The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

August 30, 2013
Read the audit of Cal Fire's cost recovery program, training fund

130829-fire-saw-training-cal-fire.jpgOur story in today's Bee highlights the findings of a new state audit that says the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection had no authority to create a $3.6 million off-the-books training fund fed with money from civil lawsuits settlements and didn't properly account for what the money purchased.

More broadly, auditors found that Cal Fire managers weren't tracking cases the Cal Fire Civil Cost Recovery Program, which has billed and sued responsible parties for nearly $100 million in firefighting costs since 2005.

Here's the audit:

August 30, 2013
Operating engineers' new deal costs state up to $54.9 million

130620-capitol-mall.JPGThe tentative agreement between Gov. Jerry Brown and the union representing roughly 11,000 heavy equipment operators will add up to $54.9 million to the state's payroll costs, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office.

The two-year deal, like most Brown has negotiated with other unions over the last two months, relies on a fiscal trigger to determine whether the money will be split over two years or deferred to the last year.

One scenario for state workers in Bargaining Unit 12, who are represented by the International Union of Operating Engineers, provides a $1,200 bonus on July 1, 2014 (which equals 2.5 percent of the average wage for employees covered by the contract) and a 3 percent raise on July 1, 2015.

That, along with higher employer contributions to health insurance premiums and a few other minor non-wage increases, would cost the state $54.9 million, according to the LAO.

But if Brown says revenues in fiscal 2014-15 aren't sufficient to cover the bonus, union members will have to wait one year to get a 3.25 percent raise with no bonus. That plan would reduce the contract's three-year cost to $42.3 million.

That hits the high points of the IUOE deal, but if you want to get more deeply into the numbers and terms, here's the analyst's report:

August 29, 2013
AUDIO: Embezzler talks about her re-hiring and firing from rail agency

Thumbnail image for NOTEBOOK_use_this.jpgOur story in today's Bee explains how changes on state government job applications led to the High Speed Rail Authority hiring a woman who served prison time for embezzling $320,000 from another department.

Rail officials fired Carey Renee Moore for lying on her job application. When the state blocked her from receiving unemployment benefits, she appealed her case before Administrative Law Judge Katie Zwinski on October 3, 2012.

A recording of that 23-minute hearing was among the public records we received in response to requests filed with the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board and the State Personnel Board. Documents include the unemployment insurance appeal paperwork Moore filed with Zwinski and the High Speed Rail termination notice that went to the Personnel Board when Moore filed -- and then withdrew -- a challenge to her firing.

Here are some audio clips from the hearing attended by Moore and her mother, a long-time state personnel officer. No one from the state attended the hearing to defend Moore's termination.

Moore discusses her 2007 resignation from Board of Equalization.

Moore's take on the political motive for her firing and how changes to the state's job application gave her an opportunity to return to state service.

How Moore handled rail officials' questions about her absence from state service.

Moore explains how she researched the changes to state job applications to make sure she could apply for work without disclosing her criminal history.

Moore describes what she said was her limited access to a high speed rail credit account.

An emotional Moore says her dismissal from the rail agency was "cruel" and "a little bit of a shock."

ILLUSTRATION: Seattle Times/Gabi Campanario

August 29, 2013
The Roundup: Embezzler rehired by California state government; governors want civil service changes

HA_newspapers3808.JPGRule change helped thief return to state of California payroll
Two questions removed from most civil service job applications three years ago allowed an embezzler to return to state government work after she went to prison for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from another agency. - The Sacramento Bee

States Overhaul Civil Service Rules
State civil service rules originated a century ago to prevent incoming governors from replacing state workers with their political supporters. Now a handful of governors are working to change those rules, saying they make it difficult to hire and retain the right employees and to fire anyone -- even the worst underperformers. - Stateline

Audits: State workers didn't go extra mile - only got paid for it
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Two state audits released Wednesday urged the Department of Public Instruction and the Department of Insurance to seek repayment from employees who obtained improper mileage reimbursements. - WRAL

Want more? For stories of interest to state employees, check out the State Worker's constantly updated News & Views feed by clicking here.

Follow @TheStateWorker on Twitter and check out our community page on Facebook for links, comments and insights into our reports, blog posts and columns.

August 28, 2013
The Roundup: New Mexico state building concerns; Brown's prison plan; CHP weapons stolen

New Mexico state workers say building's making them sick - KOAT

Brown's $315 million prison plan at odds with Senate Democrats
Gov. Jerry Brown, laboring under a federal court order to reduce California's prison population by nearly 8,000 inmates, proposed Tuesday to spend hundreds of millions of dollars housing those inmates in local lockups and out of state. - The Sacramento Bee

Report: Tactical Weapons Stolen From CHP Officer's Car
SANTA CLARITA, Calif. -- The California Highway Patrol was searching Tuesday for a number of weapons stolen from an officer's car. - KTLA

Private lobbyists get public pensions in 20 states
ALBANY, N.Y. -- As a lobbyist in New York's statehouse, Stephen Acquario is doing pretty well. He pulls down $204,000 a year, more than the governor makes, gets a Ford Explorer as his company car and is afforded another special perk: Even though he's not a government employee, he is entitled to a full state pension. - Associated Press/ Sacramento Bee

Want more? For stories of interest to state employees, check out the State Worker's constantly updated News & Views feed by clicking here.

Follow @TheStateWorker on Twitter and check out our community page on Facebook for links, comments and insights into our reports, blog posts and columns.

August 27, 2013
State worker vehicle accident settlements threaten to overwhelm fund

20 dollar bill.jpgLawmakers are on the verge of sending a measure to Gov. Jerry Brown that will tap the state's general fund to pay nearly $21 million for legal settlements of two automobile accidents involving state workers.

Normally, the money would come from an obscure state self-insurance fund maintained with contributions from departments. But the two lawsuit settlements, and a third multi-million dollar payout earlier this year, would strain the Motor Vehicle Insurance Account. The fund averages about $38 million in payouts each year against $45 million it takes in from premiums.

Assembly Bill 234 has cleared the lower chamber and is now poised for a Senate floor vote. It would pay $15 million to the two daughters of a man killed on a San Bernardino freeway last year after he was rear-ended by a CalFire employee driving 70 mph in a state vehicle. Most of the money will be placed in trusts for the man's two daughters, who were ages 4 and 7 when he died.

The balance of the money in AB 234 covers a personal injury settlement with a motorcyclist who collided with a state car driven by a Department of Public Health employee on a San Leandro street. The motorcyclist was left paralyzed from the chest down as a result of the 2011 accident.

A mediator found that both parties were equally at fault: The state employee failed to yield to an oncoming driver. The motorcyclist was speeding. State attorneys negotiated a $5.75 million settlement, with 40 percent of the money earmarked to buy an annuity that will pay for the injured man's medical care.

