Magnifying Glass

By Jon Ortiz
jortiz@sacbee.com
Published: Sunday, Apr. 21, 2013 – 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Sunday, Apr. 21, 2013 – 7:19 am

Despite the Brown administration’s edict last year to sweep out nearly all retirees from the state workforce, more than two dozen departments still use them to fill some of the highest-paying positions in government, according to state data reviewed by The Bee.

The numbers in an internal Department of Human Resources report show a total of 75 retirees in 26 departments held “career executive assignments” in February. The positions pay the retirees from $45 per hour to $75 per hour on top of their pensions.

More than a third of those retired-annuitant executive positions were in the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Scott Carney, administrative services director at the Department of Corrections, said using retirees at the executive level injects much-needed skill and experience into the department as it navigates a massive court-ordered downsizing, reorganizes its system of 33 prisons and shepherds a new generation of leaders.

“They have unique skill sets,” Carney said.

Retired state employees are not allowed to work more than half-time hours in a given fiscal year and still draw their pensions.

Critics contend that limitation alone suggests retirees brought back as career executives couldn’t be taking on the workload and responsibility to justify such a high pay rate. They say the practice breeds cronyism under the guise of filling crucial positions because the state has failed to adequately address a leadership vacuum.

The state correctional officers union, the Bureau of State Audits and several former human resources managers interviewed question whether these high-level retired annuitants are doing the work that goes with the title and the pay. How, they wonder, can a part-time or intermittent employee hold such a high-level title?

“The current setup is wildly inappropriate,” said JeVaughn Baker, spokesman for California’s state correctional officers union. “If these are mission-critical management positions, then they should be filled by full-time people invested in the long-term success of the department.”

The Department of Corrections in February accounted for 28 of the 75 retirees on the state’s roster of career executives. Most held the title chief deputy administrator, which pays $59.12 per hour – up to $56,755 annually if they work the maximum 960 hours allowed.

Full-time employees with that title are salaried deputy wardens at a prison. Retirees at that level in corrections may serve in various roles, from mentors for up-and-coming wardens to managing special projects or testifying in court cases.

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