California government corruption
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- See also: California state budget
"How did Linda Morris Williams get a $100,202 buyout for leaving her $200,400-a-year headquarters job in Oakland and "starting her new job paying the same salary in the office of UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau" the next day. The case has provoked considerable controversy and criticism. The San Francisco Chronicle filed a CPRA request which led to the disclosure of e-mails between the parties involved that Williams "had been virtually assured by Birgeneau's close aides that the job was hers and was even placed on a UC Berkeley organizational chart five days before she applied for the buyout" contrary to earlier claims that Williams was unaware of the possibility of future employment at the Berkeley campus. In her new job, Williams oversees whistleblowing."
another example of improper management actions University of California Berkeley. When UC Berkeley announced its elimination of baseball, men’s and women’s gymnastics, and women’s lacrosse teams and its defunding of the national-champion men’s rugby team, the chancellor sighed, “Sorry, but this was necessary!” But was it? Yes, the university is in dire financial straits. Yet $3 million was somehow found to pay the Bain consulting firm to uncover waste and inefficiencies in UC Berkeley, despite the fact that a prominent East Coast university was doing the same thing without consultants. Essentially, the process requires collecting and analyzing information from faculty and staff. Apparently, senior administrators at UC Berkeley believe that the faculty and staff of their world-class university lack the cognitive ability, integrity, and motivation to identify millions in savings. If consultants are necessary, the reason is clear: the chancellor, provost, and president have lost credibility with the people who provided the information to the consultants. Chancellor Robert J Birgeneau has reigned for eight years, during which time the inefficiencies proliferated. Even as Bain’s recommendations are implemented (“They told me to do it”, Birgeneau), credibility and trust problems remain. Bain is interviewing faculty, staff, senior management and the academic senate leaders for $150 million in inefficiencies, most of which could have been found internally. One easy-to-identify problem, for example, was wasteful procurement practices such as failing to secure bulk discounts on printers. But Birgeneau apparently has no concept of savings: even in procuring a consulting firm, he failed to receive proposals from other firms.
Students, staff, faculty, and California legislators are the victims of his incompetence. Now that sports teams are feeling the pinch, perhaps the California Alumni Association, benefactors and donators, and the UC Board of Regents will demand to know why Birgeneau is raking in $500,000 a year despite the abdication of his responsibilities.
The author, who has 35 years’ consulting experience, has taught at University of California Berkeley, where he was able to observe the culture and the way the senior management operates.
California collected about $80 billion in taxes in the fiscal year (ended June 30), compared with $3.6 billion in revenue for Houston-based Diamond. California has never defaulted on its debt. The state paid 1.5 percentage point more in interest, about $785 million in additional cost for taxpayers over the 30-year life of $1.75 billion in Build America Bonds.
California and many other states are not requiring municipalities to file timely financial information. The disclosure that state and local governments provide to investors is in the “dark ages,” said Gary Pollack, of Deutsche Bank AG’s Private Wealth Management unit in New York.
“The municipal bond market is the last bastion of hidden information,” said Timothy Koch, chairman of the finance department at the Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina.
U.S. taxpayers are paying as much as $6 billion a year because public officials’ financing is in the dark in the $2.8 trillion tax-exempt bond market, according to data and interviews from more than a dozen states. However, the recession is forcing municipal governments to cut spending or raise taxes.
One hundred days into the fiscal year, California finally passed a state budget on Oct. 8, 2010, but lawmakers did so without a great deal of transparency. The governor and legislative leaders hammered out budget details behind closed doors, and after reaching an agreement, neither side was anxious to disclose the details. Gov. Schwarzenegger's press secretary informed the public that "...the details will come out next week." Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg also did not reveal specifics of the new budget, saying only that negotiators had reached a "comprehensive agreement."
The primary budget bill was not available from the Legislature's website, from the office of the Assembly clerk, or from the bill room shortly before or directly after the Assembly's first vote on the bill. The only opportunity for the public to hear details about the budget was during a short public hearing by the joint budget conference committee the day before the vote, despite the agreement being reached five days prior to that.
The small city of Bell, California in southeast Los Angeles has been rocked by scandal since the Los Angeles Times revealed that city leaders gave themselves enormous salaries, loaned public funds to City Hall staffers, council members and businesses, and massively increased their future pensions. This occured even as city residents faced job losses and a struggling economy.
