Average Joe seat on state commission filled by the well-connected

Stockton’s Anthony and Rima Barkett were hosting a fabulous party in Rome in 2007 to discuss what the world could do to stop the Darfur killings.

The party’s guest list included actors Don Cheadle and George Clooney, two Nobel Laureates and the mayor of Rome.

There at the Barkett’s apartment at the Villa Borghese, a verdant central park of fountains and museums, began a three-day, annual summit started by former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev to honor those who spread peace, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Today, Barkett serves on the state commission that sets pay for top officials, in the seat meant to represent the state’s Average Joes. The commission, which convenes its annual pay-setting meeting next month, also has spots set aside for business, union, nonprofit and compensation professionals.

Barkett told CalWatchdog he was not sure of the criteria for the seat, but said he has “a diverse background in law, real estate, agriculture and general business so I think I am well suited to represent the general public on this commission.”

Barkett’s seat

The seat on the California Citizens Compensation Commission for the “general population” could include a “retiree, homemaker, or person of median income,” according to the state constitutional provision put in place by the voters.

Barkett was appointed in 2013. He succeeded a former mayor and bank vice-president as well as a roofing contractor who had contributed almost $150,000 since 1997 to federal campaigns.


Sacramento_CapitolThe commission’s duty — which came out of a sweeping ethics reform package, Proposition 112, in 1990 — is to decide the pay and benefits of constitutional officers, like governor, attorney general and state legislators.

That package was aimed at giving regular citizens a measure of influence.

“When voters passed Proposition 112, there was a clear interest in creating a California Citizens Compensation Commission that would not be dominated by wealthy donors with personal connections to elected officials,” said Kathay Feng, the executive director of the good government group California Common Cause, which lobbied for Prop. 112 at the time of its creation and passage.

“The spirit of the law was to create a commission that would represent average Californians from different walks of life who could assess what would be reasonable compensation for our lawmakers,” Feng said.

However, because for the 12 months prior to being appointed Barkett hadn’t been a lobbyist, held elected or appointive office or been a candidate for elected office (a blanket requirement for three of the commission members), Brown’s office contends there’s nothing to see here.

“The appointment is consistent with statute,” said Brown spokesman Evan Westrup.


Barkett and his cousin Edward, described in local reports as being from “one of the city’s most prominent families,” are commercial real estate developers. The two own an office building in Sacramento with a $4.2 million value for taxing purposes and a city center development in Lodi worth $6.8 million. They developed downtown Stockton’s reported $15 million City Centre Cinemas 16.

The median household income in California is $61,489. In Stockton it is $45,347.

The value of Barkett’s home in Stockton is estimated around four times the average local home value, according to data gathered from public disclosures and real estate websites.


He’s listed as legal counsel for a company called 3 Leaf Holdings. Along with another business partner, Chris Flaherty, chairman and CEO of 3 Leaf Holdings, Barkett owns or manages a few development companies, a renewable energy company, a 160-acre walnut and olive orchard in Linden and a 110-acre cherry orchard in Salida. Flaherty is also a Brown appointee, to the 2nd District Agricultural Association, San Joaquin County Fair Board.

Since 1999, Barkett has given about $45,000 to federal candidates, mostly Democrats. He contributed another $81,000 to state candidates since 2002. And Rima, his wife, also a Brown appointee, gave another $5,900 at the federal level.

For years, Barkett has served as a political consultant for the Stockton East Water District.

Barkett’s father was Dr. Joseph Barkett, a family physician who, like Barkett, owned commercial properties and orchards. He was chairman of the San Joaquin County Democratic Club and raised money for two Democratic presidents: John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. He was appointed to two terms on the World Trade Center Authority by then-Gov. Jerry Brown (during his first stint as governor).

His predecessors

Barkett replaced on the commission Kathy Sands, an appointee of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had been on the Auburn City Council for eight years, with two terms as mayor — but not for 12 months prior to her appointment (as required by law).

Sands had held other notable positions in Auburn city government as well. She had served as the vice president of the Auburn Chamber of Commerce and had, by the time she left after 40 years, worked her way up to vice president and senior loan officer of Placer Savings and Loan.

Johnny Zamrzla, an appointee of Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, held the seat before Sands. A roofing contractor in Palmdale, Zamrzla had been active in industry groups like the Western States Roofing Contractors Association — there’s even an annual roofing award given in his honor. He has given to $145,000 to federal candidates over the years.

Read more:

Some legislators proudly refuse pay increases
Vacancies plague commission on state lawmaker’s pay

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