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Schwarzenegger sues state controller over furloughs

The governor's suit is aimed at requiring John Chiang to force 15,600 more state workers to take unpaid days off to save money during the budget crisis.

February 10, 2009|Patrick McGreevy

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger filed a lawsuit Monday against state Controller John Chiang, aiming to force the unpaid furlough of 15,600 more state workers two days a month.

The lawsuit, filed in Sacramento County Superior Court, seeks an injunction forcing the state controller to furlough employees of statewide elected officials such as the attorney general, the treasurer and Chiang. Schwarzenegger and Chiang, a Democrat whose office issues paychecks, have been locked in a dispute over the extent of the Republican governor's authority to order workers to take time off without pay to save money.

Superior Court Judge Patrick Marlette ruled Jan. 29 that the governor has the power to furlough state workers in an emergency.

Twice-monthly furloughs began Friday for 238,000 workers in the executive branch, but Chiang has argued that the governor's power does not extend to the constitutional officers. He said he would not cut the pay of those employees unless directed to by court order.

Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said Monday that he believes the court order does support the governor's position that his powers extend to all state workers.

"Because the controller has disobeyed a court order, we are forced to file suit to compel the controller to obey the law," McLear said.

"The controller has a legal duty to take all necessary steps to comply with the implementation of furloughs for state employees employed by the state constitutional officers [and] State Board of Equalization," the lawsuit said.

A spokeswoman for Chiang disagreed.

"Judge Marlette made it clear last week that his ruling did not address the employees of constitutional officers," said Hallye Jordan, a spokeswoman for Chiang.

"As a result of that clarification, there is no court order requiring the controller to cut the pay for employees of the state's seven other constitutional and statewide, independently elected officials unless they request he do so."

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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