Now, according to a third state audit by the state controller, former Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo improperly and perhaps illegally steered more than $700,000 in federal and state money to companies without competitive bidding or even obtaining necessary City Council approval. Some have raised serious questions about conflicts of interest, such as when D&J Engineering (a company owned by then-planning director Dennis Tarango) was paid nearly $100,000 from an oil recycling grant even though the company did not have a contract for the work. Tarango was also once partners with Rizzo in a horse-racing venture.
The financial scandal facing this small town simply reinforces the need for openness in government through online spending transparency websites.
Nearly 75% of members voted to ratify the Service Employees International Union Local 1000 contract with California. The contract, which covers 95,000 state employees,reduces salary by almost 5% and rolls back pension benefits, a move that will protect the employees from wider government furloughs. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's office said that the agreement will save the state $383 million in FY2011.
Turlock, CA On August 26, 2010, Superior Court of Stanislaus County, California issued its ruling the the case of Californians Aware v. CSU, Stanislaus ordering the release of Sara Palin's speaking contract and information. The story made national news a few months ago when Californians Aware requested the documents after the University repeatedly denied possessing them, alleging that they were instead in the hands of the University's private non-profit foundation. Judge Roger M. Beauchesne, who released the ruling, claimed that while the foundation was in fact not subject to the California Public Records Act, the University effectively "used" the contract in the process of conducting public business, therefor rendering it a public record. The judge stated in his opinion, ""The reasonable inference from the evidence produced is that the university, in its official capacity, has 'used' the contract between the Washington Speakers Bureau in the conduct of the public's business; therefore, said contract is also a public record and should have been produced to petitioner."
To read more about the original request, please see: Palin's speech calls into question California's laws on non-profits.
Oregon lawmakers have taken steps in pushing back the policies by suspending for two years sections of a voted-in law mandating longer sentences for repeat property offenders and drug dealers. The lawmakers passed a new set of restrictions keeping costly initiative measures at bay.
Washington lawmakers passed a law to save almost $1 billion by essentially ignoring some state education initiatives. One of these called for annual teacher raises.
Washington Democrats suspended a initiative that makes requirements for training for home-care aides who serve the elderly and disabled.
"One of the biggest concerns that lawmakers have is the financial straitjacket that initiatives can put on legislatures through big spending proposals or through spending and revenue caps," said Jennie Drage Bowser of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Several officials have come forward to demand greater transparency as a result of the Bell salaries. State Controller John Chiang expanded salary reporting requirement that all cities and counties must report salaries to him by October 15th of this year and that the salaries will be posted on the Controller's website in November. Treasurer Bill Lockyer has proposed new auditing rules which would require reporting large pay increases that affect pension benefits. Both of the officials have roles in CalPERS, California's retirement system, who knew about the salaries since 2006.
Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown has also called for an investigation into the situation. Sen. Lou Correa has proposed the Taxpayer Right to Know Act, which would create database of public employee pay. The League of California Cities is also drafting legislation to proactively disclose salary and pension information for local employees. The League of California Cities has insisted for the transparency effort to work the legislation must encourage citizen engagement, transparency, and local control.
Others, like Brian Call with the OC Register has suggested that fulltime Mayors, who depend on elections, would also be better than a city manger system.
Turlock, CA Senator Leland Yee has demanded that the private, non-profit CSU Stanislaus Foundation release the records surrounding its contract with Sarah Palin for her planned June 25 speech at the University. Palin's going rate at other events is around $100,000. Yee claims that the funds which are being used to pay for the speech and public funds and should be disclosed. Yee argues that the substantial funding received by the Foundation from government sources, including over $1.5 million in public funds to employees and over $3 million in grants last year, should result in the foundations documents being open. The foundation has denied the FOIA request because university foundations are exempt under the ruling delivered in California State University, Fresno Assn., Inc. v. Superior Court.
The bill, AB 1336, would permit cities to place cameras on public street sweeping vehicles throughout California in order to photograph parking violations. However, what has freedom of information rights activists angered is the portion of the bill which explicitly exempts these photos from public records requests. By creating an exemption outside of the CPRA, the California legislature establishes their power to ear mark exemptions within future bills and thus sidestep the CPRA in an obvious move towards secrecy.
The audit revealed at least $110,000 of the TALB's general operation funds were spent on campaigns in direct violation to union and state procedures. These feeds went to campaigns and paid legal fees.
Auditors also found that in 2006 TALB spent $53,000 thousands more dollars than allowed in the published general budget. These expenses did not gain the approval of he school board.
Once the draft is on the council agenda, Worthington said he will request City Manager Phil Kamlarz to present the document to the public and city officials. Then, Kamlarz's office and the city attorney would submit comments on it within a month. Afterward, the council could hold a discussion and vote on the measure.
