Ex-state lead­ers take Capitol jobs

Law­mak­ers de­fend the prac­tice as pro­vid­ing Cal­i­for­nia with ex­per­tise; crit­ics call it po­lit­i­cal pa­tron­age.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Pa­trick McGreevy

— As newly elected state Sen. Sharon Run­ner cam­paigned re­cently for a re­turn to the Leg­is­la­ture, Repub­li­can col­leagues kept her on the Se­nate pay­roll as an aide.

And af­ter term lim­its forced Demo­cratic state Sen. Ellen Cor­bett from of­fice, Se­nate leader Kevin de León (D-Los An­ge­les) ap­pointed her to a $128,109 post on a state board.

That panel, the state Un­em­ploy­ment In­sur­ance Ap­peals Board, also in­cludes for­mer As­sem­bly­man Michael Allen, ap­pointed by an As­sem­bly speaker.

Run­ner, Cor­bett and Allen are part of a long line of po­lit­i­cal in­sid­ers given jobs by the Leg­is­la­ture over the years, some while bid­ing their time un­til they can run for of­fice again. Oth­ers are re­lated to pow­er­ful po­lit­i­cal fig­ures.

Leg­isla­tive lead­ers de­fend the prac­tice of ap­point­ing and hir­ing for­mer of­fi­cials, say­ing it pro­vides the state with ex­per­tise. Tax­payer ac­tivist Lew Uhler dis­agreed, say­ing such hir­ing shows a lin­ger­ing sys­tem of po­lit­i­cal pa­tron­age at the state Capitol.

The prac­tice, said Uhler, pres­i­dent of the Cal­i­for­ni­abased Na­tional Tax Lim­i­ta­tion Com­mit­tee, is an “abuse of public re­sources.”

Sen. Jeff Stone (R-Mur­ri­eta) is tak­ing aim at the salaries pro­vided to some leg­isla­tive ap­pointees, propos­ing a $12,000 an­nual cap for 12 state boards and com­mis­sions.

“We’ve got to put an end to th­ese high-pay­ing com­mis­sions that serve no other pur­pose than to pro­vide a living for termed-out leg­is­la­tors,” Stone said.

Law­mak­ers wield broad pow­ers to hire and ap­point whomever they wish. Leg­isla­tive em­ploy­ees do not have to go through the Civil Ser­vice exam process that re­quires most other gov­ern­ment ap­pli­cants to com­pete for jobs on merit.

Run­ner, a Lan­caster resi

dent who was elected to the Se­nate for a sec­ond time in a spe­cial elec­tion last month, was hired as a part-time leg­isla­tive em­ployee in Fe­bru­ary 2013, two months af­ter leav­ing of­fice to re­cover her health fol­low­ing a dou­ble lung trans­plant.

Un­til Jan. 26 of this year, she was paid $2,530 a month for “pro­vid­ing valu­able coun­sel to mem­bers on con­stituent out­reach and com­mu­nity events within their dis­tricts,” said Peter DeMarco, a spokesman for Se­nate Repub­li­can leader Bob Huff of Di­a­mond Bar.

“The Leg­is­la­ture has drawn on the ex­pe­ri­ence of for­mer leg­is­la­tors in the past to per­form sim­i­lar du­ties,” he said.

Run­ner, whose hus­band is for­mer state Sen. Ge­orge Run­ner, now a mem­ber of the Cal­i­for­nia Board of Equal­iza­tion, said she wasn’t think­ing of run­ning again for the Se­nate when she took the leg­isla­tive aide job.

“I just wanted to be help­ful. I worked on some women’s is­sues and some out­reach,” Run­ner said, adding that she or­ga­nized health fairs in the dis­tricts of Repub­li­can Sens. Andy Vi­dak of Han­ford and An­thony Can­nella of Ceres. “It seemed like we needed to do more of that — out­reach that no­body’s fo­cus­ing on.”

When Sen. Steve Knight won a seat in Congress last fall, Run­ner said, she be­gan to think about run­ning to re­place him. Her cam­paign be­gan in De­cem­ber.

In 2008, the Se­nate paid Rod Wright at least $27,900 as a con­sul­tant while he was be­tween po­lit­i­cal jobs. He had served in the As­sem­bly and won a Se­nate race that year in an In­gle­wood-based dis­trict. A Demo­crat, Wright re­signed last year af­ter be­ing con­victed and sen­tenced for ly­ing about living in his dis­trict.

And As­sem­bly­man Ian Calderon (D-Whit­tier) was a field rep­re­sen­ta­tive for As­sem­bly­man War­ren Fu­ru­tani, mak­ing $50,000 a year, be­fore be­ing elected in 2012. Fu­ru­tani said he gave Calderon a job based on a re­fer­ral by the “As­sem­bly lead­er­ship.”

At the time, Calderon’s fa­ther, Charles Calderon, was the As­sem­bly ma­jor­ity leader.

Fabian Wesson is a con­sul­tant to the Se­nate Rules Com­mit­tee, pro­vid­ing a li­ai­son with the public in Los An­ge­les. She was hired in 2004 by for­mer As­sem­bly­man Mervyn Dy­mally (DLos An­ge­les) as her hus­band, Los An­ge­les City Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Herb Wesson, then a for­mer As­sem­bly speaker, was forced from of­fice by term lim­its.

In 2009, Fabian Wesson went to work for the Se­nate, where she makes $90,000 a year. Nei­ther Wesson nor her hus­band re­turned calls seek­ing com­ment.

Other leg­isla­tive em­ploy­ees with fam­ily ties to Sacra­mento in­clude Chance Con­dit, the grand­son of for­mer As­sem­bly­man Gary Con­dit. He was hired by As­sem­bly­man Adam Gray (D-Merced), who is mar­ried to Gary Con­dit’s daugh­ter.

He­len Con­dit, Gary Con­dit’s daugh­ter-in-law, is an aide to Sen. Can­nella, earn­ing $73,700.

And Robert Brulte, brother of for­mer Se­nate Repub­li­can leader Jim Brulte, is a con­sul­tant for the Se­nate, mak­ing $102,900 record­ing law­mak­ers’ com­ments for dis­tri­bu­tion to ra­dio sta­tions.

A spokes­woman for Se­nate leader De León de­fended his ap­point­ment of for­mer Sen. Cor­bett to a high-pay­ing state po­si­tion.

“The no­tion that cer­tain Cal­i­for­ni­ans should some­how be dis­qual­i­fied from state em­ploy­ment be­cause they hap­pen to be for­mer elected of­fi­cials is pre­pos­ter­ous,” Claire Con­lon said, “and would only serve to deny the state a di­verse tal­ent pool of highly com­mit­ted, qual­i­fied and uniquely ex­pe­ri­enced cit­i­zens.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.