The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

August 7, 2012
Supervisors' group hits Steinberg on legislative staff pay raises

The Association of California State Supervisors wants Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg to reverse staff raises, and it is rallying its members to write and call the Sacramento Democrat's offices to tell him so.

A post on its website titled, "Make Steinberg keep his word," noted that the state's No. 2 Democrat said this about public pension reform: "Will it cause some discomfort and unhappiness? Yes. Do you sometimes disagree with your allies and friends to do what you think is the right thing? Yes."

Then the organization, a nonunion advocate for state government managers and supervisors, performs a little political judo:

We couldn't agree with Sen. Steinberg's sentiment more: Doing the right thing sometimes causes discomfort and unhappiness.

That is why ACSS is calling on Sen. Steinberg to stop underhanded dealing to his allies and friends in the Legislature and start the difficult cuts he touts publicly by rescinding the raises he approved for employees in the Legislature after slashing your salary by 5%.

... Take a moment to let him know via email or calls to his office.

The supervisors' group is ticked over a recent Bee review of payroll records finding that at least 93 California legislative employees who earn more than $100,000 received raises this year and that more than 900 employees at all pay levels received pay hikes. The 120-member Legislature employs about 2,220 staff members.

That adds a bit of a sting for state workers whose pay and hours have been cut by nearly 5 percent since July 1. An ACSS poll of its members found that nearly six in 10 think the pay raises should be taken away.

July 26, 2012
Column Extra: Read the California Department of Finance's plan to audit Parks and Recreation

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 and the observations that inform what's published.

Today's column lays out more details of the Parks and Recreation secret leave buyout program and its connection to the discovery last week of $54 million the department had in two accounts -- even as it was planning to close 70 facilities around the state.

The Department of Finance didn't know about the money, which has been accumulating for at least 12 years, although the State Controller's Office did. Many department managers didn't know about the money either, and they worked to raise private money and build partnerships to keep facilities on the hit list open.

Imagine how the staff who beat the bushes for money and partnerships feel now.

Along with the State Controller's Office and the attorney general, Finance has launched an investigation of the Parks Department's budget, accounts and procedures. As you'll see in the outline below, its audit plan will initially unwind five years of records.

Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer said Wednesday that the Parks matter in relation to the state's budgeting process is analogous to a tripped fuse discovered during a home remodeling project.

"You go back and check all the fuses," Palmer said, so the state also is taking a wider look at how departments report their budgets.

Audit Plan - Parks

July 16, 2012
Poll: Does the state cap leave or just pay lip service to policy?

The Bee's Matt Weiser reports that a former Parks and Recreation Department manager ran a secret leave cash-out program that funneled more than a quarter-million dollars to 56 employees, including more than $20,000 to himself.

The story is a reminder that rules and policies are only as effective as the people who enforce them.

Which brings us to our poll question:


June 4, 2012
Jerry Brown administration defines 'very top' California state workers due for bigger pay cut

120514 Jerry Brown budget presser Amezcua.jpgThe Association of California State Supervisors is reporting on its blog that Gov. Jerry Brown's administration has narrowed down which state workers' pay will be cut by more than 5 percent in the 2012-13 fiscal year:

Acting DPA Director Julie Chapman confirmed in a meeting today with your ACSS that potential cuts above 5% would target "agency secretaries and higher officials," not state supervisors, managers, and confidential employees.

In his May budget revision, the governor proposed furloughing workers two hours per week and reducing the state workweek to four days to cut employee hours and pay by 5 percent. He wants to bargain the cuts and is open to other ideas to achieve the savings as part of closing the state's $15.7 billion budget gap (and that's a charitable administration estimate).

The supervisors' association report answers one of the questions raised when Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Marty Morgenstern told reporters last month, "No one will excluded (from a pay reduction), except people at the very top. We'll have to do a little better than that."

Morgenstern didn't define who at the "very top" would be hit with a heavier pay cut. That sparked speculation in some quarters that excluded workers might get dinged more. Apparently, that's not the case.

Next question: How much is "a little better than that"?

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown discusses his revised state budget plan during a Capitol news conference on Monday, May 14, 2012. / Associated Press, Rich Pedroncelli

May 22, 2012
Poll: Adopt Jerry Brown's workweek plan or return to personal leave program?

Why not just extend the personal leave program?

