of last resort into a mutual insurer. The company currently is classified as a state "political subdivision." (Business Insurance)

FPPC sues United States Postal Service over records request
The state political watchdog agency has delivered a lawsuit to the United States Postal Service in an ongoing dispute over public records. (Sacramento Bee)

January 13, 2012
A.M. Reading: CalPERS' versus ratings firms; double-dipping; VA pension contributions

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifJudge refuses to toss CalPERS suit against Moody's, S&P
CalPERS has won the right to pursue a $1 billion lawsuit against two Wall Street heavyweights, beating back their efforts to have the case thrown out of court. (Sacramento Bee)

The depressing toll of the Great Recession: Mental health problems mount nationwide while budgets for treatment and care are shrinking
In late 2009, as the unemployment rate in San Joaquin County, California, reached 18 percent and one in twelve homes were being foreclosed, two high school students in the town of Ripon, population 15,000, committed suicide within two months of each other. Over the next eighteen months, sixteen more teenagers around the county took their own lives, a not-uncommon occurrence that public health researchers refer to as "suicide contagion." Years of declining budgets had cut the number of counselors, nurses and psychologists in county schools, impairing the ability of individual districts to handle the needs of grieving students, parents and communities on their own. So school officials in cities like Ripon, Stockton, Lodi and Linden turned to each other for help. (Salon)

Editorial: Double-dipping in pensions needs to sunset
Sacramento County Executive Brad Hudson assumed his new job with ambitions of attacting economic development and shoring up the county's shaky financial house. We hope he achieves those goals, but it won't be easy, given his emerging status as a poster child for what is wrong with the pension system for governmental managers and public employees in California. Hudson earns more than a quarter-million dollars a year as Sacramento's CEO, $258,000 plus benefits, to be precise. At the same time, he collects a sizable public pension. (Sacramento Bee)

January 12, 2012
Poll: What ails California's state high-tech projects?

As noted in today's State Worker column, the FI$Cal project is struggling to find funding and skilled employees to execute the plan to merge departments' array of dissimilar IT finance and operations systems into one.

It seems like any time the state takes on an ambitious project that it runs into trouble: cost overruns, staff who jump ship, vendor problems, service contract cost overruns and the like. Take our poll to register what you think:

January 12, 2012
Column Extra: Read Auditor Elaine Howle's FI$Cal report

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, most of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Our column in today's Bee outlines State Auditor Elaine Howle's update on the Financial Information System for California, the biggest information technology project in state government.

Click here to read Howle's latest FI$Cal report, which has more details about the project than we could cram into our column.

January 12, 2012
A.M. Reading: CA tech struggle; a pension resolution; FL prison closures

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifThe State Worker: Calfornia government struggles with more tech problems
California's biggest IT project - one that's supposed to help state government better manage its dollars - has money and staffing problems. (Sacramento Bee)

Fired Caltrans manager denies wrongdoing, will seek reinstatement
Brian Liebich, the fired manager of the state Department of Transportation unit that tested the foundation of the new Bay Bridge, has denied any wrongdoing and says he has been made a scapegoat. (Sacramento Bee)

S&P, Moody's Must Face Calpers Lawsuit Over Ratings, Judge Rules
Standard & Poor's and Moody's Investors Service Inc. must face California Public Employees' Retirement System's $1 billion lawsuit over their ratings of structured investment vehicles, a judge said. (Bloomberg)

January 11, 2012
Glass falls from Board of Equalization HQ in Sacramento

glass 1.JPGA piece of decorative glass popped loose from the east side of the Board of Equalization headquarters this morning, falling eight floors and shattering on the sidewalk below. No one was injured.

The incident occured at 10:30 a.m., prompting police and firefighters to cordon off the sidewalk along the Fifth Street side of the 24-story building.

An hour later, officials closed off the street to pedestrians and traffic between N and O streets.

The glass panel fell from between the eighth and ninth floors of the 24-story building at 450 N St., said board spokesman Jaime Garza.

"No employees work there," Garza said, referring to the fact that the eighth floor is vacant right now.

The Department of General Services, which leases the building to BOE and is on the hook for fixing the problem, is investigating why the glass fell.

glass.JPGDGS has plenty of experience. Between 1999 and 2005, seven windows with faulty seals leaked water and fell to the street below. The department spent $15 million to fix the window system and millions of dollars more to remediate toxic mold, repair burst plumbing and fix faulty elevators.

