Picking a fight with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Controller John Chiang said Tuesday he's going to restore full pay to California's correctional officers for the state government's January pay period.
The Schwarzenegger administration immediately declared the controller's maneuver illegal and vowed to fight it in the courts this morning.
Chiang and his chief attorney, Richard Chivaro, are arguing that the controller must make the move to comply with an Alameda County judge's mid-December decision in a heated furlough case pitting the governor against the California Correctional Peace Officers Association.
The administration will file papers in the 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco this morning to "prevent this illegal action by the controller," Department of Personnel Administration spokeswoman Lynelle Jolley said Tuesday night.
Jacob Roper, a spokesman for Chiang, said the controller is taking this action because he feels obliged to comply with the Dec. 17 court decision issued by Alameda County Judge Frank Roesch and thus avoid possible contempt-of-court charges in the future.
Chiang plans to get his office to make changes to the state's payroll system to eliminate the pay cuts resulting from the three furlough days a month ordered by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Roper said the controller's actions have nothing to do with the CCPOA's generosity to Chiang's political campaigns. The union has donated $13,100 to Chiang's campaigns since 2006, according to CCPOA contribution records filed with the secretary of state.
CCPOA lawyers have argued that the state's corrections officers have had three days' pay deducted from their checks every month due to mandatory furloughs, but that their members have not been allowed to take the time off and have had no hope of taking the time off anytime soon.
CCPOA says that so-called "self-directed" furloughs at prisons, which are 24/7 facilities, violate labor law stipulating that compensation must be paid within a given pay cycle.
The union has maintained that the policy is illegal because workers under self-directed furloughs lose their pay but might not be able to take the time off for weeks, months or even years. The deadline for redeeming furlough time is June 2012.
Roesch agreed with the CCPOA, saying that if prison guards, as well as sergeants and lieutenants supervising them, were working a full week but not getting paid for it, that was illegal.
Accruing furlough days that can never be used violates the state's Labor Code, Roesch wrote in his ruling.
He told the administration to pay CCPOA-represented employees "for all hours worked for which furlough credits have not been utilized."
Department of Personnel Administration director Debbie Endsley said in a letter to Chiang on Tuesday that the Schwarzenegger administration has appealed Roesch's ruling and that any move by the controller to restore full pay was "unauthorized and improper."
Chivaro, Chiang's chief counsel, replied in a letter that the state's notice of appeal is "defective" and thus the automatic stay of a ruling that normally kicks in after an appeal is launched was "inoperative."
Read the full story at the Sacramento Bee.