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High-paid Nunez aide got an extra $100,000

July 09, 2008

SACRAMENTO — Former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez gave his chief of staff, who is already the highest-paid employee in the Legislature, an additional $100,000 this year for "campaign consulting."

The Los Angeles Democrat in April transferred the money from a ballot-measure committee he controls to Daniel Eaton, according to records filed this week with the secretary of state.

Many interest groups, including unions, casino-owning Indian tribes and Pacific Gas & Electric Co., donated to the ballot measure committee that Nunez used to augment Eaton's $212,000 annual salary.

Nunez spokesman Dave Sebeck said the $100,000 payment was for "current consulting and analysis, including a lot of work surrounding the 10 initiatives on the November ballot."

Nunez, who is recovering from removal of a nodule from his vocal cords and is under doctor's orders not to speak, added in a statement read by Sebeck: "Danny's worth his weight in gold, and not only is there great expertise there, there is a ton of weekend and after-hours' work, and I've never been the kind to not reward exceptional effort."

It is common practice for workers in the Legislature and governor's office to take vacations or leaves of absences from their state jobs to work on campaigns. Although they are often paid for that work from campaign accounts, the payment to Eaton is unusually large. He did not take a leave of absence from his state job this year, according to Assembly officials.

Robert Stern, president of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Governmental Studies, said he opposed government staff members working on campaigns because "it blurs the line" between politics and policy.

Nunez served as Assembly leader from February 2004 until May. Term limits will force him from the Legislature after November.

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nancy.vogel@latimes.com

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