State may sue CCPOA over owed funds

Jan. 26, 2010


The Schwarzenegger administration has threatened legal action against the California Correctional Peace Officers’ Association — the prison guards’ union — if its officials continue to refuse to pay the millions of dollars the union owes the state to reimburse taxpayers for the time its leaders spend on union business.

According to the administration, CCPOA is supposed to pay the state for the salaries and benefits for its top leaders, who spend their careers doing union business yet remain on the state payroll and receive government pensions. Yet since 2006, the union has not paid what amounts to approximately $4 million, according to a spokeswoman for the state Department of Personnel Administration.

The union, which did not return my call, has agreed to repay the state several times, but it has never coughed up the funds. The union, administration officials say, has disputed the amount of the payment, at one point insisting that it owes the state 10 percent less than the amount it has been billed. Yet it has not paid anything, not even the lower amount.

“It is unacceptable CCPOA refuses to pay the state what it is owed for time their members take off to run their union and perform union activities,” Rachel Arrezola, a spokeswoman for the governor, told me. “The state has tried to work with the union and has exhausted every avenue — short of going to court — to recoup money owed.  CCPOA’s delay in reimbursing the state is only costing California taxpayers precious dollars and if they continue to refuse, we are prepared to move forward with litigation.”

The administration and the guards’ union have been locked in another legal dispute over the administration’s furlough program — something the guards say illegally forces some guards to work with reduced pay. The administration won the latest court ruling. The union has long been one of the most powerful political forces in Sacramento, and Controller John Chiang, who is taking the union’s side in the pay issue, has received donations from the guards.

The administration might begin legal proceedings this week on the union leave issue.

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