Two officials resign as gov. overhauls staff

Times Staff Writer

Two of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s prominent aides are leaving the administration, the first in what is expected to be a string of departures as the governor, following his reelection victory last week, retools his staff.

Schwarzenegger aides confirmed Wednesday that Alan D. Bersin, the governor’s education advisor, is stepping down, as is Richard Costigan, a senior aide in charge of pushing the governor’s agenda through the Legislature.

Costigan, who also advises Schwarzenegger on which bills to sign or veto, is taking a job in the Sacramento office of the law firm McKenna Long & Aldridge.


One of the most visible figures in Schwarzenegger’s operation, Costigan darted among legislative offices in the Capitol in a bid to sway votes for the governor’s plans. An original member of Schwarzenegger’s team, he survived a shake-up a year ago, when Schwarzenegger, with his job approval rating plunging, brought in Democratic Chief of Staff Susan Kennedy to help position him for his reelection campaign.

He “was in the middle of everything and worked hard, whether it was on California’s impending insolvency or workers’ compensation or myriad other legislative issues,” Assemblyman Keith Richman (R-Northridge) said.

Costigan had been undecided about his future before the Nov. 7 election. In recent weeks, he quietly submitted his resignation to the governor and withdrew it, resubmitting it Wednesday, according to administration officials. No successor has yet been named, officials said.

Colleagues said privately that Costigan relished his position. Schwarzenegger plainly liked him. For a time, the governor paid Costigan an extra $5,000 a month in campaign funds on top of his $123,000 state salary. Costigan would occasionally mix with donors at the governor’s campaign fundraisers -- a practice Kennedy has banned.

Bersin had been education secretary since April 2005, when he succeeded former Los Angeles Mayor Richard J. Riordan. In early fall, he was a candidate for L.A. Unified superintendent -- one of about a dozen applicants who were interviewed by the selection committee. But he was not named a finalist.

Reviews of Bersin’s Sacramento tenure are mixed.

A former San Diego schools superintendent, he was seen as ineffective by the powerful California Teachers Assn. The union contends that the education secretary job is redundant: California already has an elected state school superintendent and a state Board of Education.


“I don’t think Alan did anything to change our opinion,” said union President Barbara Kerr. “I don’t think he did anything really bad, or anything really good.”

But Sen. Jack Scott (D-Altadena) said Bersin was a valuable ally and confidant in passing a bill aimed at preventing poor-performing teachers who are forced out of one school from turning up at another.

“He was very helpful in indicating the value of the bill and in shaping the bill as we talked about it,” Scott said.

Efforts to reach Bersin late Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Ramon C. Cortines, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s top education advisor, said that in a recent conversation with Bersin, the education secretary said he was planning to return to San Diego, “working for the city” in some capacity.

In a prepared statement about Bersin’s departure, the governor said: “I am proud of the accomplishments in public education my administration has made with Alan’s help -- such as fully funding education, restoring vocational education, arts, music and physical education programs and continued student improvement on standardized test scores.”

Times staff writer Joel Rubin contributed to this report.

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