It's a question that we've heard often in the last week as we sifted through emails from several hundred state workers reacting to Gov. Jerry Brown's 4/9.5 furlough plan to cut their pay by 5 percent through a 2-hours-per-week furlough.

Most of the calls, comments and emails about the policy fall into one of four groups: workers who would love the three-day weekends, workers who think the policy is a betrayal of their contracts, those who hate losing the pay and workers who think the switch would harm state functions.

(As we reported earlier, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office has some issues with Brown's workweek proposal.)

Then there's a fifth camp asking, why not simply return to giving state workers a floating unpaid day off each month? Departments already know how to manage it because of furloughs and the so-called "personal leave program" that was a provision in most of the latest union contracts.

So what do you think?

February 14, 2012
Two California agencies extend furlough back pay to all staff

Thumbnail image for 120214 Cal PIA logo.JPGThe California Prison Industry Authority and the First 5 California Commission will pay furlough back wages to all their employees.

The decision extends the terms of recent court settlements with two unions to excluded workers and other employees -- except the PIA's top executive and state engineers and scientists whose labor groups are pressing furlough litigation.

It's not yet clear when the State Controller's Office will issue the checks or exactly how many current and former employees will receive money. The payments won't affect the state's general fund budget since both agencies are fiscally independent of it.

The PIA employs about 570 workers who run inmate training programs. Officials figure the back pay will cost about $7.9 million of the $8.6 million the PIA set aside last year in anticipation of a settlement. (The payments won't include the interest that authority officials anticipated when they allocated the money.)

The agency doesn't yet have a specific count for how many people will receive back pay, spokesman Eric Reslock said, since some furloughed staff have since retired or left for other jobs and some current employees started work at the agency after furloughs ended last spring.

First 5 employs 35 staff. Spokeswoman Susan Hyman said that 50 current and former employees will receive payments. The agency, which administers services for children up to age 5, hasn't yet estimated what the furlough back pay will cost.

A few PIA workers are excluded from the deal. The authority's board will need to approve back pay for General Manager Charles Pattillo, Reslock said. A handful of staff represented by California Professional Engineers in California Government or California Association of Professional Scientists won't get the back pay, either, because their unions are pressing furlough litigation.

First 5 and the PIA are two of five so-called "off-budget" state agencies that recently settled furlough litigation with SEIU Local 1000 and California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment.

The settlements obligate the PIA, First 5, the California Earthquake Authority, the California Housing Finance Agency and the California State Lottery to pay back wages only to staff covered by the two unions. In exchange, Local 1000 and CASE have dropped their furlough lawsuits against the state.

Gov. Jerry Brown's administration has left it up to the five off-budget agencies whether to extend back wage payments to non-union workers. The State Worker has left messages with officials at the other three to find out whether they intend to pay back wages to all their employees.

PHOTO CREDIT: Image courtesy of California Prison Industry Authority.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 30, 2011
Read the CDCR memo on professional development days

We mentioned in a post on Tuesday that today is the last day for most state employees to burn their 2010-11 Professional Development Days, although department mandates and some union contracts have caveats to that rule.

Here's a May 25 memo that outlines how CDCR is handling the policy for managers and rank and file. (Hat tip to Blog User J for passing it along.)
Requesting and Approving Professional Development Days

November 18, 2010
State hired, promoted 477 executives in 2009 and 2010

From January 2009 through September of this year, California's state government hired or promoted employees to 477 career executive positions, according to figures provided by the State Controller's Office.

All but two of those jobs were full-time. The median monthly pay for employees assuming those posts: $8,616. The average monthly pay: $9,129.

The pace for executive hires and promotions in calendar 2010 quickened compared with 2009. Last year the state placed or promoted 230 employees into executive jobs, compared with 246 in the first nine months of this year.

Of those hired or promoted in 2010, 14 became effective on or after Schwarzenegger Cabinet Secretary Scott Reid clamped down on hiring.

Some of the increased executive hiring and promotions may be a result of a state worker rush to retirement prompted by furloughs, recent increases to employee pension contributions or demography. For example, a state audit last year estimated the government could lose 13,000 managers and supervisors to retirement by 2016, close to half of the employees at that level.

Click here to download the controller's numbers.This document defines the various columns of data on the spreadsheet.

