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Jabber The Greenhut Cracks His Nut

I think Steven Greenhut over at the Register’s Orange Punch blog has cracked his nut (head). I think it happened sometime Thursday morning when he received a forwarded email from someone in the County (probably his buddy Chris Norby) that had been sent out by a County employee encouraging union members to ratify the proposed general salary increase. Apparently, Steven got so aggitated that he fell out of his chair and hit his head. Before the fog cleared from his acute head injury he quickly fired off a post to the Orange Punch Blog with the inflammatory headline “Union campaigning on county computers.”

It seems that in his haste he forgot to think before he wrote his post. Now, there is a bit of conflicting opinion as to whether or not it takes an actual crack on the head for Jabber the Greenhut to post without thinking, but that topic will have to wait. What is clear is that he jumped to a conclusion that caused him to post the employee’s email message under a misleading headline that only the National Enquirer could love.

Just because an employee posts an email to her coworkers telling them that they should go and vote for the ratification of a negotiated salary increase, does not mean that the “Union” is campaigning on county computers. As far as I can determine, this employee is not a union steward or officer and their only connection to the union is their membership in it. Therefore it is a big stretch to call this employee’s encouragement of other employees to approve the proposal “Union campaigning.”

Yes, the employee should not have sent the message to all Health Care Agency users. The normal process for dealing with such errors is to counsel the employee not to do such a thing again. However, I have heard that Supervisor Norby blew a gasket when he saw the email causing him to badger the CEO and anyone else he could find to have this employee drawn and quartered. This caused a response from County administrator’s that can only be described as overkill. HCA Director Julie Poulson sent out a terse memo to HCA employees stating that the email was “disruptive to County business on multiple levels and a significant misuse of County resources.” She reminded staff that sending out unapproved emails to all HCA users would result in disciplinary action.

The ironic part of all of this is the email and memo regarding the “Stuffed Animal Drive and Book Fair” that Ms. Poulson had sent out immediately prior to her missive about the use of County email for business matters. I am hard pressed to find the “County Business” relationship from her memo about stuffed animal donations, but I’m sure she thinks she can find one. What I find particularly annoying is that both of Julie’s emails required me to open up an attachment to read her memos, causing me to waste far more time reading her email than the few sentence message about voting on the salary increase. In addition to the email about the stuffed animal drive, we receive a significant number of emails every month regarding the County’s efforts to support the United Way Fundraising drive.

The biggest insult created by this assault on an employee encouraging her coworkers to vote for their salary increase is the email that all county employees received from County CEO Thomas Mauk on October 28, 2005. In his message, Mauk tells all County employees how bad the effects of Measure D on the County budget would be if the measure was passed. Measure D, which was on the November 2005 Special Election Ballot, would have transferred funds from Proposition 172 to the Orange County Fire Authority. Mauk make no reference in his message about any positive effect if the measure were to pass, making it clear to the reader that he is encouraging a No vote on D.

The County Board of Supervisors and the Orange County Employees Association both opposed the passage of Measure D. However encouraging employees to vote for or against a ballot measure through County email is technically against the law because doing so uses government resources to support or oppose a ballot measure. Further, while there is no law preventing employees from using employer resources to encourage their co-workers to ratify a contract, such activity may technically not be allowed under County/Agency policy.

One could argue that, since the ratification of a contract agreement is a necessary function in order to ensure the efficient operation of County services to the public, communicating to employees the need to vote on the ratification of their contract is a necessary business function. At a minimum it is at least as necessary as encouraging employees to give a portion of their paychecks to charity.

I find it incredible that Supervisor Norby finds no problem with emails not specifically related to County business when he supports their purpose, but gets irritated when he doesn’t support their purpose. To top it off, Jabber the Greenhut seems to have no problem jabbering before he has all the facts, blaming the “Union” for an email they did not solicit and did not generate.

With this many mixed messages and double standards, I’m beginning to wonder if 4.75% is really enough to compensate for all the confusion and attacks.