Assembly Bill 218, authored by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature or veto and after 40-seat upper chamber passed it with the minimum 21 votes.
Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers
September 12, 2013
September 5, 2013
Our State Worker column in today's fiber/cyber Bee looks at government hiring policies in California and laws in other states that de-emphasize asking whether job applicants have criminal histories.
Assemblyman Roger Dickinson's Assembly Bill 218 would make California's policy a law with a few more restrictions on employers and apply it to all state and local governments. (Dickinson's bill makes some exceptions for law enforcement officers and the like, although some opponents say those exceptions need to be braodend and better defined.)
The National Employment Law Project -- which describes itself as partnering with "grassroots groups and national organizations, worker centers and unions, policymakers and think tanks" to promote middle-class jobs -- tracks state and local governments that aren't giving as much prominence as they once did to criminal history questions. Click here to view the group's thoroughly linked list of entities that "ban the box," a phrase referring to the check-box lines that many job applications use to ask about criminal history.
The column also refers to two lawsuits that the Obama administration filed against private-sector employers that allegedly screened applicants and fired employees using criminal background checks. Here's the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's June press release about those two cases and why the commission says their practice discriminated against minorities.
PHOTO: Job seekers crowd around a table to get information on available jobs during the California Job Journal HIREvent on Feb. 10, 2009, in San Francisco. Getty Images/Justin Sullivan
Our 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.
ILLUSTRATION: Seattle Times/Gabi Campanario
August 19, 2013
The 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
Among the mountain of budget-related measures lawmakers approved last week, two paragraphs in the voluminous Assembly Bill 76 call for greater scrutiny of "additional appointments" and the policy that fueled them.
The measure requires the Department of Human Resources make regular reports to the Legislature on employees who hold two or more jobs in state government. The State Personnel Board would also have to make a report to the Legislature about the obscure, loosely-written policy manual departments leaned on to justify the practice.
The measure, now awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown's signature, is the latest turn in a series of events triggered by Bee reports that showed how the once-obscure policy allowed California state employees -- including salaried managers -- to take a second hourly-wage job within their same department.
A measure died in committee last month that would have prohibited salaried state employees from taking a second hourly-wage position within their same department or agency. The bill's Republican author, Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, said at the time he hoped lawmakers would enact similar legislation as part of the budget.
Gov. Jerry Brown's administration has banned the practice for salaried employees. Here's the budget trailer bill language:
Mark your calendars: The California Department of Human Resources and several employee groups are hosting a conference next week to focus on equal employment opportunity issues in state government.
The California Civil Rights Officers Council, the Statewide Disability Advisory Council in collaboration with the Civil Rights Coalition of the Asian Pacific State Employees Association are co-hosting the event Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1500 Capitol Ave. in Sacramento. Admission is free.
Scheduled speakers include Yvonne Walker, president of SEIU Local 1000; CalHR Director Julie Chapman; former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso; California NAACP President Alice Huffman and Democratic Assemblyman Roger Hernandez of West Covina.
California Assembly lawmakers this morning put a hold on legislation that would have prohibited salaried state employees from taking a secondary hourly-wage position within their same department or agency.
The Appropriations Committee didn't officially vote to kill Assembly Bill 208, but holding the measure in committee essentially kills it.
Assembly Budget Vice Chairman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, introduced the legislation after reports in The Bee shed light on the obscure policy. Gorell blasted the practice, saying that it had become a means for salaried state workers to receive de facto overtime.
"I continue to ask my colleagues to make the responsibility of government oversight a top priority," Gorell said in a statement released this afternoon. "Week after week we are seeing new examples of executive branch mismanagement, and this is just one more example of a government culture out of control and irreverent to oversight."
Democratic majority leaders, including Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, expressed concern about the policy and Gov. Jerry Brown has since banned intra-departmental "additional appointments" for salaried state employees. His edict carries the force of administrative policy, not law.
Last week Brown's Department of Human Resources released an audit that concluded departments inappropriately appointed salaried managers to secondary-wage jobs. A separate audit by the State Personnel Board said that departments violated state civil service laws by doling out additional appointments without a competitive, fair application process.
PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, joins Assembly members in applause after they were sworn in during the first day of session at the State Capitol in Sacramento on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee
Today's State Worker column looks ahead to Friday's much-anticipated reports on additional appointments and how they will test Gov. Jerry Brown's 2-year-old reorganization of the State Personnel Board and the Department of Human Resources.
The piece also references the long, combative history between CalHR (formerly the Department of Personnel Administration) and the personnel board as they jostled for power over various aspects of the state's hiring and workplace policies. At one point, SPB sued the then-DPA over contracts it negotiated that allowed some state employees to take disciplinary appeals to a different panel than the personnel board.
Here's the 2005 California Supreme Court ruling in State Personnel Board, et al. v. the Department of Personnel Administration. The court sided with SPB.
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, the documents and the observations that inform what's published.
Officials from California's Department of Human Resources and the State Personnel Board told lawmakers today that they are analyzing how departments applied an obscure, controversial policy that allows salaried state employees to take a second part-time job in their same department and earn an hourly wage.
In testimony before a Senate Budget and Fiscal Review subcommittee, human resources Director Julie Chapman said her department has dedicated five employees to work through 25 boxes of employee time sheets, payroll records and other information. Eleven departments turned over the documents after The Bee reported that they had at least one exempt employee appointed to a second job that pays an hourly wage.
"We hope in the next month to have all the analysis done," Chapman said.
A policy that allows salaried state workers to take second positions within their departments is on a legislative committee's agenda this morning.
The Senate Budget and Fiscal Review subcommittee chaired by Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, will hear from the California Department of Human Resources about "additional appointments" for exempt employees.
