by CalWatchdog Staff | February 4, 2010 10:48 am
Feb. 3, 2010
By ANTHONY PIGNATARO
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Jan. 19 appointment of Nadia Davis-Lockyer to the California Community Colleges Board of Governors is both perfectly understandable and completely incomprehensible. As a result, it’s unusually illuminating of the governor’s special take on bipartisanship, as well as the growing power of familial relations in state politics.
The job itself is relatively simple. The community colleges Board of Governors has 17 members, who meet six times a year. They set statewide policy standards of instruction, testing and such for the state’s 110 community colleges and 2.9 million students – the largest higher education system in the U.S. Their compensation is a $100 per diem.
Davis-Lockyer took office on Jan. 28, according to this press release put out by California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott’s office (Scott did not return a call for comment for this story; Board member Lance Izumi also works at Pacific Research Institute, which oversees CalWatchdog).
The job may be simple, but Davis-Lockyer’s appointment is anything but. She’s a Democrat, Alameda County Supervisorial candidate – her success at which in June may make it impossible for her to stay on the Community College Board of Governors – and wife of Democratic state Treasurer Bill Lockyer. Her campaign filings show all manner of contributions from moderate and progressive Democrats, many of which hail from Orange County, where she got her start. In December, former Democratic state Senator Art Torres walked precincts with her in Hayward. On paper at least, she, her husband and her backers represent formidable adversaries to Republicans statewide.
And yet, the relationship between Schwarzenegger and Bill Lockyer is hardly adversarial (at times, Schwarzenegger has earned far more grief from Republicans than Democrats). In fact, Lockyer – once considered a candidate for governor – announced during the 2003 recall of Gov. Gray Davis that he was backing Schwarzenegger. For her part, Davis-Lockyer says her appointment is just about education and bipartisanship.
“At a time when budget cuts are threatening higher education, I will work especially hard to strengthen California’s Community Colleges,” she says in a Jan. 20 statement posted on Davis-Lockyer’s supervisor campaign website. “As unemployment projections look bleak, California’s Community Colleges are the key to economic recovery, giving us hope for a bright future.”
When asked why she thought she got the Board of Governors nomination, Davis-Lockyer said it was because she’s good at getting people to work together. “I led efforts to unite the parties,” she said. “When I was on the Santa Ana Unified School Board I was always working to bring people together.”
For their part, the governor’s office struck a similar note. “The governor appoints the most qualified individuals to serve the people of California and Ms. Davis-Lockyer most certainly fits into that category,” Mike Naple, a deputy press secretary for Schwarzenegger, e-mailed on Jan. 25. “Her prior experience as an educational leader and her commitment to serving her community make her an excellent choice for the California Community Colleges Board of Governors. The governor is confident in her abilities to fulfill the duties of this appointment.”
Of course, Davis-Lockyer still has to win Senate confirmation. When that would take place no one could really say – the Senate Rules Committee, which schedules hearings, only recently began their standard background check on new appointees. In fact, it could be months, or even up to a year before Davis-Lockyer answers a single question before the Senate.
As a result, the appointment has so far gone relatively unnoticed. In fact, most of those individuals contacted for this story had no idea the appointment had been made.
“It’s an unusual appointment, but Schwarzenegger is not your typical politician,” Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles, said. “He’s also termed out, and doesn’t need to have to toe the party line.”
Tony Quinn, the co-editor of California Target Book and a long-time watcher of California politics, agreed. But he added that it was only strange when placed in the context of past governors.
“I’ve looked at his appointments over the years,” he said. “It’s unusual, but Schwarzenegger has been very bipartisan in his appointments. Consider his naming Susan Kennedy [a close aide to former Democratic Governor Gray Davis]. For past Republican governors, 80 to 90 percent of their appointees were Republican. Then Gray Davis came in and appointed no Republicans at all.”