Taken with a $15.6 million payout a few months ago, the state has settled three cases totaling more than $36 million. Paying the money from the state insurance account would threaten its viability, according to the bill analysis, so lawmakers are dipping into the general fund to pay the bills.

It's not an unusual move for big-ticket settlements, but the number and size of them this year is unusual, according to the bill's analyses.


August 27, 2013
Read the CCPOA tentative contract and summary

PRISON-officer-0275.JPGThe Department of Human Resources has released a summary of its tentative contract with the California Correctional Peace Officers Association and the agreement in full.

You can read our weekend report on the dealhere. We've embedded the documents below.

The state's accounting of the two-year agreement doesn't include the contract's estimated costs. which includes significant changes to the way overtime is calculated and shortens correctional officers' academy training.

Look for the Legislative Analyst's Office to do that within the next week or so. The LAO has 10 days from when it receives official documentation of the agreement to turn around a cost estimate for the Legislature.

August 26, 2013
Law enforcement officers' union agrees to new contract

Another union has reached a tentative contract agreement with Gov. Jerry Brown.

This time it's the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association agreeing to a three-year deal that includes a 3 percent raise for all 7,000 state workers it represents, a diverse group of employees who do everything from protecting state lands and property to issuing licenses and permits and conducting investigations. Some arrest people.

The across-the board raise takes effect July 1, 2015. Hospital police officers and peace officers working in state developmental centers get an additional 4.67 percent raise effective July 1, 2015 on top of general raise.

Unlike many contracts negotiated with the Brown administration, the raises come in the last year of the agreement, so there's no "trigger" provision for delaying the increase if the state's financial projections are down.

Like other agreements, the contract brings employees' pension contributions in line with new public pension law requiring workers split the normal costs of their retirements with their employers.

Police officer/fire fighter members will contribute 13 percent of their pensionable pay for wages earned July 1, 2014 and beyond, with workers in the state safety category contributing 11 percent starting the same date.

Miscellaneous and industrial workers will continue paying their current rate of 8 percent toward retirement.

The administration estimates the deal will add $32.1 million in total costs to the state budget, assuming the Legislature and union rank and file OK it.

Here's the Department of Human Resources summary:

August 26, 2013
Employment Development Department staff told to look for work

edd-office.jpgAs they grapple with a severe federal funding cutback, Employment Development Department staff have been told that they need to look for work.

The news came in an internal memo from EDD Chief Deputy Director Sharon Hilliard earlier this month that employees forwarded to The State Worker. A department spokeswoman verified the authenticity of the memo and said that downsizing will eventually affect some customer services.

Hilliard said the Congressional sequestration spending reductions and ongoing underfunding of the Unemployment Insurance program by the federal government translates into a more than $150 million budget shortfall for the department through June 2015.

"While we have been faced with such shortfalls before in the EDD's history, never has our shortfall been so large," Hilliard said in the memo. In response, the department is doing everything from cutting phone service hours and moving staff to more dependably-funded programs to squeezing operational spending and limiting overtime.

"With less federal money available to support staffing in UI programs, we strongly encourage staff to explore other employment opportunities within EDD that don't rely on UI funding," Hilliard's memo says, "such as Disability Insurance and Workforce Services, or with other state agencies."

With the economy recovering from the recession, demand for unemployment benefits is coming down, said EDD spokeswoman Patti Roberts. In the second quarter of 2013, UI claim numbers decreased 37 percent compared to the same three-month stretch at the height of the recession in 2010. (Demand is still 116 percent higher than the same period in pre-recession 2007.)

"And when you couple that with an unprecedented shortfall in our federal UI funding," Roberts said, "we have a situation where we cannot maintain staffing levels and services to the point needed to keep up with demand."

EDD's call center workers have been answering more calls and hold times have been declining, owing to a reorganization of the department's business operation, "however, over time we anticipate call center service levels to decrease given EDD continues to lose staff every day," she said in an email, "and will not be backfilling positions given the UI funding shortfall."

Here's Hilliard's memo:

August 26, 2013
California state labor deals add up to $63 million in new costs

RDB090.JPGTwo union agreements recently reached with Gov. Jerry Brown will add between $43.1 million and $62.8 million in new employee compensation costs to the state, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office.

The three-year contracts cover approximately 1,500 doctors and dentists represented by the Union of American Physicians and Dentists and another 5,000 or so psychologists, social workers and other health professionals in the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.

The proposed agreements raise pay 4 percent for most UAPD employees and 3 percent for most AFSCME-covered workers, although some job classes get bigger pay hikes.

The nearly $20 million swing in the analyst's estimate comes from contingency clauses in both contracts that allow the state to delay raises based on budget projections.

If for example, the state's 2014-15 projected revenues are deemed healthy, most AFSCME-covered workers would receive a 1.5 percent raise on July 1, 2014, and a second 1.5 percent raise a year later.

If the state's projected 2014-15 revenue is down, the raises are lumped together in the contract's final year.

Here's the LAO review:

August 24, 2013
California correctional officers' union reaches tentative contract

110520_Jimenez.JPGCaifornia's state prison officers will receive a 4 percent pay raise and earn overtime more easily under the terms of a tentative agreement reached with Gov. Jerry Brown.

The deal also allows the state to continue reassigning staff to cover vacancies and reduces the length of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's academy training.

"We feel that the deal that was agreed on was a fair and equitable deal that is reflective of the way the bargaining process should work," California Correctional Peace Officers Association spokesman JeVaughn Baker said in a telephone interview. "Both parties made some concessions, and both parties gained in the process as well."

CCPOA leadership met in Sacramento today and unanimously voted to send the deal to its 30,000 rank-and-file members for a ratification vote. The two-year contract would expire in July 2015 if approved by members and the Legislature.

Costs of the agreement aren't yet available. A phone message seeking comment from Brown's Department of Human Resources, which negotiates contracts with the unions representing state employees, was not immediately returned this afternoon.

Among the agreement's provisions, according to Baker:

August 23, 2013
Operating engineers union reaches labor deal with Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown and the International Union of Operating Engineers have reached a two-year tentative agreement that boosts the pay of workers in Bargaining Unit 12 by at least 3 percent.

The deal, which must be approved by The Legislature and voting union members among the 11,000 or so workers covered by it, provides a one-time $1,200 bonus on July 1, 2014 and a 3 percent raise on July 1, 2015 contingent on projected state revenues sufficient to cover it. If the Brown administration determines that revenues aren't sufficient for the bonus and the raise next year, then the pay his back one year and increased to 3.25 percent with no bonus.

The tentative contract doesn't apply to IUOE-represented workers in Bargaining Unit 13. It also doesn't address raises that the Brown administration gave to State Water Project workers such as water and power dispatchers who have been routinely picked off by better-paying utilities. (We've posted detailed breakdowns of those pay hikes below.)

