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public employment

CALPERS, the giant California public-sector pension fund, is among the nation’s leading scolds of corporate governance. So as Ira Stoll points out, it’s kind of newsworthy that its CEO over most of the 2000s just pled guilty to taking $200,000 in bribes from a contractor, the money handed over in paper bags and a shoebox. [New York Sun]

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An Illinois state employee “was dismissed in 2011 from her $115,000 per year job as an arbitrator for the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission after a series of stories in the News-Democrat concerning more than $10 million paid to prison guards who complained that turning keys and operating locks caused them to be injured.” The investigation indicated that the arbitrator tried to hide from the press a disability application by a former state trooper convicted of causing highway deaths, and allegedly used her position in an unsuccessful attempt to pressure state officials to speed up her own claim, commenting that she had ‘two mortgages’ to pay.” After her departure from the arbitrator job she “found work training others for the very job from which she was fired,” and now is endeavoring to collect a “pending $25,000 settlement for a disability primarily attributed to typing,” which the state is resisting. [Belleville, Ill., News-Democrat]

  • What is pay? What is wealth? And who (if anyone) should be envying whom? [David Henderson]
  • LIRR disability scammer gets probation, will repay lost $294K at rate of $25/month [Lane Filler, Newsday]
  • Costly license plate frame can help buy your way into California speeders’ nomenklatura [Priceonomics]
  • Ohio school superintendent who illegally used public moneys to promote school tax hike won’t face discipline [Ohio Watchdog]
  • Last-in, first-out teacher dismissal sacrosanct in California [Larry Sand]
  • “Los Angeles Inspector Convicted of Bribery Keeps $72,000 Pension” [Scott Shackford]
  • Heart and lung presumption is an artificial construct that drives municipal budgets for uniformed services [Tampa Bay Times]

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  • Los Angeles officials push SEIU-backed scheme to fasten unions on nonunion workforce at LAX airport [Brian Sumers, Contra Costa Times]
  • Want to empower cities? Reform binding labor arbitration [Stephen Eide, Urbanophile]
  • “Explainer: What Does President Obama’s Equal Pay Day Executive Order Change?” [Rachel Homer, On Labor]
  • One lawyer’s advice: “when an employee complains about discrimination, or otherwise engages in protected conduct, you must treat that employee with kid gloves” [Jon Hyman on Sixth Circuit retaliation case]
  • Detroit juggles pension numbers to fix deficit, papers over the real problem [Dan Kadlec, Time; Shikha Dalmia, Washington Examiner]
  • No room left to cut budget, part 245,871: federal grants promote labor unions [Examiner]
  • More on EEOC’s campaign to limit employment criminal background checks [Coyote, Daniel Schwartz]

In November 2010 Camden Sgt. Jeffrey Frett radioed for help after receiving a superficial gunshot wound in the leg. Police discovered his wife near the scene and the officer later admitted “that he and his wife had concocted the incident. Officers injured in the line of duty receive a pension that pays 66 percent of their salary tax-free for life.” In the mean time, however, Frett had applied for a disability pension on a separate basis, namely the aftereffects of a 2008 car accident while on duty. Now the state pension board has turned down his request, with one of its members publicly questioning why the officer was permitted to plead to a very minor charge to resolve the staged-shooting episode. [Philadelphia Daily News]

Maryland roundup

by Walter Olson on May 3, 2014

  • Correctional Officers Bill of Rights (COBR) of 2011, developing out of AFSCME efforts to defend prison guards in western Maryland, and role it played in Baltimore jail scandal. Vital reading [Charles Lane, City Journal, Sasha Volokh; earlier; related Kevin Williamson on incident at NYC's Riker's Island in which mentally ill inmate was permitted to roast to death, responsible officer drawing 30-day suspension]
  • Narrowly defeated effort to enact state False Claims Act becomes issue in Senate GOP primary [Frederick News-Post, earlier here, here]
  • Citing federal guidelines, Howard County schools restrict special-event food [Ellicott City Patch]
  • Judge rebuffs lawsuit by Montgomery County police union seeking to invalidate legislative measures inconsistent with its contract [WaPo] County council race “a ‘battle royale’ between the government employee and school system unions” [Seventh State]
  • “Maryland Puts Up Roadblocks to Online Ed” which just happens to protect the state’s UMUC (University of Maryland University College) [The American Interest, Arnold Kling]
  • Will Montgomery County finally get out of the liquor distribution business? [Bethesda magazine]
  • And speaking of MoCo monopolies, its taxi near-cartel needs to go: “Uber provides a better service even without the regulation” [David Lublin, The Seventh State]

“…They’d traded dignity for money. That’s what lenient retirement boards do to people.” An ex-fireman has drawn criticism by suing the city of Providence for $7 million, saying it unfairly cut off his check after a TV station filmed him “doing a muscular weightlifting workout,” calling his claimed shoulder-related disability into doubt. [Mark Patinkin, Providence Journal]

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Following up on the sensational Blue Line crash at the Chicago Transit Authority’s O’Hare Airport terminus: “The CTA’s contract with the Amalgamated Transit Union authorizes the agency to fire rail operators who have had two serious safety violations in a short period of time [emphasis added], and officials said the two incidents when [Brittney] Haywood dozed off qualify her for termination.” Falling asleep just once at the controls of a train wasn’t enough! [CBS Chicago] More: Bill Zeiser, American Spectator.

