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Schwarzenegger's furlough order upheld for employees of elected officials

State Controller John Chiang, who had doubted the governor's authority and asked for a ruling, said he would appeal the decision.

March 13, 2009|Patrick McGreevy

SACRAMENTO — A judge ruled Thursday that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has the power to order the 15,600 employees of other elected statewide officials to take furlough days as part of a budget-cutting measure.

State Controller John Chiang, who had doubted the governor's authority and asked the court to decide, said he would appeal the ruling.

If the order stands, employees represented by Service Employees International Union Local 1000 who work for the state's constitutional officers will have to take one furlough day a month, as required by their new contract. Other workers will have to take two days a month until they approve similar pacts.

In addition, employees may have to take temporary pay cuts to make up for furlough days they have not taken since the governor's initial order in February, according to Lynelle Jolley, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Personnel Administration.

The ruling by Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Patrick Marlette applies to employees of the Board of Equalization, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, treasurer, controller, schools chief, insurance commissioner and attorney general, most of whom had argued that, because they are independently elected, the governor has no authority over their staffs.

Marlette found "unpersuasive the contention of [Chiang] and intervenors that recognizing the governor's authority over their employees, at least for the purpose of ordering a furlough under the circumstances of the budget crisis, impermissibly interferes with the powers and duties that have been assigned to their offices."

"The reason this contention is not persuasive is that the governor's power to order employee furloughs is not unlimited, but rather is controlled by law, and therefore cannot be exercised in an arbitrary or capricious manner," he added.

Hallye Jordan, a spokeswoman for Chiang, predicted the furloughs would not be upheld.

"We firmly believe this Superior Court ruling will be reversed on appeal," she said. "It damages not only the ability of independent, statewide-elected officers to carry out their constitutional duties, but also the Constitution, which specifically and purposefully provides the checks and balances needed for the protection of all Californians."

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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