Here's the summary of the Bargaining Unit 12 deal:

August 23, 2013
From the notebook: CalPERS dependent verification project data

Thumbnail image for CALPERS_COURTYARD_JAY_MATHER_2005.JPGOur story in today's fiber/cyber Bee looks at the particulars of CalPERS Dependent Eligibility Verification project, the massive two-year audit of the fund's health insurance rolls to weed out people incorrectly receiving benefits via state and local government plans.

During our reporting for the story we asked CalPERS for data showing the numbers, by state department, for subscribers who took advantage of the three-month amnesty period and voluntarily disenrolled ineligible dependents who were on their plans. You can view the data here.

The tables show the number of employees, retirees and survivors who switched from plans covering two people to plans covering one person, from family plans to two-person plans and so forth. The data does not include amnesty responses by local government agency or school district subscribers.

Thanks to CalPERS information officer Bill Madison III for quickly turning around our request.

CalPERS also has set up an extensive FAQ page covering who is and who isn't considered a dependent for purposes of health insurance coverage and why CalPERS is auditing the rolls.Click here to read it.

PHOTO: A courtyard at CalPERS headquarters in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Jay Mather

August 22, 2013
Column extra: Read state worker's furlough back pay lawsuit

Our State Worker column today reports on a furlough lawsuit filed by Kelly Vent, an Alcoholic Beverage Control attorney who works in Sacramento.

Here's Vent's petition to the Sacramento County Superior Court. She will likely amend it to include the Department of Human Resources and the State Personnel Board, she said in a Wednesday email. You can find this document and others related to it via the court's online document viewer using case number 34-2013-80001576.

Kelly Vent Petition for Writ of Mandate

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

August 22, 2013
California high on list of highest-paid government employees

The U.S. Census Bureau has released its annual analysis of state- and local-government employee pay. California ranked near or at the top in 2011, depending on how you parse the numbers.

Dan Walters has more details on our sister blog, Capitol Alert. Here's the federal report below:

US Census Bureau 2011 Summary Report

August 22, 2013
The Roundup: CA state worker's lawsuit; KY lawmaker accused of sexual harrassment;

HA_newspapers3808.JPGThe State Worker: Lawyer sues over her furlough losses
State attorney Kelly Vent admits her lawsuit is a long shot, a kitchen-sink argument that says furloughing her for 82 days over the last four years violated everything from the U.S. Constitution to common sense. - The Sacramento Bee

Penn State health coverage switching from carrot to stick
Like most big employers across the country, Pennsylvania State University has spent several million dollars over the last decade on voluntary wellness programs, hoping to cut health costs and improve workers' health. - Philadelphia Inquirer

Kentucky lawmaker accused of sexual harassment by two state workers
Two female aides to House Democratic leaders have filed ethics complaints accusing state Rep. John A. Arnold Jr., D-Sturgis, of sexual harassment, according to state Rep. Tom Riner, D-Louisville. - Lexington Herald-Leader

Want more? For stories of interest to state employees, check out the State Worker's constantly updated News & Views feed by clicking here.

Follow @TheStateWorker on Twitter and check out our community page on Facebook for links, comments and insights into our reports, blog posts and columns.

August 20, 2013
Could Corrections, Caltrans move into infamous BOE tower?

JV STATE WINDOW WIDE.JPGSo let's all agree that the Board of Equalization needs a bigger building and should move out of its current downtown Sacramento headquarters, which has been plagued by bursting windows and mold. The state owns the building, widely recognized as a multi-million-dollar money pit, and is paying down bond debt for it.

It can't go empty indefinitely.

The Department of General Services has identified about a dozen departments, including DGS itself, that could need to find new digs and move into the 20-year-old, 500,000-square-foot office tower. Timing issues make make the list highly "speculative," according to a report prepared for a legislative hearing Tuesday.

And the prospective tenants are ...

August 20, 2013
Lawmakers to hold hearing on Board of Equalization move

An Assembly budget subcommittee is holding an informational hearing this afternoon to talk over what it will take to move Board of Equalization headquarters out of the troubled downtown Sacramento tower it currently occupies.

The 24-story building at 450 N St. has a long history of structural problems, from leaking windows and burst water pipes to toxic mold and faulty elevators. BOE, which collects and administers a variety of California taxes, has spent $65 million so far on repairs and has long argued to get out of the building.

A board representative is among the speakers scheduled for today's hearing, along with representatives from the Department of General Services, which acts as the property's landlord, and SEIU Local 1000.

We've embedded a DGS report laying out the relocation issues. You can watch the 1:30 p.m. Assembly Budget Subcommittee On State Administration hearing by clicking here.

August 19, 2013
Jerry Brown, California state doctors' union reach labor pact

130813_prison_doctor.jpgThe Union of American Physicians and Dentists has come to tentative terms on a labor contract that includes raises ranging between 4 percent and 8 percent within three years.

The agreement negotiated with Gov. Jerry Brown's Department of Human Resources covers roughly 1,500 employees. Like contracts other unions have bargained in the last several weeks, the timing of the pay increases depends on state revenue projections.

If the numbers look good, the raises will be spread over the the last two years of the deal, 2014-15 and 2015-16. If the administration anticipates revenues will slump next year, the pay increases will be delayed and lumped together in 2015-16.

The administration estimates that the agreement adds a total $28.9 million in salary expenses.

Some medical consultants and public health medical officers are in line to receive a total 5 percent raise, and a few subsets of doctors and surgeons will receive a total 8 percent hike. All other UAPD-covered employees will get a total 4 percent raise within three years.

The agreement guarantees no furloughs during the life of the contract and accepts the changes to pensions that the Legislature and Brown made law last year. Business and travel reimbursement rates get a bump and employers' contributions to health, dental and vision plans increase by 8 percent.

The Legislature and UAPD rank and file must both approve the agreement, which would run retroactively from last month to July 1, 2016. Here's the official summary:

August 19, 2013
Assembly apologizes to fired Japanese-American state workers

110822 Assembly chamber.JPGThe Assembly today approved a resolution that formally apologizes for a 1942 policy that institutionalized discrimination against more than 300 Japanese-American California state employees during WWII.

Assembly Concurrent Resolution 19 offers no reparations for terminating those workers on the basis of their ancestry, noting that the state gave wrongly-dismissed employees $5,000 each as a "symbolic compensation" in 1982. (Although the government offered reinstatement in 1946, only a handful reported to work within the 10 days given them.)

The Legislature has never offered an official apology for initiating the policy. The State Personnel Board, which carried out the Legislature's edict to discriminate against Japanese-American employees, issued an apology earlier this year.

Assemblyman Richard Pan, a Sacramento Democrat, authored the resolution, which passed on a voice vote.

PHOTO: Lawmakers meet in the California Assembly chamber in 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

August 19, 2013
CalPERS committee to review investment performance, risk

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for CALPERS_COURTYARD_JAY_MATHER_2005.JPGThe CalPERS Board of Administration's investment committee will convene this morning at approximately 10:30 a.m. Fund Chief Investment Officer Joe Dear will lay out the fund's overall investment performance and how its portfolio is being managed to balance risk and return.