BOE has said it wants to move, but legislation aimed at accomplishing that has stalled. SEIU Local 1000 recently organized an email campaign by rank-and-file BOE employees to raise awareness about the building's workplace hazards.

PHOTOS: The east side of the Board of Equalization Headquarters at 11 a.m. today (above) and a closeup shot of the spot between the eighth and ninth floors where a glass panel popped loose and fell to the sidewalk below. / Jon Ortiz, Sacramento Bee

January 11, 2012
From the notebook: Pension reform backer explains rationale

notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpgWe never get all of what we learn into a news story, but this blog can give users the data, the notes and the quotes from the notebook that informed what was published.

Today's report on efforts to put a pension-change measure on the ballot notes that donations have started to come in and that the campaign is now entering a new phase to raise some quick cash.

Tench Coxe, a managing partner of Palo Alto-based Sutter Hill Ventures, is one of three Silicon Valley businessmen who contributed $25,000 to California Pension Reform at the end of last year.

He's also the only person to respond to a request for comment for today's pension initiative story in The Bee. We called and left a message for Coxe on Monday. He asked, through his assistant, that we email questions to him.

January 11, 2012
From the notebook: See the contributors to pension reform effort

notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpgWe never get all of what we learn into a news story, but this blog can give users the data, the notes and the quotes from the notebook that informed what was published.

Our report in today's fiber/cyber Bee notes that California Pension Reform received about $128,000 from donors even before it had an official ballot measure to show potential backers.

(Note: Californians for Retirement Security, which opposes CPR's efforts, told us that it wasn't obligated to report spending or contributions received fighting pension reform until now. Once the CPR measures received title and summary on Monday, the labor coalition or any other group fighting or supporting the proposals' qualification or passage must register and report.)

Here's the list of CPR contributors through Dec. 31 as reported by the campaign to the Secretary of State's office:

January 11, 2012
A.M. Reading: Pension campaign's new phase; state workers go to US Supreme Court; Okla. bill strips job protections

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifPension overhaul backers need campaign cash, bash Kamala Harris
The effort to place a public pension overhaul before California voters this November has moved into a new and challenging phase. (Sacramento Bee)

Maryland man's lawsuit over sick leave is being considered by the US Supreme Court
WASHINGTON -- A man who sued the state of Maryland after allegedly being fired for trying to take a 10-day medical leave from his state job will have his case heard Wednesday by the U.S. Supreme Court, and the outcome could affect whether state workers nationwide can sue in similar situations. (AP/Washington Post)

US Supreme Court hears California union political spending case
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in a case about political spending by the union that represents California state workers. (KPCC)

January 10, 2012
Governing magazine column blasts 'pension puffery'

Girard Miller, a frequent contributor to GOVERNING magazine and senior strategist at the PFM Group, has a few words for both sides of the pension debate in a recent column titled, "Pension Puffery: Here are 12 half-truths that deserve to be debunked in 2012."

Among the ideas that Miller takes on:

"The pension mess was caused by greedy people (from the other side), not us."
"There's no crisis. The stock market will recover and then there is no problem."
"The solution is to replace pensions with 401(k) plans, like the private sector."
"This is a $3 trillion problem when you measure it using honest (risk-free) math."
"The average public pension is $23,000."
The $100,000 pension club.

Click here to read Miller's column.

January 10, 2012
Pension measure backers say Kamala Harris wrote false statements

The group behind two ballot proposals that would significantly alter public employee pensions has blasted the summaries assigned to them on Monday by Attorney General Kamala Harris.

California Pension Reform said in a press release this morning that parts of the descriptions are accurate but that the first-term Democrat makes "other statements that are either provably false or grossly misleading."

Spokesman Aaron McLear said this morning that CPR will still press ahead with raising money and collecting signatures after it conducts some polling and decides which proposal has the best chance of success "within the next week or so."

Harris' spokeswoman Lynda Gledhill said this morning that "we believe the title and summary is accurate."

January 10, 2012
Poll: Will Jerry Brown successfully reorganize government?