August 17, 2009
EDD responds to report of secret furlough meetings

A little over one week ago, blogger PacoVilla of the popular PacoVilla's Corrections blog, gave us a heads up that he had heard Sacramento managers at the Employment Development Department had held secret, no-notes-allowed meetings with staff. The agenda, he told us, was to lay out how EDD employees could work a 4/10/40 schedule, stay out of the office on "Furlough Fridays" and work overtime on weekends.

We'd not heard about any secret meetings, so we made some calls. Meanwhile, Paco posted this Aug. 10 item on his blog. The post prompted about a dozen phone calls and e-mails asking us if the report was true.

Last Thursday, we received an official response to our questions from EDD spokeswoman Loree Levy:

Hi Jon - thanks again for giving us a chance to look into the inquiry about meetings and any possible circumvention of the furloughs.

The EDD Director has not authorized any such meetings or management efforts to circumvent the furloughs and related pay impact. All EDD staff are taking the mandatory 14% furlough pay reduction. The EDD Director has given clear direction that only Unemployment Insurance (UI), local Job Service (JS) staff, tax remittance staff, and functions that support these priority services are allowed self directed furloughs.

This has resulted in about 5,000 of the more than 9,000 EDD employees working on a self-directed status, meaning they continue to work on furlough days. Some even work overtime hours in order to keep up with an unprecedented demand for services vital to Californians impacted by the recession. The overtime has occurred over the past 18 months since the economic downturn first began, well before the furloughs were initiated. EDD uses overtime to meet critical programmatic needs like processing Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits. We are currently evaluating the use of such overtime to ensure all managers understand when it is appropriate.

The remaining 4,000 employees of EDD are out of the office on scheduled furlough days.

There are some staff who do work a 4/10/40 schedule, as there are throughout state government. But these are nothing more than alternate work schedules and the employees must still take the pay reduction and reduced hours required by the furloughs.

Hope this information is helpful for you. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thanks!

Loree

IMAGE: www.edd.ca.gov

July 7, 2009
Transportation supervisor: 'We play by the rules but our employer won't'

Over the last 11 months, we've heard from hundreds of state workers about their hardships as the state careens from one financial crisis to another. Nearly all of the people who contact us prefer to keep their stories private. We understand that, but we still value the communication; it gives us a sense of how the state's budget mess and the policies springing from it are affecting real people.

But occasionally someone reaches out and combines clarity of thought with courage to talk publicly.

Here's an e-mail from CalTrans supervisor Jeff Fredricksen, presented unedited with his permission. He's speaking for himself, not his department:

Jon,

I need to vent and you've been a good listener. Thank you for that.

My employees, disgusted as they are with this relentless onslaught from the Gov continue to say, "Well, I'm just glad I have a job."

That said, I will tell you that our safety officer made this prediction some months ago: "If we make this work, they'll keep coming back to the well."

And sure enough! She was right. We continue to produce the best product we can in spite of the punishment meted out by the Gov, the legislature and voters. Yes, Californians in general are responsible for this failure of government. We get the government we deserve.

Imagine voters approving a bond issue for Embryonic Stem Cell research while their state is BANKRUPT. Our bond rating is in the tank and our stupidity rating is even lower.

We're all frustrated. We play by the rules but our employer won't. I have to send my employees out in 100+ degree heat to patch potholes which they do without complaining. How do I do this in good conscience given the circumstances?

As for the grief the pay-cuts are causing, we're running out of ways to cut. Some of us have a "bunker" mentality. We stay home, hunkered down, and spending as little as we can. I'm in a one-income home and this is hard. I thought that after 28 years with the State, I'd have figured it out. Guess again. I gather I should be "glad I have a job."

Jeff Frederiksen
Caltrans Maintenance Supervisor
Shoshone, CA
(Living in Pahrump, NV. Thank God!)

July 1, 2009
Whitman says 'at least' 17,000 mid-level state workers need to go
Meg Whitman, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, is on a swing through the Bakersfield area, fundraising and giving interviews to at least some newspapers.

On Wednesday, the former chief executive officer of eBay Inc. chatted with reporters and editors from The Bakersfield Californian.

You will recall that Whitman has told separate crowds in Orange County and Roseville that she would cut 30,000 state jobs, but offered little detail.

