LONG BEACH — The recent hiring of the son of state Fish and Game Commissioner Albert Taucher of Long Beach as a $40,188-a-year publicist for the Department of Fish and Game "raises ethical questions" but poses no legal problem, a state employees' union has decided.
Curt Taucher, 25, began work as a public information officer in the Long Beach office of Fish and Game on Jan. 6, after the position was exempted from Civil Service requirements to allow him to be hired. Taucher's appointment was approved by the governor's office.
Taucher's hiring prompted a California State Employees Assn. inquiry to see if a Civil Service job had been eliminated to create Taucher's position or if his appointment violated the state's policy against nepotism.
"This sure raises some questions of propriety . . . (but) we found that this situation doesn't violate any government codes," union spokesman Dick Gleed said.
Right of Exemption
The governor can exempt up to 7,200 employees, 0.5% of the state's full-time Civil Service work force, from testing and placement, Gleed said. And when Jack Parnell, director of the Department of Fish and Game, gave Curt Taucher an exempt position, he was exercising that right, Gleed said.
State guidelines regarding nepotism are general and not stringently enforced, Gleed said. "And in looking at the relationship between the commissioner and his son, organizationally they're quite far removed from each other. . . . The commissioner doesn't directly supervise his son in this case."
As one of five part-time commissioners for the Department of Fish and Game, the senior Taucher helps set policy for the department. The department is run on a day-to-day basis by its director. Parnell said that Curt Taucher was recruited by him and reports directly to him.
"I don't see what the problem is," Curt Taucher said. "The commission . . . obviously doesn't set any standards for the information office, so I don't see where it would ever cause a conflict."
Taucher said, however, that when he told his father that he was considering the job, the senior Taucher was angry and concerned about how the appointment would look.
'The Best Man'
"I called Jack (Parnell) about it, because I certainly didn't want to get the governor in any trouble or the department in any trouble," said Albert Taucher, who was appointed to the commission in 1983 by Gov. George Deukmejian and who has been a friend and political supporter of the governor for more than 20 years. "But Jack said he'd interviewed other people and Curt was the best man for the job."
Curt Taucher's $40,188 annual salary compares with a minimum salary of about $36,500 and a maximum of $43,956 for a public information officer under state Civil Service, Parnell said. Of the department's seven publicists, Taucher and the public information office manager are the only ones exempt from Civil Service requirements, Parnell said.
Parnell said Taucher's recruitment over several months last year had nothing to do with Albert Taucher's position on the Fish and Game Commission.
Parnell said he hired Taucher, who for two years had been the chief administrative aide of Assemblywoman Doris Allen (R-Cypress), because he is a good writer, knows fish and game issues well and has a university degree in biology. He also has been involved in hunting and fishing all his life, including years of selling hunting and fishing licenses at Shore Sporting Goods in Belmont Shore, which his father owned until two years ago, Parnell said.
'Brilliant Young Man'
"He's a brilliant young man," Parnell said. "He was exactly what I was looking for. He has to be able to go down and talk the language of the people on the docks and able to talk the language in the sporting goods stores. When we're talking about artificial reefs, he has to know what we're talking about."
Curt Taucher said that, in running Allen's Orange County office, he gained valuable experience in dealing with the public and the press, which helped qualify him for his current position. He made $31,680 annually in that job, he said.
Allen said she hired Curt Taucher in 1983 after Albert Taucher called and asked her to interview his son for an aide's position. Curt Taucher disagreed, saying he met Allen when he solicited her help in his attempt to get into the University of California, Davis, veterinary program.