During most of the year, while the legislature is in session, the Senate usually votes on bills on Monday afternoons and Thursday mornings. This week — at the end of this year’s session — we’re addressing some 70 bills in all-day, marathon floor sessions. But, the joys of addressing a monolithic bureaucracy continues to get press coverage.
The Daily Caller, from Washington, D.C., opines, with a great title, on employees paid for doing nothing. It’s the first piece below.
The Voice of OC meanders on the Office of Independent Review (OIR), pulling in Caltrans, while observing recent Orange County events. Thanks to public safety disclosure limitations, the OIR model was the best available to the county at the time. LA County’s Sheriff ignored its OIR and Sheriff Baca resigned in disgrace. Orange County fully utilized its OIR and has a Sheriff’s Department and jails that have improved dramatically in the past eight years. Steven J. Connolly has done a fantastic job and the members of the Sheriff’s command staff know it and will tell you. There’s my brief perspective, enjoy the Voice’s in the second piece below, which provides a union perspective.
BONUS: I’m also including two recent e-mail blasts below on the subject of the proposed gas tax increase.
Automobile traffic backs-up as it travels north from San Diego to Los Angeless along Interstate Highway 5 in California December 10, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Blake
California Leads The Nation In Money For Nothing
Policy Fellow, Independent Institute
A federal patent examiner recently made news for doing no work for 18 weeks while getting paid his full salary. In similar style, senior policy advisor John Beale of the Environmental Protection Agency told his bosses he worked for the CIA and did no work for two and a half years, receiving not only his full salary but some $500,000 in bonuses. Those cases may be hard to top, but California is giving it a shot.
The massive California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) maintains 3,500 full-time employees who do little beyond drawing their salaries. This revelation emerges from a 2014 report by the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst (LAO), which notes Caltrans’ surplus of engineers who prepare and supervise construction projects. The news disturbs some legislators.
“It is not okay to continue having these people sitting idly by while we desperately need that money for transportation projects today,” assemblywoman Kristin Olsen told reporters. “There is absolutely no good policy reason to use taxpayer funds to pay 3,500 people to just be sitting around at a desk.” But Caltrans does it anyway.
The Legislative Analyst recommends cutting the positions. That does not please California’s government employee union bosses such as Bruce Blanning, executive director of Professional Engineers in California Government.
“The LAO approaches these issues in an almost childlike manner” Blanning told Andrew Holzman of the Sacramento Bee. Blanning opposes the cuts and recommends keeping staff on hand for future projects, when state or federal money might be available. So his union likes the idea of drawing a full-time paycheck for doing nothing, courtesy of California taxpayers.
Some legislators decry the waste and want Caltrans to hire workers on a contract basis. Blanning contends that it is contracting out that “wastes taxpayer money,” not the thousands of full-time workers paid their full salaries and generous benefits to do nothing.
Legislators and taxpayers alike might turn their attention to what Caltrans does when its full-time employees are not just sitting around. The new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge came in ten years late and $5 billion over budget, and remains riddled with faulty welds, cracked rods, corrosion problems and such.
State senator Mark DeSaulnier, now a congressman, held hearings on the bridge’s safety problems and heard whistleblowers call for a criminal investigation. The case was strong, but no such investigation ever took place. “There’s never been anyone in the management of the bridge who has been held accountable,” laments DeSaulnier.
Caltrans maintains the 3,500 idle employees in its Capital Outlay Support Program. A bill by state senator John Moorlach would increase the number of contract employees in this program by 5 percent per year, aiming for a 50/50 ratio by 2023. That shift might be a good start, but the proposed reform faces tough odds.
Like all government employee unions, Professional Engineers in California Government lobbies the legislature and spends nearly $2 million a year on political contributions. The odds are stronger that cuts will be few, if any, and California government will continue to pay thousands of full-time employees to do nothing.
Meanwhile, the patent examiner and fake CIA man are not the only ones in Washington paid to do nothing. If he is serious about accountability, congressman DeSaulnier might run a count on people like that.