If you haven't already, check out the list of agencies, departments, boards, offices and commissions that Gov. Jerry Brown wants to ax, reorganize and consolidate, then take our poll:

January 9, 2012
California bill would give protection to legislative whistleblowers

Thumbnail image for 110413 Portantino.jpgAssemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) has introduced a measure that would give employees in the Legislature the same protections afforded other state workers when they report waste, fraud and abuse.

Assembly Bill 1378 would require the Assembly and Senate Rules committees to designate an officer to receive written complaints that the state auditor would investigate. Anyone found guilty of retaliation against a legislative employee would face fines up to $10,000 and a year in county jail.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee will hear the whistleblower bill Tuesday at its 9 a.m. session.

January 9, 2012
See Jerry Brown's California government streamlining plans

110312 Capitol building.JPG
Now that we've had time to digest Gov. Jerry Brown's hastily-unveiled 2012-13 budget proposal summary, we've boiled down the full list of changes he's suggesting to streamline state government:

January 9, 2012
A.M. Reading: Jerry Brown's 'bizarrely low' budget forecast; union battlegrounds; New York's retirement bottleneck

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifEconomist says Jerry Brown's budget underestimates revenue
At least one prominent economist says Gov. Jerry Brown is underestimating the strength of the recovery in his new budget proposal. Chris Thornberg, a Los Angeles consultant who advises State Controller John Chiang, said today he believes tax revenue in the upcoming fiscal year could top Brown's forecast by around $4 billion. Thornberg, head of Beacon Economics, called the governor's forecast "bizarrely low." (Sacramento Bee)

Kitzhaber 3.0: One year into third term, Oregon's governor says he has 'better grasp' of the job
SALEM -- Republicans braced for another four years battling a governor notoriously known as "Dr. No" when Democrat John Kitzhaber won election to a history-making third term. But as Kitzhaber marks his first anniversary back in office, Republicans appear to be his biggest fans. If there's any frustration with Kitzhaber, it's from Democrats and traditional allies. (Oregonian)

Inmate calls Colorado Mental Health Institute treatment a Catch-22
In 1989, Gary Hilton feigned mental illness so he could go to the Colorado Mental Health Institute instead of prison. Today, he's the one crying foul, claiming the state hospital moved him to a high-security ward for his refusal to disclose past crimes and inappropriately warned his female friend that he is a serial killer. (Denver Post)

January 6, 2012
Chat live with Jon Ortiz: Brown budget would cut 3,000 jobs

January 6, 2012
Live chat at noon: Jerry Brown's budget proposal

We're hosting a live chat today on the State Worker blog to talk primarily about Jerry Brown's budget proposal and what it means for government employees. Is it fair to them? Are his suggestions to streamline government reasonable? Heavy-handed? Pie-in-the-sky? And how are the cuts in the current budget working out? What's happening at the bureaucracy's ground-level?

We can talk the discussion in other directions, too. Pensions, pay, benefits -- it's all fair game.

Join the live chat here at noon. Look forward to seeing you.

January 5, 2012
Jerry Brown's budget eliminates 3,000 state jobs, axes agencies

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 080811 Jerry Brown.JPGGov. Jerry Brown's new budget plan would eliminate a few thousand state jobs and consolidate or ax nearly 50 state organizations, according to documents released this afternoon.

Brown's first draft of the budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year that begins July 1 envisions reducing the state workforce by some 3,000 positions, mostly from the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The cuts fill a small part of the $9.2 billion budget hole projected through June 2013.

When asked whether state workers could expect layoffs or job elimination through attrition, Department of Finance Director Ana Matosantos said the goal is "reductions in positions."

The administration will "try to minimize the number of layoffs" by relocating employees whose positions have been eliminated, Matosantos said during an afternoon press conference. "But the total workforce will continue to go down."

January 5, 2012
The State Worker's Top 10 of 2011: No. 1 -- Little Hoover pension reform report

countdown 1.JPGThis is the last installment in a series of posts looking back at the most-read State Worker blog items in 2011.

The debate over public employee pensions took an unexpected turn last February when the state's Little Hoover Commission suggested what had been the unthinkable: Change pension benefits promised to current state and local government employees.

A locally based research group, Californians for Fiscal Responsibility, had called for changing the guaranteed benefits promised to current employees. But now a government entity was suggesting the legally precarious and politically explosive idea.