You can watch the meeting here. Click here to open the committee's agenda with links to various documents and PowerPoint presentations.

PHOTO: A courtyard at CalPERS Sacramento headquarters. The Sacramento Bee/Jay Mather

August 19, 2013
CalPERS state retirements up this year despite July dip

The latest data from CalPERS show that the total number of state employee retirements this year continues to outpace 2012, even though July's total dipped by nearly 5 percent year over year.

So far, 6,643 state workers have applied to take their service pensions, up more than 2.8 percent from the same seven-month period a year ago.

The trend is the same among local government and school district employees in CalPERS. The fund has received 19,282 pension applications overall this year, representing an increase of almost 2.8 percent from 2012. (Click here for detailed spreadsheets with seven years of CalPERS retirement data.)

Experts say that the rate of public employee retirements is returning to normal levels after several years of budget crises, furloughs, layoffs, buyouts and uncertainty over pension benefits prompted some employees to retire early.

August 16, 2013
Feds delay ruling to withhold California's mass-transit funding

130816_light-rail-bridge-rnady-pench.jpgWith billions of mass-transit dollars at stake, the U.S. Department of Labor said today that it will delay ruling on whether California's new pension law violates a 49-year-old federal statute that ties the funds to collective bargaining rights.

A spokesman for the Labor Department confirmed this morning that federal officials are holding off on making any decisions for now while they continue talks with strong Gov. Jerry Brown's office to resolve the thorny issue.

Brown spokesman Jim Evans said in an email that the administration is "gratified" federal authorities are giving the state more time and that state officials "will continue to work closely with the federal government in an effort to resolve this issue."

California has more than 100 regional mass-transit agencies in the pipeline, $1.6 billion for this year alone. Earlier this month, however, U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez warned Brown that the department would begin withholding the funds because the state's new public pension law likely violates the collective bargaining rights of some 20,000 mass transit employees.

Federal law requires that the Labor Department certify that mass-transit grant recipients preserve their employees' collective representation. Mass-transit unions contend the pension law that took effect Jan. 1 has imposed terms on their members that should be bargained.

In a letter to Brown earlier this month, Perez signaled that he agrees with the unions and that a series of decisions could have come down as early as today to decertify one transit agency after another, which would block their federal funds.

Gov. Jerry Brown's administration has said the pension law merely sets a new framework for public pension bargaining but that it doesn't weaken collective bargaining itself.

A message left this morning with mass-transit union spokesman Barry Broad wasn't immediately returned.

PHOTO: In this January 2013 view looking east, the Blue Line bridge - under construction - loops over Cosumnes River Blvd. near Bruceville Road. A conflict between California's public pension law and federal mass-transit grant law has put funding for the project in jeopardy. The Saramento Bee/Randy Pench

August 16, 2013
Retiree group's president wants pension privacy hearing

130816_computer.jpgCalifornia's largest state retiree group wants the Legislature to hold hearings into privacy and public information issues recently spotlighted by a plan - now on hold - for a searchable online database of annuitant retirement benefits.

Tim Behrens, president of the 33,000-member California State Retirees, requested the hearing in a letter to Sen. Jim Beall and Assemblyman Rob Bonta, who chair committees concerned with public employee retirement issues.

CalPERS had planned to launch a searchable database of retiree pension information that for years has been considered public record, including names, pension allowances, last employer and year of retirement.

CalPERS said the information is public record and that it regularly releases the information to anyone who requests it. Posting the information on its website, fund officials said, would be more efficient than fielding and filling separate requests for the information as CalPERS does now.

And hosting the information on its website would allow the fund to control the data, officials said, while still fulfilling public records law requirements to release it. Some news organizations and political groups have taken CalPERS pension data and hosted it on their own websites.

Retiree groups blasted CalPERS idea, however, worried that making the information so easily accessible would heighten the likelihood that pensioners would be targeted by scammers who prey on the elderly. As the issue heated up and talk of the Legislature acting surfaced, CalPERS put the database launch on hold.

"Interim hearings will help the Legislature investigate," Behrens wrote in his Wednesday letter to lawmakers, "and perhaps develop a legislative solution that strikes the appropriate balance between the personal privacy of retirees and the importance of public access to CalPERS retiree data."

California State Retirees Privacy Letter


August 15, 2013
State officials blame payroll debacle on contractor, other agency

130815-state-paychecks.jpgOfficials with the California State Controller's Office spent the better part of a three-hour hearing this afternoon explaining how their now-defunct project to overhaul the state payroll system fell victim to contracted vendors' shoddy work, poor evaluation guidelines and, in one instance, another department's insistence that the company's credentials couldn't be more deeply scrutinized.

The Senate budget subcommittee hearing, chaired by Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, also underscored how term limits and employee turnover in the talent-starved information technology industry give officials a measure of cover when long-term, multimillion-dollar computer projects crash.

August 15, 2013
Hearing scheduled for failed California state payroll tech project

130815-john-chiang.jpgA Senate budget and fiscal review subcommittee will hear testimony about the failed 21st Century/MyCalPays project today after the upper chamber adjourns its floor session.

The hearing follows a scathing assessment by the Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes that State Controller John Chiang's office issued positive reports about the payroll overhaul effort while officials behind the scenes warned that the IT project was failing.

Chiang's office has disputed the report's conclusions and blames the demise of 10-year, quarter-billion-dollar, two-time bust on the project's contractor, global tech firm SAP.

Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, chairs the subcommittee. Click here for an agenda with attachments and a list of speakers. Chiang is not on the list.

The California Channel has tentatively scheduled its live broadcast of the hearing for 1 p.m. Click here to watch via the Internet.

Related links:
California payroll overhaul vexed by complexity, poor oversight
California Controller John Chiang's response to critical report

PHOTO: John Chiang, California state controller, meets with The Sacramento Bee's Capitol Bureau in downtown Sacramento on Wednesday, July 14, 2010. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

August 14, 2013
The Roundup: MI pension fight; NY goes for Microsoft; highway to memorialize fallen CHP officer

HA_newspapers3808.JPGAppeals court: Michigan law requiring state employees to pay 4% to pension plan violates constitution
The Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court ruling that the key element of a law requiring state employees to pay 4% of their income in order to remain in the state's defined benefit pension plan is unconstitutional. - Lansing State Journal

Microsoft signs up New York state's 120,000 government workers for Office 365
Microsoft has been signing up more and more large businesses and governments to use their Office 365 productivity software service, including the cities of Chicago, Seattle and Kansas City and the state of Texas. Today, Microsoft announced one of their biggest Office 365 government contracts yet, this time with the state of New York. -

Highway 1 To Be Dedicated to Fallen Officer On Wednesday
Almost eight decades after California Highway Patrol officer Albert Donald Hoover was killed while on patrol, Highway 1 will be dedicated to the fallen officer. - Santa Cruz Patch

Want more? For stories of interest to state employees, check out the State Worker's constantly updated News & Views feed by clicking here.