Now, she's elaborated on her plan - even as thousands of Service Employee International Union workers descend on the Capitol today for a lunchtime rally to protest budget and service cuts the state must make to cut its deficit.

Whitman's target? Middle-management, judging by her remarks.

"I would streamline the number of bureaucrats who work in the government. There's at least 17,000 mid-level bureaucrats that, I think, need to go because we have a government we cannot afford," Whitman told The Californian.
To see Whitman's more detailed Q & A with the newspaper, conducted at the Grimmway Farms carrot processing facility in Arvin, southeast of Bakersfield, click right here.

So folks, what do you think? Our bet is that state service would be badly damaged by reductions of that magnitude.  But we'd like to hear your views. 

What would you tell Whitman about her plan?
May 6, 2009
Dispose of e-waste for free today at the Capitol
The state has teamed up with Electronic Recyclers International to sponsor an electronic waste collection event today at the Capitol.

On the west side of the Legislature on 10th Street, state workers, businesses and the general public can bring and recycle electronic waste now banned from landfills.

The event runs until 5:30 p.m. tonight.

A convenient drive-through will reportedly allow people to drop off items without even getting out of their cars. You'll even get a "Keep California Beautiful" reusable bag.

Here's what they will accept: monitors; televisions; laptops; plasma screens; LCD screens; portable DVD Players; printers; faxes; copiers; telephones; cell phones and accessories; i-Pods or electronic/computer games; keyboards; computer mice; computer towers; computer speakers; and stereos and stereo speakers.

Note to budget-conscious state managers: This event is not open to your agencies to recycle state government waste. That happens through the Department of General Services. Learn more about that program by clicking here.
May 1, 2009
Contracts in place for drugs, supplies to fight H1N1 virus
The Department of General Services has told state departments and agencies that its procurement managers now have contracts in place to obtain supplies that may be needed to help manage the recent outbreak of the swine flu virus.

Agencies can acquire items like N-95 respirators, antiviral drugs, blankets, cots, and disinfectants under several different state commodity contracts now in place.

The contracts aim
to help agencies prepare for or treat patients infected with H1N1, Gregory Doe, a DGS pharmaceutical program consultant., said in an email this week.

1.      Antiviral Drug Supply Contracts - Purchases through these contracts are restricted to pandemic influenza bulk pharmaceuticals and are to be dispensed should a Pandemic Alert Period or Pandemic Period be declared by federal or State pandemic influenza-specific public health emergency declarations.

·  Tamiflu® - State Contract No. 1-08-65-60

·  Relenza® - State Contract  No. 1-08-65-61

       The Bulk Pharmaceutical Distribution Agreement is with AmerisourceBergen Drug Company - Agreement No. 1S-05-65-50.

2.    Medical Supplies, Services and Equipment The state's agreement is with McKesson Medical Surgical - Agreement No. 1-08-65-65-01.

3.    Gloves, N95 respirators and disinfectant products - Agreement No. 1S-06-84-01 (Empire Safety & Supply has stock in Roseville.)

4.   Janitorial supply/disinfection products - Agreement No. 1S-06-79-55

To read copies of DGS e-mails on swine flu contracts, click here and click here.

April 28, 2009
CalPERS names new top lobbyist (or should we say advocate?)
The state's giant employee pension fund has turned to an old hand from the Senate and Assembly to become its top lobbyist.

Melanie Moreno has been named chief of CalPERS Office of Governmental Affairs.

Moreno will oversee the giant pension fund's staff of legislative analysts and be the chief legislative lobbyist  for CalPERS on all state and federal legislative issues.

Her job includes overseeing the fund's lobbyist  - and lobbying -  in Washington, D.C., as well as its dealings with agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Moreno starts her new job at CalPERS May 25./ She succeeds Wendy Nottsineh.

Since 2002, Moreno has been a senior consultant on health care issues for both houses of the state legislature.

 "Her experience in the Legislature will make her an especially effective advocate," according to CalPERS chief executive  Anne Stausboll.

Moreno was recently  principal consultant for the Senate, analyzing statewide policy impacts of legislation before Senate Committees on Health.  She did  the same job or the Assembly from 2002 to 2007.

In addition to a B.A. in sociology from California State University, Sacramento, Moreno also has two master's degrees (Social Welfare and Public Health) from the University of California, Berkeley.

