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May 28, 2004 - 01:00 AM
by TOM CHORNEAU, Associated Press Writer
State boards provide fat target for efficiency expertsSACRAMENTO -- On Feb. 2, members of the California Integrated Waste Management Board, who each earn $117,818 annually, were scheduled to meet here to consider such issues as a permit for a landfill in Kern County, a garbage transfer site in San Bruno and grants to help rural landowners with waste cleanup.
Two more meetings were scheduled on each of the following two days. None of those meetings was held. In fact, in the last four months, the board charged with overseeing the state's garbage dumps and waste policy has canceled 20 out of 28 meetings because two of the six board seats were temporarily vacant.
Now, a team assembled by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to streamline the state bureaucracy and eliminate duplication is asking whether the waste board should ever meet again. Or, or that matter, if any of the other 300 state boards and commissions should continue to exist - especially those that pay members upward of $100,000 a year or more.
"This is the fattest fat there is to cut," said Jamie Court, president of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. "Part-time jobs that pay executive salaries. It's more than just pork."
Critics of government spending have long complained that political patronage is woven into entities such as the waste board, the California Medical Assistance Commission, Unemployment Appeals Board, the Board of Prison Terms, the Agricultural Labor Relations Board and the California Gambling Control Commission.
While Schwarzenegger's California Performance Review is looking to overhaul all parts of state government, officials have said that the 14 highly paid boards are a particular target. The governor's plan is not due out until June and officials will not release which entities are marked or even how much might be saved by reorganization.
Often created by the Legislature to support some new program or initiative, many boards or commissions were given full-time oversight because the issues were considered at the time to be critical. In some cases, the programs remain critical but in others their importance has been questioned.
An analysis performed last year by Assemblyman Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, focused on the 60 largest boards and commissions and found they collectively cost the state $360 million annually.
A review of membership of highly paid boards and commission show appointments come almost exclusively from the ranks of former lawmakers, administration appointees and friends of the powerful. State financial disclosure records also indicate that despite the high pay and apparent responsibility, many members have outside jobs, sometimes even with agencies or companies that do business with the state.
Those political connections have rendered previous attempts at reform unsuccessful. Appointments are shared between the governor and legislative leaders and no one wants to rock the boat regardless of which party is in power, said Fred Silva, senior adviser at the Public Policy Institute of California.
"People like to keep this below the radar," he explained.
While some of the boards and commissions may have once had a logical role to play in government, Silva said, it's not so clear now which are still needed.
For example, the Legislature created the waste board in 1989 to help regulate landfills and encourage recycling. Its $165 million budget comes mostly from dumping fees paid by users of landfills and other consumer fees.
Its members are mostly insiders, such as former Assemblyman Carl Washington, D-Los Angeles; Cheryl Peace, the wife of former legislator and state finance director Steve Peace; Linda Moulton-Patterson, a former mayor of Huntington Beach and wife of former Rep. Jerry Patterson; and Rosario Marin, the former U.S. treasurer who recently lost a bid for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.
Marin, who, like many of the others has little apparent experience in waste management, was appointed by Schwarzenegger, who endorsed her Senate primary opponent, former Secretary of State Bill Jones. She declined a request for interview.
"What does the Integrated Waste Board do - is it something that can be handled administratively?" Silva asked. "They root for recycling, God bless them, but this is probably a policy issue that the Legislature would need to take a look at."
Without the waste board, the public would have to work with the state bureaucracy on waste issues, instead of a more responsive board, said Moulton-Patterson, its chairwoman.
"I'm a big believer in the public process and giving people an opportunity to voice their opinions," she said of the board that has missed 20 of 28 scheduled committee meetings and workshops since February.
Although Moulton-Patterson said she is focused exclusively on her work as board chair, records show that many other commissioners have time to pursue outside employment. The California Medical Assistance Commission, charged with negotiating reimbursement rates the state pays hospitals for serving Medi-Cal patients, appears to be an especially undemanding.
Michael Yamaki, aide to former Gov. Gray Davis and now a member of the commission, has a law practice he values at between $10,000 and $100,000, as reported under state disclosure rules. Fellow commissioner, Lynn Schenk, Davis' former chief of staff, reported in 2003 earning between $10,000 and $100,000 as a director of Biogen Idec Inc., a San Diego-based drug company that did about $7.2 million in business with doctors and pharmacies that ordered the company's drugs for patients of the state's Medi-Cal program. Schenk also reported
ownership of stock options in the company worth over $1 million.
Former Los Angeles Assemblyman Tom Calderon has a public affairs consulting firm with his wife, valued at between $100,000 and $1 million. His clients have included the Metropolitan Water District, the Irvine Company, Allstate insurance and Pacific Hospital.
Denise DeTrano, counsel to the medical commission said she has reviewed all of the commissioners' disclosures and only Calderon has been forced on occasion to disqualify himself from some board decisions.
Sandra Smoley, who worked as Gov. Pete Wilson's Health and Human Services Secretary, was also chair of the Medical Assistance Commission until this year. During her five years on the commission, she also maintained a consulting business on the side that paid her more than $100,000 in 2001 and between $10,000 and $100,000 in 2002.
There's nothing wrong with that, Smoley said, adding that "the commission was always considered a part-time position."
On the Net:
Integrated Waste Management Board
Medical Assistance Commission
California Gambling Control Commission
Unemployment Appeals Board
Board of Prison Terms
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