We’ve been following the perks that OC Supervisors get at taxpayer expense for a while now. One of those perks we haven’t covered in much detail is the practice of handing out cushy management jobsÂ to theirÂ former staff members.Â The ability to appoint their friends to high paid management level county jobs in their district officesÂ isn’t unusual and certainlyÂ is not unexpected.
Of course, what you get with this practice is a bunch of ideologues, mixed in with some qualified people, in the district offices advising the elected Supervisors on all matters related to the operation of county government. In with this bunch youÂ can get some real nut-jobs like John Moorlach’s Chief of Staff Mario Mainero, and his former pastor Rick Francis. But to the victors go the spoils.
The problem comes when a sitting Supervisor’s term nears its end. All of a sudden, these key “political advisors” start getting appointed to cushy management jobs in county agencies. In many cases, they do not have to apply for these jobs, they just simply materialize out of thin air. More than a dozen of these appointments have occurred since July 2006.
The most recent of these appointments was that of Eric Norby, brother of Supervisor Chris Norby. Until the 6th of February Eric Norby was Supervisor Chris Norby’s Chief of Staff. Suddenly, Eric Norby was appointed to a top level management position at the Health Care Agency. He also received a $5,000 raise, boosting his annual compensation package to more than $100,000 to go along with his move.
Now Eric Norby is no slacker. He has been known to be one of the few brains on the fifth floor of the Hall of Administration. I have no doubt that he is a qualified and capable manager. The problem is the job he was appointed to fill has been vacant since September 2007 and, as recently as January the Health Care Agency did not show it as a vacant management position.
In fact, County spokesperson Pat Markley told TheLiberalOC that “the new position (assigned to Eric Norby) was actually vacated on January 30, 2009 and subsequently transferred to Finance and Administrative Services to reestablish the role of management services. This position reestablished the management services analytical function within the Agency.”
Since there has been a hiring freeze in the Health Care Agency for months, this is a curious development and possibly the shortest and most under the radar recruitment since Treasurer Tax Collector Chriss Street’s appointment by John Moorlach as Assistant Treasurer. Well maybe not so curious sinceÂ Markley also told us that “this was a transfer, no recruitment was conducted.”
But it gets better…
This is how Eric Norby’s new job was described by his new boss Bob Wilson of the Health Care Agency in and email to staff:
I am pleased to announce that on Friday 2/6/2009 Eric Norby transferred to HCA to assume the role of Manager of the Management Services unit within Financial and Administrative Services (FAS). He previously served as Chief of Staff for 4th District Supervisor Chris Norby. Eric will be focusing on intensifying the efforts of Management Services to identify and facilitate implementation of program and process changes to achieve longer term and on-going efficiencies and cost reductions within the Agency. He will be working closely with the HCA Executive and Division Management teams to assist in identifying areas of opportunity for such analyses and assisting program staff with special studies where needed.
Can someone please tell me what this guy just said? What in this description possibly justifies a $100,000 in compensation plus benefits? Why, when we are laying off hundreds of workers in other agenciesÂ andÂ demoting at least two managers in the Health Care Agency just two weeks earlier, was granting Eric Norby a position previously vacant forÂ almost a year and a halfÂ a critical agency need?
I’m just guessing, but since the same thing happened with Supervisor Tom Wilson’s former Chief of Staff Holly Veale who was appointed in July 2006 to beÂ the Health Care Agency’s Manager of Municipal and Community Relations, it probably has something to do withÂ who his brother is. Word in the halls of HCA headquarters is that only a few managersÂ namely Assistant Director Dave Riley, Bob Wilson and possibly Lisa Bauer in Human ResourcesÂ had even a clue what was happening. Our sources are a little unclear on the extent of Julie Poulson’s actual level of real involvement or understanding of the process leading to the appointment made by Deputy Agency Director Dave Riley. Poulson announced last Wednesday her retirement after 36 years of service.
The problem I have with this appointmentÂ isn’t just that a management position was created out of thin air and filled in a few days. It is that there is a hard freeze on filling vacant positions within the Health Care Agency. This includes positions that are fully funded by grants. I am aware of two state funded positions to provide services to people living with HIV/AIDS that have been vacant between four and five months. The failure to fill these positions represents a lossÂ of approximately $100,000 in annual funding in addition to the loss of critical services for people in need.
So, not only are we creating and giving a $100,000 plus unfunded management position in the Health Care Agency to the brother of,Â and former Chief of Staff for, a sitting Supervisor;Â but we are throwing away the same amountÂ in grant funding to provide health care servicesÂ in Orange CountyÂ to do it.
Remodeling of your perfectly good lobby: $326,000
Perks for you and your managers: $21 million
Cushy jobs for your friends and family: PricelessÂ