March 24, 2009
EDD technology faces Senate scrutiny as unemployment rises

It's no April Fool's joke.

A Senate Web site is listing a joint Senate hearing for April 1 into how the Employment Development Department is using technology.

The hearing is to be led by the chairmen of the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee and the Select Committee on Disaster and Emergency Response.

The official subject of the hearing, as reported today on the Senate Daily File, a Web site that tracks Senate activities and hearings: Technology at the Employment Development Department: How to build an EDD that meets the needs of California.

Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, and Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, will oversee the late afternoon session.

Florez's Bakersfield-area district is among those that have been hard hit by the state's continuing recession.

The state's overall unemployment rate is closing in on 11 percent, and the Business Forecasting Center at the University of the Pacific's Eberhardt School of Business forecast today that it could top 12 percent by year's end.

The Fresno Bee's Jim Boren -- read his recent opinion piece here -- has joined The Sacramento Bee and other news outlets in chronicling the challenges that newly unemployed taxpayers face as they try to reach EDD officials by telephone to file their unemployment insurance claim or ask questions.

No word yet on who the witnesses will be or who from EDD will appear.

March 24, 2009
Did EDD's boss offer hints about its current crisis back in 2007?

The five-year "strategic plans" that many state and federal government departments put together often make for great sleep aids for insomnia sufferers. Yet some of them offer historical insight -- and contain clues of troubles to come.

So it was for Employment Development Department Director Patrick Henning. Henning's EDD published a 26-page strategic plan to map its road from 2007- 2011, describing "critical issues and challenges" anticipated by the department.

You can see the whole EDD strategic plan report here.

Perhaps its most interesting part was an introduction by director Henning.

Henning jpeg.jpgTwo years ago, Henning wrote that while the state's economy was healthy, his department had problems of its own as it grappled with technological change at the same time the state's population was growing fast and its ethnic mix was changing.

"Our ability to meet these challenges is not without constraints," Henning wrote.

"Our department's workforce is aging and the majority of our most experienced staff who hold institutional knowledge is transitioning to well-earned retirement," he added.

"The technology that supports our programs and enables our services to be delivered efficiently and effectively is outdated, redundant, and difficult to maintain," Henning continued.

Was anybody in the administration reading or listening to Henning in 2007? We all know what's happened since, but for those of you who may need a quick reminder, here are a few stories The Bee has done on EDD's challenges.

Jobless Californians battle swamped EDD phone lines here.

EDD workers have still been semi-manually processing unemployment insurance claims, despite their department getting $66 million for upgrades from the federal government here.

Then, there's EDD's infamous 5 cent challenge. Each time a caller can't get through, a recorded message plays, and thanks to Verizon, that costs the department - and all taxpayers. That bill has hit $4.4 million in three months alone. Read about that here.

The problems highlighted by such stories are organizational and not the fault of its dedicated, hard-working staffers. The State Worker knows they are putting in countless hours of overtime to deal with the recession and related unemployment crisis.

An Assembly committee on government efficiency may want to ask Henning and his senior officials about all this. If its members do, his strategic plan is must reading.

March 9, 2009
DPA talks to management reps about furloughs, layoffs and 'golden parachutes'

The Association of California State Supervisors, which advocates for exempt state workers, has posted notes written by Senior Labor Rep Bonnie Morris from a meeting last Wednesday with DPA.

Before we continue, it's important to remember the context of what you're about to read: This was a meeting to talk about concerns of management employees, state workers who are not represented by a union.

Topics covered in the back-and-forth between ACSS and the administration include furlough policy, health care premiums, employee buyouts, business and travel expenses, holidays, classification and salary issues.

One of the questions that we regularly field is whether layoffs are still coming, now that lawmakers have passed the budget. ACSS asked the same question in its meet and confer:

ACSS: With the budget settled, do you anticipate there will still be a need for layoffs?


DPA: We are hopeful there won't be as many layoffs. We are hoping employees who received SROA notices Will move into postions that are not targeted elsewhere in state service. We hope the five budget-related propositions pass so this budget will be successfully completed. If the propositions do not pass, we will be in a worse situation, with more furloughs and layoffs.

You can link to the Morris notes from this page on the ACSS Web site. There's also an exempt employees furlough Q&A link on the upper left corner of the page.



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 jortiz@sacbee.com.

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