The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

June 4, 2012
Former California prison dentist loses bid to reclaim his job

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100602 yolo county gavel.jpgJames Ward, who has been fighting for the state job he lost three years ago, has lost his case before the State Personnel Board.

The five-member panel's decision last month was a rarity because it overturned an administrative law judge's proposed ruling. Most of the time the board goes along with what SPB judges decide.

Wendell Phillips, Ward's attorney, said today that his client wants to continue the fight in civil court. He will seek back pay with interest well in excess of $1 million in addition to being restored to his former job.

Ward learned of the SPB ruling last week, which says the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation didn't violate civil service rules when staff mistakenly promised him a full-time permanent position then changed his status to temporary.

Related post: The State Worker: Personnel case takes on how the state handles hiring

Ward sold his San Diego practice to take the dentist job at Ironwood State Prison in Blythe and hasn't worked since his release in 2009. He contends that the department should have stuck to its original offer, even though he signed papers acknowledging the change in employment terms after receiving assurances the job would eventually become permanent.

An SPB judge sided with Ward, but the board itself decided to set aside the proposed decision and hear the case on Feb. 7. The panel concluded that Ward lost the right to challenge the matter when he signed off on the change and didn't challenge it in writing within 30 days.

Here's the ruling:

James Ward State Personnel Board Decision

Hannah Madans of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.

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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


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