Follow @TheStateWorker on Twitter and check out our community page on Facebook for links, comments and insights into our reports, blog posts and columns.

August 13, 2013
From the notebook: California and federal laws about to collide

NOTEBOOK_use_this.jpgOur story in today's fiber/cyber Sacramento Bee explains the looming crash between California's Public Employee Pension Reform Act and a federal mass-transit grant law that makes the money conditional on preserving collective representation of mass-transit workers.

Congress tied the federal strings tied to mass-transit money with a 1964 law intended to protect private mass-transportation employees' collective bargaining rights. Struggling mass-transit operations around the country were shifting from private-sector control to the public sector at the time, and unions worried their members would lose vested pension benefits, the right to strike and power to collectively negotiate contracts if they became public employees.

Back then, unions were common in private industry, but relatively rare in government. (California didn't allow local government employees to organize until 1968. First-term Gov. Jerry Brown signed a collective-bargaining law covering state employees nearly a decade later.) And then, as now, state and local government employers were expressly exempt from the National Labor Relations Act.

Today unions are much more prevalent in the public sector and have nearly disappeared on the private side.

Some links and embedded documents that add history and more details to today's report:

"Bill would exempt thousands of California public employees from pension overhaul" (Jan. 29 Sacramento Bee report)
Assembly Bill 160 analysis. The measure would exempt public mass-transit employees from pension reform.
"Brown aide defends pension reform for mass-transit workers" (Feb. 21 State Worker blog post)
Background on the Federal Transit Act, Section 13(c)
Legal Research Digest: "Transit Labor Protection -- A Guide to 13(c) Federal Transit Act"

And here's the memo from Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority CEO Arthur Leahy that includes a list of MTA projects at risk and a letter from U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to Gov. Jerry Brown warning that the feds are prepared to cut off funds:

August 13, 2013
The Roundup: CA pension law versus federal grant law; lawmaker wants CalPERS to dump Russian investment

HA_newspapers3808.JPGBillions in federal transportation funds riding on California's new pension law
Less than a year after California lawmakers mandated sweeping changes for state and local government pensions, federal officials are poised to cut off billions of dollars in transportation funding because of the new laws. - The Sacramento Bee

For CalPERS, a Russian shopping center is "a good addition to our portfolio"
Here is what prompted State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, to come up with a resolution, introduced today, calling on the state's public pension funds to cease investing in Russia on account of its "homosexual propaganda" law ... - San Francisco Chronicle

Federal Workers Try New Ways to Protest the Sequester
When furloughs of the federal workforce hit earlier this year, some government workers grumbled or headed to a local bar. - Wall Street Journal

Oklahoma state regents gave employees 5 percent raise
While state workers await the outcome of a compensation study to see if raises will be forthcoming, the Oklahoma State Regents last month quietly gave a 5 percent increase to employees. - Tulsa World

Big Minn. State Workers Union Ratifies Contract
Two labor unions representing thousands of Minnesota state employees have ratified new contracts that include across-the-board raises but higher health insurance contributions from workers. - Associated Press/WCCO Minnesota

Want more? For stories of interest to state employees, check out the State Worker's constantly updated News & Views feed by clicking here.

Follow @TheStateWorker on Twitter and check out our community page on Facebook for links, comments and insights into our reports, blog posts and columns.

August 12, 2013
California Controller John Chiang's response to critical report

In a battle of dueling reports, State Controller John Chiang's office has released what it's calling "a preliminary internal review" of the twice-failed payroll overhaul program that shut down in February after 10 years and a quarter-million dollars spent.

The controller's assessment counters a damning review by the Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes that says the state couldn't manage the project, lacked the wherewithal to change an ossified bureaucratic culture and fed glowing reports to the Legislature even as the program was in crisis.

The report from Chiang's office blames the structure of the contract with the vendor, inadequate state procurement law at the time and a host of testing and communication failures by that vendor, SAP.

"The SCO believes SAP failed because it was not committed to the same objectives as the State," the report says.

Chiang spokesman Jacob Roper sent an email with the report, citing dozens of occasions in the last few years that department staff met with lawmakers and state oversight agencies about the project.

The Senate report's characterization that staff hid the project's struggles "appears to be driven by the report's over-reliance on the SCO quarterly reports," Roper said in the email, "without taking into account other forms of information sharing that were constantly and regularly taking place between the Legislature and the SCO."

Chiang has said he supports an independent review of the project.

August 12, 2013
California payroll overhaul vexed by complexity, poor oversight

20111102_ha_JoHN_CHIANG0365-AMEZCUA.JPGController John Chiang's office spun an upbeat message about efforts to overhaul the state's aging payroll system for years, while behind the scenes the massive IT project was in disarray, according to a new state analysis released this morning.

The report by the Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes this morning concludes that officials running the now-defunct 21st Century/MyCalPays project kept pouring money into the program despite clear and early warnings from insiders that the program was foundering on many levels:

"These basic, core problems included the state's payroll complexity, data conversion, staff vacancies, organizational change management (the process of teaching and selling the new system to existing staff), the absence of a quality assurance team, and an inability to stay on schedule ..."

The report is the first official public post-mortem on the 10-year, quarter-billion-dollar twice-failed effort to modernize the state's payroll system. Chiang inherited the project from his predecessor, former State Controller Steve Westly.

Senate investigators examined the program from the state management side and concluded that cultural resistance to change also hampered the project. For example, some departments -- "CalFire, the State Water Resources Control Board, Caltrans and, surprisingly, the California Technology Agency" - fell behind schedule for adopting the payroll management system, the report notes.

Meanwhile official updates to the Legislature "often lacked candor, sugar-coating some problems and ignoring others. This failure to be transparent compromised legislative oversight and stymied accountability."

A message left with Chiang's office was not immediately returned this morning.

The oversight report's release comes ahead of a Thursday hearing that Sen. Richard Roth's Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee will be conducting on the 21st Century Project.

August 9, 2013
California state health professionals union reaches labor deal

Jerry_Brown_HJA3698.JPGGov. Jerry Brown and the union representing state health and social services workers have reached a tentative agreement that includes an 8 percent raise for two job classifications, a 3 percent increase for the rest and assurances that the state will consider further hikes for a a handful of jobs.

The deal with AFSCME Local 2620, like contracts recently negotiated with SEIU Local 1000 and the state psychiatric technicians' union, covers three fiscal years ending July 2016.

And, like those agreements, the timing of the proposed pay hikes depends on the Brown administration's assessment of state government finances next year.

The Brown administration hasn't yet completed its cost analysis. A message left with AFSCME senior business agent Cliff Tillman wasn't immediately returned.

