SACRAMENTO — Assemblyman Nolan Frizzelle (R-Huntington Beach), who takes pride in being a watchdog over government spending, has kept his 24-year-old stepdaughter on the Capitol payroll at taxpayer expense for more than a year.
Officials of the Assembly Rules Committee said Frizzelle has continued to employ his wife's daughter, Sabina Marie Evans, despite warnings several months ago that it was inappropriate and in violation of longstanding legislative policy guidelines on nepotism.
Assembly payroll records show that Evans has earned more than $21,000 as secretary to the subcommittee on health personnel, which Frizzelle chaired until last week. Hired in May, 1985, she now earns $1,549 a month.
But Frizzelle said he sees nothing wrong with it.
Last Thursday, after a Times reporter questioned him about Evans' job and its propriety, Frizzelle angrily resigned as chairman of the panel.
"She works for the subcommittee. She doesn't work for me," he had said a day earlier, when first questioned by the reporter.
Although it is not illegal, both houses of the Legislature have guidelines against legislators or legislative staffers having direct supervision over their parents, siblings, children, stepchildren or any in-laws who live with them.
In the Senate, the nepotism policy is a written personnel rule that would be strictly enforced, said chief Senate Rules Committee consultant Clifford Berg.
Guideline in Assembly
But in the Assembly, the policy is a mere guideline. "We strongly recommend against it," said Rules Committee chief of staff Maeley Tom.
Although he admits that the information was not volunteered when Evans was hired, Frizzelle insists his relationship to his stepdaughter "was never any secret." He said Assembly Rules Committee officials and Assemblyman Curtis Tucker (D-Inglewood), chairman of the full Health Committee, have long been aware of it.
But Tom and Rules Committee personnel chief Sam Walton said they only became aware that Evans was Frizzelle's stepdaughter when a former subcommittee consultant, whom Frizzelle has since fired, told them about it several months ago.
Tucker, who has frequently sparred verbally with Frizzelle in the Legislature, denied the assertion in much stronger language.
"He told a goddamned lie," Tucker said.
Tom said Frizzelle would have been made aware of the nepotism guidelines and would have been strongly encouraged not to hire Evans had they known at the outset that she was the assemblyman's stepdaughter.
Legislative personnel officials say several Assembly members and senators have relatives who work for other legislators or in other Capitol offices. But they said that they are aware of no other situation in which a relative or in-law who falls under the nepotism guidelines works directly under the related legislator.
"With stepchildren, they don't have the same last name, so there is no way to know," Tom said.
But once aware, Tom said, Rules Committee officials advised Frizzelle that as chairman of the subcommittee, he was considered Evans' boss, and that the arrangement was inappropriate.
"Since it was not illegal, we left it to him," Tom said. "He was very comfortable with it."
Frizzelle said Tom told him there was no problem with Evans being employed by the subcommittee "if she was doing the job." Frizzelle said Evans' work was more than adequate, and he talked her out of leaving earlier this year when Arthur Laffer tried to hire her away to work in his unsuccessful U. S. Senate campaign.
Frizzelle said he resigned as chairman of the eight-member subcommittee because he was fed up with Tucker and his iron-fisted rule of the Health Committee. He said that he complained in a letter he handed to Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) that because of Tucker's interference he was chairman of the health personnel subcommittee "only in name."
Last week, he said, Tucker overruled his first two choices to replace the fired consultant and had instead picked another candidate for the job over Frizzelle's objection.
Tucker acknowledged that he overruled Frizzelle's choices for the consultant's post, saying they were unqualified. He said also that Speaker Brown had later overruled his own (Tucker's) choice for the post because she was a lobbyist's wife.
But Tucker said he had "nothing at all to do" with hiring Evans last year, and had "no way of knowing" that she was Frizzelle's stepdaughter.
Frizzelle said he had heard rumors that the consultant he fired was casting aspersions around the Capitol regarding his relationship to Evans. But that was not the reason he fired her. He said he fired the $47,000-a-year consultant because of "attitudinal problems," primarily her inability to work well with other legislators and their staffs. He acknowledged, however, that his first serious run-in with the woman occurred when she complained about Evans' alleged tardiness, complaints that he said were untrue.
Evans, who was born in Paris, was an 18-year-old student when Frizzelle and her German-born mother were married in March, 1980. She lived with the newlyweds, first in Costa Mesa and later in Huntington Beach, from the time of their marriage until late summer, 1982, voter registration records show.
She now lives in Citrus Heights, a Sacramento suburb.
Her younger brother, Timothy Evans, 22, still lists the Frizzelles' Huntington Beach home as his address.