A staff report in advance of today's scheduled 9:30 a.m. hearing says there's no uniform standard for the practice and that it "appears in many ways to be an 'underground' human resources policy. ... The lack of a clear, updated policy is effectively a non-policy, and creates an atmosphere ripe for abuse and misunderstanding."
Scroll down to page 11 of the embedded document for more of the committee's staff analysis.
July 20, 2012
As first reported by The Bay Citizen, Theodore Park, former Acting Deputy Director of the Real Estate Services Division of the Department of General Services, agreed to pay the fine.
The State Worker has since learned that although Park retired in December with an annual $99,085 state pension, he has returned to the department as a retired annuitant.
"He is temporarily working for us as a staff services manager III," General Services spokeswoman Monica Hassan said this week.
Full-time staff services manager III positions pay from $6,779 to $7,474 per month, according to the state's jobs.ca.gov website. Retired annuitants can work up to 960 hours in a given fiscal year.
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.
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:
Our story in today's Bee looks at which state jobs are drawing the most applicants from outside government and why, using data compiled by the State Personnel Board, which administers eligibility examinations for state civil service positions.
Below you'll find the list of all 1,390 jobs for which at least one applicant was deemed eligible when SPB made its first data run for our story on Mar. 2. This is not a help-wanted list, but an accounting of how many people have been deemed eligible for consideration when a job on the list opens.
Want more details? Check out the state's one-stop, everything-you-need-to-know website, www.jobs.ca.gov, where you can put a job title in a search engine and then click through to find out about pay ranges, tests, duties and minimum qualifications.
The state also keeps job eligibility lists totals online. Click here to look up the info, which can be sorted by job class and department. The figures are updated daily.
By that (extremely unscientific) measure, opinions are split 50-50.
If you haven't yet, check out the reporting and documentation about the prison chief dentist's fight to get his job back, then take our (extremely unscientific) poll:
March 15, 2012
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 State Worker column in today's Bee examines the dispute between James Ward, who worked as chief dentist at Ironwood State Prison until July 2009, and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Ward says he accepted in good faith a permanent position that was illegally voided when the state said the job was really temporary and eventually let him go.
The department says its employees were mistaken when they assured Ward the job was permanent. Returning him to a permanent state job now would bind departments to the erroneous actions of their lowest-level staff and managers, CDCR lawyers have argued.
SPB Judge Jeanne Wolfe heard arguments in the case and issued a decision last September in favor of Ward. As is its prerogative, the board rejected Wolfe's ruling and heard the case for itself last month. We expect a ruling within a few weeks.
Here's Wolfe's decision, which includes many more details about the matter than we could jam into our column:
James Ward v. CDCR
January 26, 2012
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
December 21, 2011
The American Council of Engineering Companies of California has put up a You Tube post to promote its take on questions raised by The Bee concerning structural tests of the Bay Bridge's new span.
The interview ACEC California's Executive Director, Paul J. Meyer and ACEC California's President, Eddie W. Kho is the latest shot in the long-running battle over privatizing public infrastructure projects between ACEC, which represents private engineering firms, and Professional Engineers in California Government, the union that represents state engineers in Caltrans.
ACEC says Caltrans is too big to manage. Privatization, the group contends, forces market discipline on contract engineers who can deliver projects quicker and more cheaply than public-sector engineers. PECG says that privatizing isn't cheaper and that the profit motive in private industry can entice contractors to take shortcuts that compromise public safety.
Worth noting: The Caltrans employee at the center of the Bay Bridge controversy, Duane Wiles, wasn't a state engineer before he was fired in November. Wiles was a transportation technician represented by SEIU Local 1000. He is appealing his dismissal.
October 22, 2011
Our story in today's Bee expands on the news The State Worker broke on Friday that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is issuing 26,000 layoff warnings -- the so-called "State Restriction of Appointments" notice -- although it's not clear how many workers will be ultimately affected.
Word that notices would be going out started moving through the department earlier this week. Here's the text of an email that went out to some parole staff on Thursday:
September 6, 2011
4:05 p.m.: This post has been updated with a statement from CalPERS.
The State Personnel Board has upheld a formal reprimand against Joseph John Jelincic Jr. over claims that he sexually harassed co-workers at the California Public Employees' Retirement System. The incidents occurred before and after he took an at-large seat on the fund's 13-member board in January 2010.
Jelincic worked in CalPERS' investments office until early July, when the fund released him to do board work full time. Three women complained that Jelincic's long looks and language had made them uncomfortable. The Bee is not naming the women because of the nature of the case.
In a telephone interview this afternoon, Jelincic said that he hadn't seen the decision and couldn't yet comment on it.
CalPERS spokesman Brad Pacheco issued a statement via e-mail: "CalPERS has a zero tolerance policy for harassment of any kind. We are committed to ensuring that our employees have a work environment that is professional, safe, and free from harassment."
Assembly Bill 398, which would make it easier for some military veterans to become firefighters in California, rolled through a Senate committee this morning without any opposition.
The measure by Republican Assemblyman Mike Morrell of Rancho Cucamonga hasn't drawn a single "no" vote so far: The Assembly supported it 75-0 last month after two committees in the lower chamber voted a combined 33-0 in favor.
This morning, the 11-member Senate Committee on Governmental Organization approved OK'd the bill without any dissenting vote. It now goes to Senate Appropriations for consideration. From there the full Senate will take it up.
The measure would allow the state fire marshal to accept federal Department of Defense firefighter certification as equal training for Firefighter I, which is the basic certification California requires for firefighting jobs. (Here's our earlier post about the bill.)
Morrell has touted the proposal as a way to smooth the path to employment for some of the 30,000 or so veterans who return to California each year. It's not clear how many of them have firefighter certification from the Defense Department or, if they do, how many would apply for firefighter jobs if entry is simplified for them.