August 9, 2013
California IT snapshot: The big kahuna of tech projects? FI$Cal

When it comes to finances, California's vast state government often operates like dozens of smaller governments. Many use separate computer systems developed many years ago -- decades, even -- to handle everything from payroll and procurement to caseload management and document tracking. The systems aren't uniform, which can make even the most basic tasks such as paying employees and vendors complex and labor intensive.

Those limitations also slow big-picture budgeting and business planning. The state's big-picture solution:

Name: Financial Information System for California (FI$Cal)
Department: Department of Finance
Estimated total cost: $617 million
Amount spent to date: $122 million
Percent of project complete: 15 percent
Time frame: July 2005 - July 2017 (11.9 years)

What is it? A financial system for the entire state that will track all departments' purchases of goods and services as well as keeping track of all bids and grant processes.

The official line: "This project will replace the state's aging and non-integrated financial systems with a single comprehensive financial application supporting the state's fiscal and policy decision processes. The proposed solution is to implement an Enterprise Resource Planning application that will meet the state's budget, accounting, and some procurement needs. The solution will also address various fiscal information needs of the Legislature."

Current red flags reported: "106 out of 265 milestones were missed for the month of June. None of these were on the project's critical path."

This is the final installment in a series of posts looking at California's 10 most-expensive state computer projects as listed on the Department of Technology's website.

August 8, 2013
Personnel panel grills Corrections lawyer on services contract

100602 yolo county gavel.jpgIf the 50-minute spanking disguised as a State Personnel Board hearing Thursday was any indication, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will again be on the losing side of an outsourcing contract dispute.

And this may be just the beginning.

Members of the State Personnel Board spent nearly all of their time at the hearing grilling Scott Wyckoff, the supervising deputy attorney general who defended CDCR's $6 million, three-year contract with Williams & Associates to handle inmate lawsuits against the state. (Our Thursday column lays out the arguments for and against the contract.)

It didn't help Wyckoff's case that the agreement in question was entered into just weeks after the board deemed a similar $5 million deal to be illegal. That first contract, "Williams I," expired in mid-2012, and "Williams II" started the next day. Taken together, CDCR's deal with the firm runs up to six years and up to $11 million, despite the personnel board's earlier disapproval.

State law requires that whenever an agency determines it needs to contract for outside legal counsel, it must notify the state lawyer's union, California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges, and Hearing Officers in State Employment, also called CASE. It's a check on runaway contracting and a layer of protection for civil service.

During the back-and-forth with the panel, Wyckoff mentioned that the department had other contracts with other law firms. When asked by board member Lauri Shanahan for details -- how many other law firms are under contract or their cost -- Wyckoff couldn't say.

"I don't know the answer to that," Wyckoff said. "Perhaps CASE ..."

Board president Patricia Clarey then turned to CASE attorney Patrick Whalen and asked what was the toughest question posed to him during the hearing: "Can you offer some thought on that?"

"I was shocked to learn today of other cases out there beyond Williams & Associates," Whalen said. "There may well be future challenges if we can find out (more) about them."

The board is expected to render a decision in a month or so.


August 8, 2013
California IT snapshot: Tax agency going web-user friendly

Californians filed nearly 15.7 million personal income tax returns to the state Franchise Tax Board last year, translating into more $50 billion for the state's coffers.

Now the agency is working on a new IT system to streamline operations and make dealing with the agency more like handling an online bank account:

Name: Enterprise Data to Revenue Project
Department: Franchise Tax Board
Estimated total cost: $522 million
Amount spent to date: $153 million
Percent of project complete: 35 percent
Time frame: July 2008 - July 2017 (8 years)

What is it? A new system to file and electronically validate state tax documents. It will also allow filers to submit taxes online, make payments and view previous tax returns.

The official line: "This project is a major enterprise wide solution that will introduce a business process management system for the filing of tax returns in conjunction with expanded data capture of tax documents, enhanced validation of tax return information. The EDR will reduce the 'tax gap' and is anticipated to increase revenue up to $1 billion annually upon implementation."

Current red flags reported: None

This is the ninth in a series of daily posts looking at California's 10 most-expensive state computer projects as listed on the Department of Technology's website.

August 8, 2013
Column Extra: Rationales for and against prison legal contract

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

Today's State Worker column filters the debate over state outsourcing through a contract dispute scheduled for a hearing this morning before the State Personnel Board. The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is asking the board to reverse its earlier ruling that a $6 million outsourcing agreement for legal services should be voided.

You can watch the 10 a.m. hearing via SPB's website. We expect the contract debate between CDCR and the state attorney's union to start around 11 a.m. or so. Here are the arguments filed with the board in advance of the hearing:

August 7, 2013
California IT snapshot: Los Angeles County's welfare project

For years, California has determined who qualifies for public assistance via three separate computer systems that each cover about one-third of the state's population base. State officials plan within the next four years to upgrade the one that handles Los Angeles County cases.

Another 39 mostly rural counties that provide benefits via the C4Yourself system will eventually migrate to the new Los Angeles Eligibility, Automated Determination, Evaluation and Reporting System, leaving the state with just two programs for managing government aid eligibility. (The other system, CalWIN, services 18 counties, most of them along populous coastal regions as well as Fresno, Placer, Sacramento and Yolo counties.)

Government officials have said that the old Los Angeles system is inadequate. A 2011 letter from federal welfare authorities said it "runs on unsupported hardware and is expensive to maintain." Changes in federal health care law add another layer of complexity.

A look at the new system in the works:

Name: Los Angeles Eligibility, Automated Determination, Evaluation and Reporting Replacement System
Department: Health and Human Services Agency
Estimated total cost: $476 million
Amount spent to date: $14 million
Percent of project complete: 8 percent
Time frame: July 2005 - July 2017 (11.3 years)

What is it? An updated IT system for Los Angeles County to manage public assistance services, including CalWORKs, the CalFresh food program and others.

The official line: "The CDSS proposes to replace the existing Los Angeles Eligibility, Automated Determination, Evaluation and Reporting automated welfare system with newer technology. The new system will determine eligibility and benefits for a variety of public assistance programs for Los Angeles County."

Current red flags reported: None.

This is the eighth in a series of daily posts highlighting California's 10 most-expensive state computer projects as listed on the Department of Technology's website.

