Friday Jul 31 2009
Why not advertise all government job openings?
By: Jim Ruffalo
Looking behind the scenes
Hermetically sealing the notebook so that the malodorous waftings from DeWitt Center don’t contaminate those precious pages ... Well, to be perfectly fair, not all of the dealings emanating from Placer County governmental offices stink to high heaven. Truth is, the county leadership has a batting average higher than Jim Rice’s and Rickey Henderson’s combined, and those two just got inducted into Cooperstown. Still, things could be run better. To keep the baseball metaphor alive, allow me to say that Kirk Uhler has become the Board of Supervisor’s version of “Saturday Night Live” character Chico Esquela in that being supervisor has been very, very good for Uhler. The main concern is Uhler, the ubiquitous supervisor from District 4, just had his family’s income hiked by close to a hundred grand when his wife was appointed as the assistant director of Placer County’s Child Support Services. Let’s agree on a couple of points right up-front. First off is that I remember Tami Uhler from her days as a deputy district attorney for the county. She was, and is, bright, hard-working and a team player. Her bona fides are unquestionable. Second, although some of the deeds done by the supervisor have the odor of skunks with B.O., Uhler has done nothing illegal or immoral. And these days, that’s high praise, indeed. But what the supervisor has been doing lately is exactly the sort of stuff that turned the once-glorious Republican Party into an afterthought. Lately, the GOP has been losing a lot more elections than it has been winning. That’s because it acted like the Democrats when it came to both spending and personal morals. The well-being of the Republican Party is important to Uhler. He comes from a Republican family, and resides in and represents the most Republican portion of the county. But this appointment of the Mrs., and the sweeping under the carpet of the perceived shenanigans of the solar energy farm at DeWitt, make one wonder if Uhler is harboring some sort of political death wish. There’s a real bad odor here in that the chief sweeper in this case was Kristen Spears, who only recent to the raising of the solar farm issue had been appointed as county assessor by Uhler and his supervisorial cohorts. Oh well, so far he hasn’t been seen boarding any flights to Argentina. On the other hand, we poor, dumb (and not necessarily in that order) taxpayers wonder why such deeds are allowed to happen. And we posed those very questions to Tom Miller, the county’s chief executive officer. “First off, nothing illegal has happened,” he said, agreeing with our earlier premise. Turns out that such (unadvertised) hirings are allowed, and according to Miller, often work out that the best candidate winds up with the job. True in this case, but still, why not let the entire village know that there was a job opening at, in all places, county government? What with the growing unemployment rate, no doubt most people would have liked to have known of the vacancy, even if their lack of a law degree precluded them from being hired. Another thing that bugs me is that we continually see involuntary furlough days for hard-working government employees. And when Miller admitted “this was not an emergency hiring,” one has to wonder why that job couldn’t remain vacant during these fiscally hard times. To put not too fine a point on it — it stinks. Miller said “there’s no hard-fast rule” on when and if such high-level job opportunities should be advertised. Guess what? There ought to be. Yes, it was legal, but obviously the rules need to be re-written. Miller hinted that he might take a second look and make some recommendations for the future, which would be a great starting point. Also, now that the voters have given county counsel Tony LaBouff protection from recalcitrant and possibly revengeful supervisors, he could be of great service by doing likewise so such happenings do not become commonplace. Miller insists that “the county has been well served in the past” by such expeditious hirings. He may be correct historically but is wrong on how it smells. As a native-born Chicagoan, I can tell you even the Windy City smells better than this. Jim Ruffalo runs Sundays in the Journal. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.