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And the curious thing is, they’re from prosecutors. “The prosecutors’ office replaced part-time assistant prosecutors with full-time positions in 2011. Eight of the part-time employees who were replaced sued the city for age, race and/or gender discrimination, The Kansas City Star reported. … The eight former assistant city prosecutors filed their lawsuits individually and alleged different circumstances.” [Claims Journal]

One would think the whole concept of the union-backed “correctional officers’ bill of rights” might have been thrown into disrepute by last year’s Maryland scandal, in which the statute was found to have entrenched problem guards even as the Baltimore jail descended into a scandalous state of gang-run corruption. But apparently not: the Pennsylvania House has unanimously (!) voted in favor of having that state adopt its own such “bill of rights,” weakening administrators’ power to investigate possible officer misconduct. Details of H.B. 976 here.

  • Minimum wage laws are sentimental legislation with all-too-real effects [Jeffrey Dorfman] “Our Business’s Response to California $2 Minimum Wage Increase” [Coyote, with more on a union angle on minimum wage laws] Some experience from Europe [Steve Hanke, more, Cato overview of minimum wage debate]
  • Connecticut fires state labor department employee who gamed system to get benefits for friend, then reinstates after grievance [Raising Hale] Oldie but goodie: union contract in Bay City, Mich. gave teachers five strikes to show up work drunk before being fired [Mackinac Center two years back]
  • Background of Harris v. Quinn, now before SCOTUS: Blagojevich and Quinn favors for SEIU [George Leef, Forbes, earlier here, etc.]
  • If you decline to hire applicants who’ve sued previous employers, you may face liability over that [Jon Hyman]
  • More on class action seeking pay for volunteer Yelp reviewers [LNL, earlier]
  • “Intriguingly, returns to skills are systematically lower in countries with higher union density, stricter employment protection, and larger public-sector shares.” [Eric Hanushek et al, NBER via Cowen]
  • “L.A. Sheriff’s Department Admits Hiring 80 Problem Officers; May Not Be Able to Fire Them” [Paul Detrick, Reason]

The Costa Mesa Syndrome

by Walter Olson on January 24, 2014

Reuters on the phenomenon of police harassment of local political opponents (earlier here, here, etc.) By no means are the reports limited to California:

There also have been allegations of intimidation by police in Cranston, Rhode Island.

On Jan. 9, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung announced that state police will take over an investigation into a flurry of parking tickets issued in the wards of two council members. The pair claim the tickets were issued as retribution after they voted against a new contract for police that would have given them a pay raise….

Major Robert Ryan, a spokesman for the Cranston Police Department, said: “The matter is under investigation, and pursuant to law enforcement’s bill of rights, no-one is going to comment on this.”

As readers may recall, those high-sounding “law enforcement bill of rights” gimmicks serve mostly to entrench law enforcement personnel against consequences or accountability for misbehavior, and thus have less than nothing to do with the Constitution’s actual Bill of Rights. More: Radley Balko.

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His two hats

by Walter Olson on January 2, 2014

An arbitrator overseeing negotiations between New York City and unions is also a fund-raiser for incoming Mayor Bill de Blasio [Capital New York]

The phrase “evoked the ‘military-industrial complex’ about which President Dwight Eisenhower famously warned the nation in a speech days before he left office in 1961.” [Times-Union]

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According to the Chicago Sun-Times, an Illinois prison official “with a lengthy criminal history” has returned to the state payroll despite a record of “lewd and inappropriate emails” on the taxpayers’ dime and falsifying an earlier job application [Chicago Sun-Times]:

…Still, Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration struck a settlement with McCraven and his union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees….

In June, [after withdrawing a lawsuit] he then dropped a union grievance and accepted a 10-day suspension, got six months of back pay and was transferred to the job he now holds as senior adviser to the chief of parole with the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Asked to explain why McCraven was allowed to stay on the state payroll, the Quinn administration cited the potential financial costs of losing a grievance case. …

The Chicago Sun-Times reported Monday that McCraven is working for the state prison system despite being arrested “at least” 24 times on charges including arson, illegal gun possession, attempted robbery, drug possession and aggravated assault.

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“Even though they received back-pay, they are now suing the government….Their attorney said that late payment violates the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act and they’re now owed damages – adding up to hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars per worker.” [Mike Conneen, WJLA]

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