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California DOC Wage Audit: Guards Overcharged State $12 Million for Union Business Leave

California?s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), the state Legislature?s watchdog over prison operations, reviewed guards? use of leave for union-related business and found that California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) accounting controls were so loose as to put in grave doubt the validity of $12 million of such charges between 2000 and 2006. Corrections Secretary James Tilton, himself a former business manager in CDCR, admitted the problems described in the OIG?s June 2006 Special Report into Management of Union Leave Time by CDCR and promised a 10-point remedial plan.

Under California?s Ralph C. Dills Act (Government Code §§ 3512-3524), labor unions representing state agencies such as the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) must be provided reasonable time off for a reasonable number of union representatives to conduct union business on the job site, without loss of compensation. California?s prison guards, represented in Bargaining Unit 6 (BU6), negotiated for five categories of such union-business leave in their 2000-2006 contract.

The largest category, ?Release Time Bank,? permits the approximately 30,000 union members to donate some of their personal leave hours (e.g., vacation) to a ?bank? that can be drawn down by union representatives to pay for union business they do while on the job. The CCPOA?s most recent six year contract provides that up to 10,000 hours may be thus ?banked.? [This cap is presently being disputed in court.] Thus, union members ?pay? for their union representatives? time, in one sense. But in another sense, the taxpayers pay for it because CDCR must hire extra workers to do the work of those away on union business. However, the OIG determined that a staggering 197,802 hours had been ?withdrawn? by rank-and-file union representatives, and another 24,687 hours were used by supervisors. The 10,000 hour cap was intended to avoid such excesses.

The second category is ?Official Business - Informal,? which permits union representatives to assist members at performance reviews, investigations, grievances and personnel hearings. The state pays for such costs.

?Official Business - Union? is the category for labor negotiations, arbitration hearings, and contract negotiations. This, too, is paid for by the state.

?Union - Paid Leave? covers such things as meetings not covered by the Dills Act. The union is to be billed for these hours.

Finally, ?Activist Release Time? allows rank-and-file members to go the annual union ?conference? without loss of compensation. Attending this annual confab, held in Las Vegas, is paid for by the state, with a budget of $368,000 per year.

In reviewing the use of union leave, the OIG found many flaws. ?It was a bit like auditing spaghetti, and our apologies to spaghetti,? mused Chief Deputy Inspector General Brett Morgan. CDCR did not establish sound accounting for the release bank, in violation of the Financial Integrity and State Manager?s Accountability Act of 1983. The errors made it impossible to tell whether the release bank was overdrawn. The union kept its own records on union leave, which were irreconcilable with CDCR records. CDCR badly blew the 10,000 hour six-year leave cap, with cumulative withdrawals of 122,367 hours just four years into the six-year contract. Supervisors? release time was similarly not managed, and release time was improperly allowed without verifying authorization.

Abuses were so egregious as to permit one individual to be on such leave continuously for 6 and-a-half years. He was on a prison?s payroll the whole time, but never worked there. Nonetheless, he claimed every holiday (for which he received regular pay, holiday credit and four hours of holiday pay [this scam was worth $8,000 in one year alone]) and never charged any vacation time, leaving him with a total leave balance of 2,376 hours by November 2005. Upon his retirement, this would result in a $116,000 lump sum payment.

The OIG also found that CDCR failed to bill the union for reimbursements due the Department. And CDCR never requested legislative funding for BU6-authorized leave for the three union executive vice-presidents authorized to be released from all prison job duties and for the 43 union chapter presidents to get one day per week off for union business. This resulted in an unfunded liability of $900,000 for CDCR.

Finally, at party time -- the annual union Las Vegas bash ? CDCR authorized $400,000 in excess of the $368,000 authorized for sending guards to the annual ?conference.? The OIG believed that even this excess may be understated due to incorrectly coded deductions from the release ?time bank.?

In conclusion, the OIG recommended nine remedies to tighten up on the waste, which Secretary Tilton agreed would be completed in about a year?s time. See: Special Report into Management of Union Leave Time by CDCR, Office of the California Inspector General, July 20, 2006.

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