In truth, Schwarzenegger has taken heat for appointments almost since he first took office. In 2005, he took fire from Republicans for replacing retiring Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown – a strong conservative – with the far more moderate Carol Corrigan. And Republican activists were so infuriated by Schwarzenegger’s appointing of dozens of Democrats to judicial posts –as well as his spending proposals and the aforementioned Kennedy appointment – that they briefly threatened to withhold official Republican Party endorsement during the 2006 election.
Then again, Davis-Lockyer, 38, is no mere Democrat. She lives in Hayward with husband Bill and their son Diego. She’s a deputy district attorney in Alameda County and executive director of the Alameda County Family Justice Center, which assists battered spouses and victims of child and elder abuse. From 2000 to 2001 she was president of the Santa Ana Unified School District in Southern California. In the late 1990s, she provided pro bono legal representation for Arthur Carmona, a 16-year-old boy wrongly convicted in Orange County of robbery. Carmona spent two years in prison before Davis-Lockyer – assisted by local media – got him freed.
Her 2003 marriage to Lockyer –30 years her senior – came as a shock to political watchers statewide. They had, according to an April 19, 2003 Los Angeles Times story, been dating for a year when they got married that spring. In fact, she was already pregnant when they took their wedding vows.
At least one of her supporters believes her age is an advantage. “It’s great to have the participation of a relatively young person who can better understand what students are going through,” John Hanna, a Rancho Santiago Community College District trustee who has worked with Davis-Lockyer on education issues for years, said. “The Board of Governors is typically drawn from an older population that’s not a reflection of the student body.”
Then again, all this may be academic. Stern said he believed that the “doctrine of incompatible offices” would kick in if Davis-Lockyer gets elected to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, forcing her to give up her Community Colleges Board seat. When asked if this was true, Paige Marlatt Dorr, a spokeswoman for California Community Colleges Chancellor Scott, said her office’s legal advisers weren’t sure and would ask the state Attorney General’s office for a legal opinion should Davis-Lockyer win the election.
A call to the AG’s office asking whether the incompatible offices doctrine was relevant to Davis-Lockyer’s case was also not conclusive. “That question would require legal analysis, which we are not able to provide to the public,” Christine Gasparac, press secretary to Attorney General Jerry Brown, e-mailed on Feb. 2. Gasparac added that I was free to refer to the AG’s 204-page Conflict of Interest pamphlet. Chapter 11, which deals with incompatible offices, seems to indicate that Stern is correct.
“The doctrine of incompatible offices concerns a potential clash of two public offices held by a single official,” states the pamphlet. “When a person holds offices with two governmental entities and there is overlapping geographical and subject matter jurisdiction the offices generally are incompatible.” The pamphlet then lists a dozen examples, the first of which is “county board of supervisors member and community college board member.”
Ironically, it was former Attorney General Bill Lockyer who oversaw and approved the Conflict of Interest pamphlet in the first place.
In the meantime, Davis-Lockyer’s supervisorial race continues. On Feb. 1, according to Contra Costa Times writer Josh Richman, Davis-Lockyer announced that her husband’s Bill Lockyer for Treasurer reelection campaign had given her $75,000. That means she currently holds about $135,000 on hand after raising more than $237,000.
That’s a powerful testament to the Lockyer’s political commitment to each other. But a far more ironic development had occurred a few days before.
On Jan. 27, Lockyer trumpeted a new endorsement in her Alameda County Supervisor: Deborah Roderick Stark, a member of the First Five Alameda County Commission, a community organization created by the Proposition 10 cigarette tax hikes back in 1998 to help better the lives of children statewide.
“I am proud to support Nadia Lockyer for Alameda County Supervisor,” Stark is quoted as saying in a Davis-Lockyer press release. “Nadia understands the needs of families and what it takes to keep communities healthy. Nadia Lockyer will be a voice for the children and families of Alameda County when she will serve on the Board of Supervisors, representing the people of District 2.”
Stark, as Josh Richman pointed out in his blog, is also the wife of long-serving U.S. Congressman Pete Stark, D, Fremont.
In politics, it’s often a family affair.
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