The commission said that the public pension crisis is so severe that changing benefits for future workers won't fix it quickly enough. So the bipartisan panel said that state and local governments should freeze their defined-benefit pension promised to current employees and then prospectively place them into cheaper "hybrid" plans that blend smaller traditional pensions with more volatile 401(k)-type savings programs.

Both sides of the pension debate said that such a move would undoubtedly spark litigation. Conventional wisdom holds that pension promises are protected by both state and federal law, but the commission's report said that the principle should be directly tested in the courts.

Here's the link to the most-viewed State Worker blog post of 2011: "Commission's plan rolls back pensions for current workers," which ran on Feb. 24.

Postscript: The idea to alter pensions promised to current employees is dead for now. Two proposed ballot measures to alter pensions offered by another local group, California Pension Reform, and a plan promoted by Gov. Jerry Brown focus on lowering benefits for workers hired in the future.

January 5, 2012
State Compensation Insurance Fund workers take pay to leave

Editors note, 12:20 p.m.: Details of the severance agreement have been added to this report.

Nearly 1,000 State Compensation Insurance Fund employees took an unusual severance package in December that required they leave their jobs by last Friday.

Fund spokeswoman Jennifer Vargen said that 971 employees accepted the so-called "transition package" under terms negotiated by the quasi-public agency and Service Employees International Union Local 1000. She said the total cost of the payouts isn't yet available.

About 1,800 employees in 26 job classifications slated for elimination could have taken the deal at an estimated cost of up to $50 million to State Fund.

State Fund employees who took the severance package waived their rights to preferential treatment for hiring into other state jobs and "probably" are not eligible for unemployment insurance benefits, Vargen said.

The agency sells employee compensation insurance to businesses. Although its employees are in state civil service, State Fund doesn't receive any tax funding, so the money to cover the exit payments came from the fund's investment assets and insured client premiums, not taxpayer dollars.

January 5, 2012
A.M. Reading: Pension reform road map; Atascadero workers attacked; free Cornhusker football tickets targeted

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifThe State Worker: Pension reform debate is about to heat up
The next few weeks will draw the lines more sharply in the 2012 debate over public employee pensions. (Sacramento Bee)

3 more Atascadero State Hospital employees attacked by patients
Patients have attacked three employees at Atascadero State Hospital since Friday, the hospital confirmed Wednesday. (San Luis Obispo Tribune)

Texas' failure to fund mental health treatment leaves hundreds stranded in jails around the state
Nearly four years ago, "Sam's" paranoia had grown so intense that he believed spies followed him in the shadows everywhere he went. His house, car, motorcycle, workplace, were all bugged, he believed. "I was in a very bad place, psychologically," said Sam, who asked that his name not be used for this story, by phone from the Kerrville State Hospital last month. "I thought everyone was after me." (Current)

January 4, 2012
The State Worker's Top 10 of 2011: No. 2 -- Jerry Brown's pension reform plan

countdown 2.JPGThis is the latest installment in a series of posts looking back at the most-read State Worker blog items of 2011.

Labor unions poured money and manpower into Democrat Jerry Brown's 2010 gubernatorial campaign, even while privately admitting concern over his notorious unpredictability.

Which Gov. Brown would they get? The one who, during his earlier turn in office, signed the law that allowed state workers to organize? Or would they get the Brown that cut 2,000 Caltrans engineers and vetoed raises for state workers?

They got a little of both.

January 4, 2012
California State Personnel Board re-elects three of its officers

120104 Maeley Tom.JPGThe California State Personnel Board has re-elected three of its members to the following offices on the five-member panel:

President: Maeley Tom (right)
Vice President: Patricia Clarey
CalPERS Representative: Richard Costigan

The elections were announced at Tuesday's board meeting in Sacramento.

Board members are appointed to 10-year terms by the governor. The Senate must approve appointees within one year for them to hold the office.

The board is confronting a couple of vacancies. Anne Sheehan's term ended last year, but she was allowed to continue serving pending a replacement. Former GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed his former chief of staff, Will Fox, to the board's fifth seat in 2010, but the Senate didn't confirm him.

California's constitution mandates that the board administers the state civil service and merit system. SPB also oversees state recruiting and hiring and resolves discrimination, whistleblower complaints and disciplinary actions against state employees.

