AG accuses Schwarzenegger of 'bait-and-switch' on furloughs

Legal News Line Feb. 9, 2009, 4:25pm


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline) - Who isn't brawling in the state capitol these days?

Add the attorney general's office to a long list of those battling with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger who is waging a non-stop campaign to bring the state's budget back in line and reduce the deficit that is expected to top $40 billion by the end of the fiscal year.

With the state Legislature deadlocked over a budget revision, the state's finances are long past the crisis state. Controller John Chiang is poised to issue IOUs instead of payments and Schwarzenegger is enforcing his executive order to shut down state government twice a month and force employees to take mandatory unpaid days off work on Friday.

But employees of the six independent statewide offices including Brown's Department of Justice did not comply with his order. As Schwarzenegger sought to impose the furloughs on these departments, Brown's office fired back.

Chief Deputy Attorney General James Humes sent a letter last week urging Chiang not to implement the furloughs against Department of Justice employees.

Humes wrote the governor's change of action "is tantamount to a bait-and-switch."

Six Democratic leaders -Brown, Secretary of State Debra Bowen, Treasurer Bill Lockyer, Chiang, Superintendent of Schools Jack O'Connell and Lt. Gov. John Garamendi - declined in January to voluntarily comply with the executive order. They said Schwarzenegger's plan to save the state money by effectively shutting down state government twice a month would hurt their employees too much, according to published reports.

Humes wrote Schwarzenegger is "attempting to use the absence of any ruling addressing whether the Governor has authority to furlough employees of constitutional officers like the Attorney General as a ground to assert that authority."

He called that tactic, "improper."

Humes said the only reason the attorney general has not yet intervened legally against the governor was because he had been told "both in private conversation and publicly" that the other constitutional offices would be exempt from mandatory cooperation.

The rest of the state virtually shut down on Friday. Employees were given clear instructions as to how they would be enforced in a memo released earlier that week.

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