August 7, 2013
The Roundup: CalPERS gets sued; federal furloughs trimmed; CalPERS scandal figure wants speedy litigation

HA_newspapers3808.JPGSuit alleges CalPERS misled customers about long-term care insurance
When CalPERS imposed an 85 percent rate hike on its long-term care insurance program, it caused a fuss among customers and some legislators. Now it's sparked a lawsuit. - The Sacramento Bee

Furloughs for civilian federal employees to end sooner than expected
The Pentagon is easing the pain of mandatory, unpaid work furloughs that civilian federal government employees, including those at White Sands Missile Range, have had to bear for a month because of budgetary pressures. They have cut the number of furlough days from 11 to six. - Las Cruces Sun-News

CalPERS scandal figure Villalobos opposes delay in civil suits
The central figure in the CalPERS bribery scandal says he is in "failing health," nearly died two years ago and needs a quick resolution to the pile of litigation he faces. - The Sacramento Bee

Want more? For stories of interest to state employees, check out the State Worker's constantly updated News & Views feed by clicking here.

Follow @TheStateWorker on Twitter and check out our community page on Facebook for links, comments and insights into our reports, blog posts and columns.

August 6, 2013
Read the lawsuit against CalPERS on long-term care insurance

Here's the class-action lawsuit filed today in Los Angeles on behalf of CalPERS long-term care insurance policyholders. The complaint alleges that CalPERS sold policies by persuading buyers that rates on its lifetime, inflation-protected plans would be fixed and "reasonably priced."

Click here to read Bee colleague Dale Kasler's breaking news story about the lawsuit.

CalPERS LTC lawsuit by jon_ortiz

August 6, 2013
Lawsuit filed against CalPERS for long-term care premium hikes

A Southern California law firm has filed a class-action lawsuit against CalPERS, alleging that the fund lied to members who have held its privately-funded long-term care insurance policies.

The Bee's Dale Kasler has the breaking news here. Check back to The State Worker blog for a copy of the court filing when it becomes available. And watch Wednesday's print and online editions for a story with more details about the lawsuit.

August 6, 2013
California IT snapshot: Medi-Cal payment-system overhaul

The Department of Health Care Services, through a contract with Xerox. services more than 8.5 million Medi-Cal recipients. Each day it processes roughly 830,000 health provider claims. Weekly payments run at about $325 million for everything from doctors' exams to prescription refills.

Ronald Reagan was in his first presidential term when the department's current IT system launched. A look at what's coming to replace it and when:

Name: California Medicaid Management Information System
Department: Department of Health Care Services
Estimated total cost: $459 million (majority of cost covered by federal funds)
Budgeted for 2013-14: $193 million ($140 million is funded through federal financial participation, and the remaining $53 million is state General Funds).
Amount spent to date: $108 million
Project complete: 12 percent
Estimated time frame: July 2009 - July 2018 (7.6 years)

What is it? Replaces a 30-year-old system that sends out payments for goods and services rendered under Medi-Cal, the state's version of the federal Medicaid program.

The official line: "This service contract processes payments to health care providers of the Medi-Cal fee-for-service program, including physicians, pharmacies, hospitals and other providers under a new Fiscal Intermediary and includes replacement of the legacy system."

Current red flags reported: None

This is the seventh in a series of daily posts looking at California's 10 most-expensive state computer projects as listed on the Department of Technology's website.

August 5, 2013
California psych techs' contract adds a total $39 million in costs

mac_taylor.JPGCalifornia's state psychiatric technicians' new tentative contract, which includes an across-the-board pay raise, increases the state's cost for their service by a total $39 million over three years, according to Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor's office.

Assuming approval by the Legislature and the union rank-and-file, the agreement pushes nearly all of the increases into the last two years of the three-year deal. For example, the Brown administration has the option to split the proposed 4.25 percent pay hike between fiscal 2014-15 and fiscal 2015-16 or to defer the whole thing until fiscal 2015-16 if the state's finances warrant it.

Local 1000, the first union to reach a deal, is receiving a cumulative 4.5 percent raise with the same deferral terms.

The raises for about 5,000 employees represented by the California Association of Psychiatric Technicians will account for $15.4 million, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office report released Friday.

Increased employer contributions to health insurance will add another $14.1 million over the life of the agreement. Those contributions will roughly equal 80 percent of the premiums' cost. The contract also reduces waiting times to one year for employees to add dependents to medical coverage, a $200,000 state cost increase that starts in 2015-16, the analyst says.

The association's contract also calls for an increase in travel reimbursement rates and evening and night shift differentials. Neither add much to the state's employee costs -- about $400,000 over the life of the contract.

The shift differential money doesn't count toward pension calculations. Under the expired contract, it did. A new trend?

For context, salaries for state employees under the governor's authority will cost an estimated $15.3 billion this year. That figure doesn't include benefits.

Here's the LAO's review of the CAPT contract:

August 5, 2013
California IT snapshot: Case management for in-home care

Two departments in California's Health and Human Services Agency oversee programs that pay out $4 billion annually for in-home services to the elderly. The computer system they use for assigning those payments and tracking some 400,000 cases statewide is 25 years old.

Here's what the state is bringing in to replace it:

Name: Case Management, Information and Payrolling System II
Agency: Health and Human Services Agency
Estimated cost: $424 million
Amount spent to date: $222 million
Percent of project complete: 41 percent
Time frame: 1999-2000 to 2013-2014 (14 years)

What is it? A payroll- and case-tracking system for California's in-home care programs.

The official line:"The CDSS proposes to replace the existing legacy Case Management, Information and Payrolling System (CMIPS I) that handles case management and payrolling services for caregivers providing In-Home Supportive Services for qualified aged, blind, and disabled individuals. CMIPS II will employ newer technology, improve system stability and provide data integration with the California Medicaid Management Information System. The legacy CMIPS has been in production since 1973, utilizes outdated technology, and lacks adequate system documentation."

Current red flags reported: None

This is the sixth in a series of daily posts looking at California's 10 most-expensive state computer projects as listed on the Department of Technology's website.

August 5, 2013
The Roundup: Public unions pressured to accept medical-benefit cuts; CO and OR pay

HA_newspapers3808.JPGDanger: 'Cadillac tax' ahead
Cities and school districts across the country are pushing municipal unions to accept cheaper health benefits in anticipation of a component of the Affordable Care Act that will tax expensive plans starting in 2018. ... State and local governments across the country tend to offer more expensive health plans than private businesses do, and workers often accept smaller wage increases to retain their benefits. Because of this, state and local government employees are expected to be disproportionately represented among those whose plans will be subject to the tax. - The New York Times / The Sacramento Bee

Report: State workers need raise to match private sector
Colorado's roughly 32,000 state workers need a 3.8 percent raise to catch up to their counterparts in the private sector, the state Department of Personnel and Administration said Thursday. - Sterling Journal-Advocate

Improved economy leads to pay raises for Oregon politicians, state workers
After years of freezes and unpaid furlough days, state workers and some Oregon politicians will see their pay go up in a few months. - The Oregonian

Want more? For stories of interest to state employees, check out the State Worker's new and constantly updated News & Views feed by clicking here.

Follow @TheStateWorker on Twitter and check out our community page on Facebook for links, comments and insights into our reports, blog posts and columns.

