Since the publication of an article in the Daily Journal last Friday detailing how the AOC hired three new employees in the midst of a so-called hiring freeze, the AOC Watcher has learned that the AOC may not have given an entirely accurate picture. In fact, the AOC Watcher has been informed by “a little bird with a big whistle” that the AOC didn’t just hire three employees but, in fact, hired FOUR. So who is the fourth person that the AOC conveniently forgot to mention that they hired? Let me see if I can explain it.
The four newly hired positions were in the Human Resources Division. Of the four new positions, three were for Senior Manager positions and two of the three mentioned in the article apparently moved in from out of the area because the AOC supposedly spent thousands of dollars on their moving costs. How nice. Paying for the importation and moving costs of two hirees right in the middle of a hiring freeze that is a result of the worst state budget since the inception of the AOC….oh wait…it was a soft hiring freeze…no…it was hard…or was it soft? Frankly, I don’t know what kind of hiring freeze the AOC says it has. And from all appearances it would appear neither does the AOC.
Of the four new positions, three are Senior Manager positions, and it’s one of the those Senior Manager positions that the AOC didn’t fess up about. The new hiree for the unacknowledged fourth position was initially hired as a clerical temp from an outside agency. And in a matter of a mere two months, this temporary employee was in the enviable position of being hired as a Senior HR Analyst even though, according to my little bird, this temp “did not meet the required minimum qualifications for the position of a Senior HR Analyst.” Furthermore, the position in question was never opened up to other candidates already employed within the AOC — or to those trial court employees recently dismissed as a result of statewide reduction in force due to the insurmountable budget crisis. Hiring and promotion of unqualified staff for the new positions they occupy is not a phenomenon unique to the AOC, as court staff up and down the state can attest to. But that’s a story for another post.
In light of the Daily Journal article, none other than Bill Vickrey, Administrative Director of the Courts, responded via email defending the elevation and hiring of the temp employee as a Senior HR Analyst. Mr. Vickrey said, “The third position, an agency temp trained over an extended period, was approved for transfer to regular employee status.” Right. This temporary employee who was working for another agency was “approved for transfer to regular employee status.” You can call it a “transfer” all you want, Mr. Vickrey, but if it walks like a duck, clucks like a duck, and swims like a duck, you HIRED that duck.
Mr. Vickrey also claimed in his email that the new employees had been hired once the Legislature finalized the state budget in August.
This hiring freeze was put in place at the end of May pending a revised state budget and until we knew what our fiscal situation would be. With a final budget in place, two positions on which recruitment had been stopped were approved as appropriate to fill. The third position, an agency temp trained over an extended period, was approved for transfer to regular employee status.
So let’s see. According to Mr. Vickrey, the AOC had implemented the hiring freeze in May and waited until the focus was off the AOC before proceeding with the questionable move of hiring the three — or is it four? — new employees until the budget was passed in August….which is really interesting, Mr. Vickrey, because this copy I have of the floor map for the Human Resources department dated July 1st, 2009, shows the name of the former-temporary-now-senior-management employee color coded the same as the rest of the HR staff. I don’t see “temporary employee” next to this person’s name. Does this mean that this person was hired before the budget passed in August? Certainly looks that way from this floor map. The only people who can answer when this person was hired for certain is The AOC.
Oh, and one more thing. Bill Vickrey and Ron Overholt, Chief Deputy Director, were so panicked about the Daily Journal article that one of them made a frantic call to the HR department ordering them to cancel scheduled interviews. Interviews? In the middle of a soft hard hiring freeze? For what positions? For positions in the Office of Court Construction and Management (OCCM), that’s what. Court construction during court closures? What’s the matter with this picture? Is that 1407 Court Construction Fund so FAT that they are hiring new employees to oversee construction as Californians face court closures and court employees face layoffs?
The result: Interviews postponed “until further notice.” Hmmm….”until further notice.” Translation: The crap has hit the fan so lay low for a bit and when the coast is clear . . . then we’ll continue on as usual.
Questions continue to plague all of us as the answers become painfully clear.
One last thing before I close . . .I couldn’t also help but notice that Mr. Vickrey closed his email to the staff with the phrase “Serving the courts for the benefit of all Californians,” leaving the AOC Watcher thinking that it should read: “All California courts serving for the benefit of the AOC.”