Gov. Jerry Brown's administration is merging the non-constitutional functions of SPB with the Department of Personnel Administration to form a new California Department of Human Resources. The merger takes effect July 1.

Jan. 5 editor's note: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated the expiration of Anne Sheehan's term on the board.

PHOTO: Maeley Tom /

January 4, 2012
CCPOA settles former employee's discrimination lawsuit

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100602 yolo county gavel.jpgThe California Correctional Peace Officers Association has settled a discrimination and unfair treatment lawsuit brought by a former longtime employee whose husband had been a 2008 candidate for the union's presidency.

The terms of the settlement are confidential.

CCPOA spokesman JeVaughn Baker said that the union "rejects all of the allegations," but made a "pragmatic business decision" to settle.

"At some point you have to count the beans," Baker said this morning. "This is a low-level employment issue, an internal issue."

A call to former employee Sharon Rafferty's attorney, James E. McGlamery, wasn't immediately returned.

January 4, 2012
A.M. Reading: Union website hacked; SD bonuses proposed; Costa Mesa leaders hike their CalPERS contributions

Daugaard Proposes Bonus for South Dakota State Workers
South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard, a Republican, talks with Bloomberg's Amanda J. Crawford about the state's budget and his proposal to give across-the-board bonuses for state workers. As governors in some states continue to wage war on public employee unions, cost cutting followed by higher-than-expected revenue has officials in South Dakota and other states looking to spend the first surplus dollars in years. (Bloomberg)

Wellness program approved despite concerns
An Oregon labor relations board has sided with the state regarding a controversial state workers wellness program, ruling that the measure is not subject to union negotiations. (Statesman Journal)

Rival California peace officers union slams handling of website hacking
A shadowy computer hacking group's recent seizure of peace officers' personal information from a union website prompted a call Tuesday for a legislative investigation. (Sacramento Bee)

January 3, 2012
The State Worker's Top 10 of 2011: No. 3 -- More audit news

Thumbnail image for countdown 3.JPGThis is the latest installment in a series of posts looking back at the most-read State Worker blog items in 2011.

Each year the Bureau of State Audits publishes the results of investigations sparked by tips sent to its whistleblower hotline. Last August's compilation of investigations included stories of misused state vehicles, excessive break times and the mishandling of sensitive documents.

Some of the 300 or so comments on, "Audit chronicles state employee abuse and bad management," the third-most viewed State Worker blog item of 2011, accused The State Worker's report as a thinly veiled attempt to cast all state workers as dishonest and lazy. Others thought the item proved that all state workers are dishonest and lazy.

Our take: One definition of news is that which is out of the ordinary. That's why the sun's rise each morning isn't news. We expect it to happen.

The auditor's report was news because it chronicled bad behavior -- actions by state employees that were outside of the ordinary. We hope that the day never arrives that inefficiency and ineptitude are considered so routine that they're not worth covering.

January 3, 2012
A.M. Reading: Lawsuit against former CalPERS official can proceed; prisoner escapes; NJ leave cashouts

Thumbnail image for newspaper_5.gifRuling clears way for fraud suit against former CalPERS official
Reporting from Sacramento -- A federal judge has approved a plan to liquidate the estate of Alfred J.R. Villalobos, former board member of the California Public Employees' Retirement System, the state's biggest public pension fund. (Los Angeles Times)

PERS allowed to recoup $156 million
The Oregon Supreme Court Friday upheld two key decisions regarding Public Employees Retirement System "window retirees," effectively ending years of pension litigation. The court stood by its earlier decision in the Robinson case, which upheld PERS' right to recoup an estimated $156 million in overpayments from 28,042 people who retired from public service between April 2000 and April 2004. (Statesman Journal)

Open Forum: California pension system not in crisis
Despite those who are all-too-willing to play Chicken Little, the sky is not falling on the California pension system. (San Francisco Chronicle)

January 2, 2012
The State Worker's Top 10 of 2011: No. 4 -- Audit outs misdeeds

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for countdown 4.JPGPosts about government employee misdeeds draw plenty of attention and provoke debate over workplace fairness, public-sector standards vs. private-sector standards and the media's news reporting role.

Consider these comments from the fourth most-read State Worker blog item of 2011, "Audit reveals California state employee misdeeds and miscues," posted Jan. 18:

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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