Budget Games at City Hall

This column begins by reporting a contradiction in staffing statistics. On Page 44 of the City Budget, Exhibit C indicates that all the City’s budgetary departments together are authorized to hire a total of 31,798 employees. But on Page 47, a footnote on Exhibit F indicates that the budget also provides authority to hire an additional 1,409 temporary employees under “resolution authority.”

That footnote got my attention. I re-read Charter Section 1001(d), POSITIONS APPROVED BY COUNCIL, and submitted a Public Information Act request for details about those 1,409 position authorities. What I received was a 52-page list of positions the Mayor had included in his proposed 2012-13 budget. All those positions were approved by Council resolution, and the cost of filling them (estimated to be $163.4 million) was absorbed in the City’s $7.2 billion budget.

Resolution Authority (RA) employees are now working with regular civil service employees in many departments. For example, the Department of Building and Safety has Exhibit C authority to hire 717 employees; it also has authority to hire 85 RA employees. Similarly, the Fire Department is authorized under Exhibit C to hire 3,537 employees, and it could hire as many as 143 additional RA employees.

But wait! If Building and Safety needed 85 more employees, why wasn’t its Exhibit C authority increased from 717 to 802? Wouldn’t that have been an easier way to give Building and Safety the employees it needs? And why couldn’t the Fire Department’s Exhibit C authority simply have been increased from 3,537 to 3,680? Could there be more to this matter than meets the eye?

Consider. Resolution Authority positions are for temporary appointments; they give employees a job for one year, or less. Thus, if any of those 1,409 positions are to be used after 06-30-13, position authority would have to be continued by the City Council. As a matter of fact, a number of the RA positions on the Mayor’s list were continued from FY 2011-12. And some of them were originally authorized way back in 2005-06. Presumably, they’d already been continued 6 or 7 times!

As used in the current budget, Resolution Authority seems sometimes not to make sense. I can understand why a temporary position funded in last year’s budget would need to have resolution authority continued so the employee could complete his/her assignment. But why should the Council be asked to provide 6 months of resolution authority for 209 positions in 7 departments for the purpose of “layoff avoidance”? Is it the Council’s job to prevent employee layoffs?

I assume the decision to expand the use of temporary employees in City Service was made in Mayor Villaraigosa’s Office. But I can’t recall ever hearing what its purpose is. How is it supposed to benefit Angelenos? Would the City benefit if some — or all — employees were temps? And finally, what is the Mayor’s authority for loading up the budget with employees who have no job security?

The question of legal authority is paramount, and Charter Section 1001(d) does not appear to be relevant. I’ve discussed this question in a phone conversation with Councilman Krekorian’s staff. I didn’t get an answer, but I did get the phone number of someone in the Mayor’s office. I called that number, but the nice lady didn’t know the answer. She took my number and assured me that I’d get a call from a member of the Mayor’s staff. That was 10 days ago, and I’m still waiting for that call.

In the meantime, suspicion grows that the politicians at City Hall are doing something they don’t want anyone to know about. So instead of waiting for a call from the Mayor, I’ll start looking for a way to get this matter into court. And I’ll welcome any help or advice readers of this column can give me.

Send your questions and comments to samuelmsperling@yahoo.com.

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