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Follow The Bouncing Furlough Day, III: Executiving Is Really, Really Hard

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on December 3, 2009

In October, the County Board passed a resolution which issued four furlough days for county workers between then and the end of the year. But as is the norm for the county lately, they couldn’t do this without bungling things up, and almost immediately started moving furlough dates around for different departments, exempting others, or granting great favors on yet others by drastically cutting their furloughs down.

Then last week, when most people were off for the Thanksgiving weekend, Walker quietly announced that he was rescinding* the third of the four furlough days. The cause was finding some “unexpected savings” in health care costs.

Today, Walker announced that he is eliminating the fourth furlough day as well. Now the savings, again in health care costs, ballooned from $3 million to $8 million. More than enough to cover John Chianelli’s incompetence**.

Also noted was that Walker is also claiming that the County could see a “slight surplus” for the 2009 budget. Coincidentally, said “slight surplus” is almost exactly the cost of the two furlough days that workers did have in November.

This latest development raises many questions and concerns.

One is whether this “deficit” was just another contrived political stunt. If so, I did not authorize any of my money to be used to promote his campaign, and I want my money back. He owes me two days worth of pay.

Secondly, if there is indeed a surplus, that means he has overtaxed the county tax payers. If so, as a tax payer, I want my money back.

Third, is he really this incredibly incompetent? He started out 2009 by claiming there was a $15 million deficit. But when he illegally tried to impose an indefinite reduced work hour plan, he was unable to prove that there was even a deficit. Then in October, during the budget process, Walker found a “sudden and unforeseen deficit” which is directly attributed to one of his department heads, John Chianelli, being unable to do his duty with any hint of competence. Now he is claiming a surplus? If he can’t handle the County’s $1.4 billion budget, how in the world would anyone trust him to run the state’s budget, which is exponentially bigger and more complex?

Something else worth noting is when Walker was bragging about again leaving many positions unfilled:

The county also has kept hundreds of vacant jobs unfilled over the past year. That also contributed to fewer health claims, said Walker.

As a county employee, I guess I should be upset about this. However, because Walker refused to fill these positions, it created many staffing shortages. This opened the door for many workers, including myself, to take advantage of overtime projects. Not only did I keep up with the loss of income due to the furloughs, I am actually coming out ahead.

On the other hand, this news should also tick of the tax payers. Due to the staff shortages, many departments needed to bring in contract workers to help pick up the stuff that needed to get done. These contract workers are former county employees that had already retired. So, in Walker calls a cost saving measure, tax payers are now paying for the pensions of these workers, as well as their lifelong free health care coverage (to which the retired workers don’t have to contribute) and another salary on top of that. He would have been better off hiring new workers that at least would have been contributing to their health care costs, and only receiving one salary from the county instead of two.

Not good management at all on Walker’s part.

The article also includes a quote from Beth Werve (the president of my union local), who accurately points out that while many workers are happy to not have the income loss, there were many who had planned their out of town trips with that day off. This is not only now an unnecessary inconvenience to the workers who had planned accordingly for this day off, but also for management who is now scrambling around to make sure there is adequate coverage for the now rescinded furlough day.

Again, not good management at all on Walker’s part. Nor does it do anything to address the greatest deficit the county has ever faced.

*There have been some who are questioning whether Walker even has the authority to rescind the furlough days, since they were enacted by the Board, and might require another resolution by the Board to cancel them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for the cancellations to be canceled, but just found that interesting.

**Chianelli still hasn’t been held responsible for his failure to perform the most basic of his duties. The responsibility for the sudden deficit then falls squarely on Walker’s shoulders.


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