Lloyd Billingsley is a policy fellow and communications consultant with the Independent Institute.
Santana: No Civilian Oversight Over Police Is Better Than Faux Oversight
By Norberto Santana, Jr.
When political leaders don’t want to lead, they propose to study.
It’s the ultimate stall tactic and usually quite effective in buying time, if not burying sticky issues altogether.
But the stall often comes with a hefty price tag.
Following a 3-2 vote by county supervisors earlier this month, taxpayers get to spend $120,000 for the rest of this year (keep in mind that November and December are no-work months in government) to have Los Angeles-based consultant Mike Gennaco tell us whether the work of his side business – OIR Group – has any value and whether OIR should be replaced by another model of oversight here in Orange County.
In short, Orange County taxpayers this year get to dole out nearly $30,000 every month for the remainder of this year to keep up the fantasy that county leaders are interested in heightening civilian oversight over law enforcement.
They are not.
They will not.
This is all just a pretty bullshit ballet…with a $120,000 bar tab.
Gennaco’s colleague and business partner, Steve Connolly, has been in hot water here ever since his contract began back in 2008 after the jail killing of John Derek Chamberlain.
I virtually witnessed the birth of OIR watching my then-colleague Tony Saavedra of the Orange County Register interview then-County Supervisor John Moorlach about the killing and what government leaders were doing about it.
Moorlach – whether knowingly or unknowingly – made the wisest and most interesting decision in the murder’s aftermath calling on his then-chief of staff Mario Mainero to immediately head down to the jail and see what was happening.
That made all the difference in the world.
Mainero, now a law professor at Chapman University, saw numerous irregularities and acted as a good citizen, a good Catholic, and reported what he saw regardless of political fallout.
That forced change.
That’s civilian oversight.
They’re called elected officials, who have the strength of character to do their job – especially when it’s a tough one.
But then Moorlach overstepped.
Faced with reporters’ questions about what the government was doing, he ignored his conservative ideology and decided to create an entire new government department because of one scandal.
Moorlach leaned on what most politicians do – adding staff – when confronted with a tough policy challenge.
Meet the Office of Independent Review.
Ironically, today it’s State Sen. Moorlach who is leading a fascinating charge against Caltrans’ bloated bureaucracy.
Yet back in 2008, Orange County supervisors were embarrassed by the revelations from the Chamberlain murder – of deputies watching videos while an inmate was beaten to death – and they trotted out OIR as a compromise.
As with most window-dressing reforms, supervisors allowed people to call OIR civilian review, which it is very much not.
Civilian review panels typically look deeply into use of force incidents in a very public manner and are bitterly opposed by most elected sheriffs and law enforcement unions.
OIR, in turn, allows departments to analyze their actions with an extra layer of analysis by the so-called independent assessment of OIR. These types of after-action analysis typically get more cooperation from departments because they don’t’ publicize what’s happening.
Indeed, the most interesting revelation during these past months of deliberations over OIR has come from Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, who has openly challenged county supervisors saying that she won’t cooperate with any of outside review of her department’s actions.
Hutchens likes the cozy relationship her department has with OIR. Moorlach also indicates that Connolly has helped solve countless issues inside the department that cannot be publicized.
Hutchens has been a staunch supporter of OIR, saying it’s virtually the only thing holding back a federal take over of Orange County jails – a contention that has obviously has enraged the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, the deputies union.
But lets remember one thing here.
It’s Los Angeles County – which had OIR and a civilian review board – that has a jail system undergoing a massive questioning.
That’s the same agency where Hutchens was a top commander before coming to Orange County.
And remember one last thing, in fairness to the work of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs.
There hasn’t been a visible jail beating scandal since Chamberlain in 2008.
Meanwhile, the civic center area in downtown Santa Ana with hundreds of homeless residents searching for help on the public grounds could desperately use a pair of social workers to work the area and help connect people to existing government programs.
That’s a much better use of $120,000.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Contact: Amanda Smith (949-223-5037)
This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District.
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