A group of highly paid state employees is upset about a new Schwarzenegger administration edict demanding that they show up for work from 9 to 5 at their offices.
The employees in question, all of whom earn $100,000 a year or more, are political appointees on four obscure but influential state boards that govern workplace issues for everyone else in the state.
Over the last several months, a few of the employees were heavily involved in political campaigns. Others worked from their homes in the Bay Area, Los Angeles and San Diego rather than report to headquarters offices, most of which are in Sacramento.
“We want a full day’s work for a full day’s pay,” said Rick Rice, assistant secretary of the Labor and Workforce Development Agency, which issued the mandate.
The Republican administration believes many of the appointees are failing to do their jobs effectively. One board has a two-year backlog of work; another has 8,000 cases awaiting review. The boards handle thousands of appeals from people seeking workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance payments, workplace safety complaints and labor issues involving farmworkers.
Democratic appointees, however, feel besieged and believe Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is attempting to oust them and make his own appointments. Some say they are being punished for something that board members from both parties have done for decades -- working from home and taking part-time jobs after hours.
The issue now is moving into the courts. Daniel Zingale, a member of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board, was sued Wednesday by a Central Valley farmer who complained about political work that Zingale did to help defeat a November ballot measure. Zingale, who is paid $114,191 a year by the state, said he completes all of his board work on time and has a legal opinion stating that his $50,000 part-time political job did not pose a conflict.
Steve Maviglio, an appointee of former Gov. Gray Davis, sent out scores of campaign-related e-mails criticizing Schwarzenegger and Republican candidates during working hours on the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, where he serves full time. Maviglio’s post also pays $114,191 a year, and he has worked from home as well as at the agency’s Sacramento office.
Maviglio, a former press secretary for Davis, drew complaints from California Republicans who said he seemed to be working harder trashing Schwarzenegger than reviewing insurance appeals.
Maviglio countered that his work on behalf of Assembly Democrats was a part-time diversion, much like the governor’s writing a column for Muscle & Fitness and Flex magazines. He said he always completed his board assignments every day.
“Their contention is you cannot possibly have this job unless you get into a steel box and drive and then sit in an office for eight hours a day,” said Maviglio, who earned $20,000 for the Assembly job, working from home. “As millions of people in California prove every day, that is not required to do your job.”
Karen Hanretty, a spokeswoman for the California Republican Party, frequently clashed with Maviglio during the campaign season. She said Wednesday that “there ought to be a clear line between political work and work that is done on behalf of taxpayers. That line was clearly crossed in the heat of battle. I think far too many people have taken advantage of appointments and view them as plum positions.”
The administration put its foot down last week by demanding that Maviglio, Zingale and 17 other members of four state boards “devote their undivided energies and attention to the obligations of the board.”
All 19 were ordered to report to work immediately at their state headquarters rather than from home or wherever they normally spent their day. A few have since been given extensions.
“Working full time includes reporting to work for the entire workday,” wrote Victoria Bradshaw, the California Labor and Workforce Development secretary appointed by Schwarzenegger.
Bradshaw, a member of Schwarzenegger’s Cabinet, believes state law gives her the authority to “provide general supervision” over the independent boards, a contention that is being disputed by several board members.
Along with the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, Bradshaw also sent letters to members of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, the Agricultural Labor Relations Board and the Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board.
It was unclear what would happen if board members balked at her order. Schwarzenegger could attempt to fire them, likely prompting a court fight.
Bradshaw’s demand drew immediate complaints from some board members who said her office had no authority to order them to work in their Sacramento or San Francisco headquarters offices. Others simply requested more time to change their working situation. Maviglio’s board was given an extension until Nov. 22, he said.
Rice said Zingale’s case prompted a review of all of the labor-related boards. The administration is particularly concerned about high-ranking board members not being able to properly supervise their headquarters employees because they work hundreds of miles away. He noted that the Cal-OSHA board has a backlog of 7,000 cases -- two years worth of work.
“When you have a caseload that is two years behind, it seems to me it would be necessary for the highest-level management to show up in the office and supervise its execution,” Rice said.
Cynthia Thornton, chairwoman of the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, lives in San Diego and teaches a business law class at the University of San Diego. She said the class ends in the morning and allows her time to complete her work for the board. She said “sitting around in Sacramento” is not an effective way to monitor the field offices or attract qualified candidates for the positions.
“If we are going to have a clock-punching mentality, then I think we are asking for a different type of board,” Thornton said.
“What I expect from the board is cutting-edge thinking. I don’t care how they do it; what I want to see is results.”
Janice Jamison Murray, wife of state Sen. Kevin Murray (D-Culver City), sent a protest letter to Bradshaw, saying she begins her Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board workday at 7 a.m. and gives “my undivided attention to my work.” She said she is in touch with the San Francisco headquarters office by phone, fax and e-mail throughout the day.
Murray, who could not be reached for comment, makes $114,191 a year on the workers’ comp board, which has a backlog of 8,000 cases, according to Rice. In her letter, Murray protested that she was “neither absent nor part time.... I process the same caseload as all other members in a timely and diligent manner.”
Ann Richardson, a former Davis deputy legislative secretary appointed late last year to the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, charged that Bradshaw was making “a lot of assumptions that are not necessarily valid” about the board’s performance.
“There must be something better for them to do than to take a board that has federal funding, that is fully functioning with no backlog, and take potshots at us,” she said in a telephone interview from her state office in Sacramento.
All four members of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board -- Chairwoman Genevieve Shiroma, Michael Bustamante, Carolyn Rivera-Hernandez and Zingale -- received letters from Bradshaw, and “each individual indicated they believe they are in compliance with the letter,” said Antonio Barbosa, the board’s executive secretary.
Zingale said “there is nothing I would quarrel with” in the Bradshaw letter, since he works out of the board office every day. “I think what she did was right,” he said.
Zingale, who served as Cabinet secretary for Davis, recently has come under fire from other sectors because of his service on the farm labor board. Reedley farmer Dan Gerawan on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against Zingale in Sacramento County Superior Court, accusing him of violating a state law that appears to prohibit board members from engaging in “any other business, vocation or employment.”
Zingale, formerly director of the state Department of Managed Health Care, received payments of about $50,000 this year for political consulting work in the successful campaign against Proposition 67, which would have raised telephone taxes to pay for emergency room medical services. A 1999 opinion from the Legislature’s chief attorney stated that such political work would not conflict with the farm labor board’s mission, Zingale said.
Gerawan said he has his own attorney general’s opinion affirming the constitutionality of a ban on board members working at outside jobs. He is using that opinion in pursuing his case against Zingale.
Zingale is not the only Agricultural Labor Relations Board member with outside employment. Bustamante works as a public relations consultant, and Shiroma is an elected member of the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District. Bustamante said he performs all of his outside work in the early mornings and evenings.
Said Gerawan: “The fact that everybody is doing it is not an excuse.”