August 2, 2013
Unusual California state government jobs: Psychiatric technician

Susan_LePage.JPGThis is the fifth installment in our series on California state employees whose jobs don't immediately come to mind when you think of government work.

State worker: Susan LePage

Job Title: Senior psychiatric technician, Substance Abuse Unit, Napa State Hospital

Number of years with the state: 24

What does a typical week in the life of a psychiatric technician look like?
"A typical week would be, really, getting 44 adult patients to go where they got to go. We've got appointments, medical appointments, groups, work ... feeding them, caring for them, (and) giving them medications. Also listening to them, ... (being a) peacekeeper (and) just providing them with activities. I work with the substance recovery unit (and) boredom is a big trigger, (so) just trying to keep them busy, that is all mushed into a week."

What is the most extraordinary or interesting thing that has happened while you were on the job?
"(I was) given the opportunity to come to this new unit that we are spearheading at Napa State Hospital. That is the substance recovery unit. It is interesting because I worked with some of these guys before and now to really see these guys open up, to see them now waking up and talking and confiding in others and to see this whole brotherhood that takes place in the unit ... it puts things in perspective. "

How did you come to be a psychiatric technician?
"I was living in Los Angeles and I really felt that I wanted to work with the homeless population. My mom ran a medical school and really persuaded me to go into this profession. I really felt a calling to go work with people."

Is there anything you want people to know about your job?
"It is somebody's son, or daughter or mother that we are working with, and sometimes they don't have families and we are their families. You are also there to give these people hope and that there can be a life out there if they make the commitment to go out there and pursue that, that there is hope."

Helicopter fire pilot
Seed botanist
Coho recovery coordinator

PHOTO: Susan LePage. Courtesy of Napa State Hospital

August 2, 2013
California IT snapshot: The prison management system

California's far-flung prison and parole agency for decades has used dozens of separate computer and paper systems to do business, from tracking inmates to keeping records.

An overview of the new Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's computer system to streamline its operations:

Name: Strategic Offender Management System
Department: Corrections and Rehabilitation
Estimated total cost: $416 million
Amount spent to date: $243 million
Percent of project complete: 76.12 percent
Estimated time frame: 2007-2008 to 2012-2013 (5.7 years)

What is it? An electronic prison population management system that replaces multiple old electronic and paper database systems.

The official line:"The California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation (CDCR) proposes to replace or integrate almost all existing manual or automated offender management systems and extend system availability to 9,400 new users. The new consolidated system will provide one source for reliable and instant data to the CDCR staff who require it to manage the inmate population."

Current red flags reported: None

The Department expects incremental project schedule changes will be approved by the state in its latest report.

This is the fifth in a series of daily posts looking at California's 10 most-expensive state computer projects as listed on the Department of Technology's website.

August 1, 2013
Unusual California state government jobs: Coho recovery coordinator

fall2010_030.JPGThis is the fourth installment in our series on California state employees whose jobs don't immediately come to mind when you think of government work.

Name: Scott Bauer

Job Title: Staff environmental scientist, Coho recovery coordinator, Department of Fish and Wildlife

Number of years working with state: 14

What does a typical week in the life of a environmental scientist look like?
Well, I am supposed to do things like help people apply for permits because salmon are an endangered species under the California Endangered Species Act. ... What I am really doing is research is on marijuana cultivation and what they are doing to Coho salmon. There are possible 8,000 (marijuana) sites (in Northern California) which means there are a million or more marijuana plants and they are diverting waters from streams, (so) ... I am trying to tell people that this fish is going to go extinct due to marijuana cultivation. ... There are only a few of us in the state who are working on this really huge issue.

What is the most extraordinary or interesting thing that has happened while you were on the job?
I was almost attacked by a mountain lion. I had a mountain lion come within 20 feet and was going to pounce on me. I did what I was supposed to do -- I got big and shouted at it and then it just calmly walked away. ... It was so close that I could pet it. That is probably the most interesting thing that happened to me on the job.

How did you come to be an environmental scientist?
I started working with the California Conservation Corp in 1998, 1999, doing fish habitat restoration, and I got hired by Fish and Game in 2005 to do timber harvest review. Then this job came up and I had a lot of experience doing fish habit restoration and permitting ... and here I am at a great job.

Is there anything you want people to know about your job?
I think I would like people to know we (state scientists) are all hard-working and dedicated people who do our best to serve the public (and) ... give the people their money's worth.

Helicopter Fire Pilot
Seed Botanist

PHOTO: Scott Bauer. Courtesy of Department of Fish and Wildlife/Trevor Tollefson.

August 1, 2013
California state workers who retired in July at seven-year low

The number of California state workers who retired during the month of July is at a seven-year low, dropping 54 percent from its peak in July 2010.

However, while the summer monthly numbers have been lower than in previous years, the overall number of retirees for 2013 so far is higher than for the same period last year due to a large number of workers retiring at the beginning of the year.

So far 6,643 state workers have retired this year, a 2.8 percent increase over the same time period last year.

As baby boomers continue to leave the workforce, CalPERS has seen dramatic increases in the number of state workers who are retiring.

The past three years have seen an average of more than 10,900 state workers retire each year. That's up from the previous three years: From 2007 to 2009, an average of nearly 8,400 workers retired each year.

Across the entire CalPERS system, which includes state, local and school district employees, 19,282 workers have retired so far this year, also up 2.8 percent over the same time period last year.

We've embedded the latest spreadsheets and charts below, which include CalPERS data for state, local and school district pension applications and state-only applications. Applications are counted from mid-month to mid-month.

Here is the data:

August 1, 2013
California IT snapshot: Child welfare computer system makeover

Charged with safeguarding the well-being of children and adults, the California Department of Social Services uses its current case management system to track a plethora of data, from information used to make case-by-case child welfare decisions to collecting statistics for federal reports.

The current system, according to the department's website, is "comprised of more than 19,000 workstations, 2,000 laptops, 395 servers, 2,900 printers and other hardware." More than 19,000 state and county workers use the system at the department and at more than 429 sites around California.

But it's 16 years old and needs updating, officials say. Here is an overview of the proposed new system, which has an estimated price tag that ranks 7th on the state's list of IT projects:

Name: CWS New System
Agency: Health and Human Services Agency (Department of Social Services)
Estimated total Cost: $393 million
Estimated time frame: 2013-2014 to 2017-2018 (4.3 years)

What is it? A new data management system that will allow multiple agencies to submit information on child welfare case. It will also support mobile computing.

The official line:"The CDSS proposes to implement a fully automated and integrated web-based solution to replace CWS/CMS. The proposed CWS-NS solution provides an enterprise computing infrastructure using service oriented architecture and will optimize deployment of the counties' current and emerging business needs and will facilitate effective delivery of CWS services."

Report Status: No report cards available yet, since the project just started.

This is the fourth in a series of daily blog posts looking at California's 10 most-expensive state computer projects as ranked by the of Department of Technology.

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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