At a public meeting, the councilman said, “I think because the general public is served by having strong enforcement, politicians might not think it is in their best interest, because they might end up getting caught. But I am hopeful our City Council will approve a strong ordinance."
Created through a partnership with Microsoft and Google, each school listing will include a detailed area map, Academic Performance Index (API) scores going back two years, how much district money is spent per pupil and a breakdown of student demographics. All information comes directly from the school districts, and can also include a great wealth of other information, ranging from AP classes offered and after school programs to API growth from year to year.
Regarding the site, Secretary of Education Dave Long stated, "This site will provide accurate and valuable school data in a clear and concise way that will empower parents to make meaningful decisions regarding the education of their children."
With only a few clicks, a parent is able to research schools and compare them side by side on factors such as graduation rate and API scores. To this end, some have envisioned this as a new tool that would let schools effectively campaign for students.
Superior Court Judge Harvey Silberman, 52, and two political consultants, Evelyn Jerome Alexander and Alan Randall Steinberg, have been indicted on charges of offering a bribe to Deputy District Attorney Serena Murillo. They were allegedly trying to drop out of the municipal election. The grand jury transcript detailing the alleged scheme has not been released.
The charges were solicitation of money or valuable consideration to induce a person not to become a candidate for public office and Silberman, Alexander and Steinberg each face up to three years in state prison if convicted.
Alexander and Steinberg are partners of SJA Strategies, a public affairs firm, and have pleaded not guilty.
Silberman, who on paid leave pending the outcome of the case, is awaiting arraignment, which has been postponed until a judge from another county is assigned to the case.
"In a ruling that alarmed some open-government advocates, a state appeals court said counties can withhold autopsies and other coroner's reports from the public if they are part of a criminal investigation likely to lead to prosecution.
The decision by the Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento is the first in California to exempt any category of coroner's reports from disclosure under the state Public Records Act, which makes most state and local government documents accessible."
"Coroner and autopsy reports from suspected homicide deaths are exempt from disclosure under California’s Public Records Act, the Third District Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
Reasoning that the reports present a concrete and definite prospect of criminal law enforcement proceedings, the court rejected a former-California-attorney-turned-publisher’s request for records relating to a Sacramento woman whose bullet-riddled body was found in an open El Dorado County field in 1971.
Phillip Arthur Thompson was convicted in 2008 of the murder of Elizabeth Cloer after a 2003 analysis of DNA left at the scene tied him to the crime."
"Orange County supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to seize back control of security at their meetings after deputies swarmed the boardroom earlier this month, intimidating gun activists from speaking out against Sheriff Sandra Hutchens’ new concealed weapons policy.
“It is to assert our authority that we’re ultimately in charge of security,” said County Supervisor Chris Norby, who sponsored changes to the board’s meeting rules along with County Supervisor Janet Nguyen.
The controversy over boardroom security stems from a Jan. 13 board of supervisors meeting where gun activists were confronted by placards at the board meeting warning people against bringing firearms into the building. In addition, numerous SWAT deputies and plain clothes officers were in the audience and questioned three activists."
"At some point in 2007, a whistleblower at California Children's Services, a program run by the county of San Diego that provides wheelchairs and other medical devices to children with physical disabilities, filed a complaint with the county alleging improprieties within the program.
The county launched a widespread investigation into the allegations that continued for at least 13 months in 2007 and 2008, records show. The investigation led to disciplinary action against county employees and changes to the county's ethics policies, but the report the investigators produced, and all the information it contains, is being kept a secret."
"East Palo Alto's biggest landlord has filed another lawsuit against the city, adding to the ongoing legal entanglement between the two over rent hikes.
In the suit filed Jan. 6 in San Mateo County Superior Court, Woodland Park Management LLC, Page Mill Properties' management company, alleges that East Palo Alto officials refused to hand over public documents related to a peer review of the city's rent control system.
The city of Berkeley, whose own rent control ordinance was the model for East Palo Alto's, completed the review last year."
"Transcripts of text messages sent by Orange County sheriff's officials during a November 2008 Board of Supervisors meeting shows the law enforcement leaders used their cell phones to ridicule activists and even supervisors during a public hearing on gun permit policies.
The messages, obtained under a public records request by a group named Ordinary California Citizens Concerned With Safety, reveal a combative tone by sheriff's command staff toward the activists. Some county supervisors questioned whether that defensiveness triggered the large security presence that met activists when they returned to a January meeting seeking to again criticize Sheriff Sandra Hutchens' gun policies."
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