Skip to comments.Prison watchdog wants Schwarzenegger aides to testify under oath
Posted on 07/12/2006 5:02:00 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
The watchdog appointed by a federal judge to oversee California prison reforms said Wednesday he wants to force top aides of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to testify under oath in a case that could result in more federal control over the state's deeply troubled corrections system.
John Hagar, the special master who reports to U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson, wants the judge to let him conduct a full investigation into whether the administration has been backsliding on reforms since the first of the year.
At issue is whether Schwarzenegger's top aides have been currying favor with the state's powerful prison guards union to keep it from attacking the governor during his re-election year. Two leaders of the state's corrections department resigned in quick succession earlier this year, complaining that their efforts were being undermined by ties between the union and the administration.
Hagar alleged in a June 21 preliminary report and again during Wednesday's hearing in U.S. District Court that the administration has let the union weaken reform efforts. The criticism stems from Schwarzenegger's appointments of Chief of Staff Susan Kennedy, a Democrat who worked closely with the union when she was an aide to former Gov. Gray Davis, and Cabinet Secretary Fred Aguiar. Both took office in January.
Hagar said Kennedy appears to be "in the pocket" of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association and said union officials have ready access to the governor's office.
"Really what the meetings are all about (is) 'You do a favor for me, I'll do a favor for you,'" Hagar said during Wednesday's hearing. "The governor's cabinet secretary is sort of running errands for the CCPOA president."
Hagar said he will make a formal request of the federal judge to let him conduct the investigation. If he concludes that reforms have stalled, Hagar said he would ask the judge to take more direct control of the prison system.
Schwarzenegger's legal affairs secretary, as well as representatives from the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the California Correctional Peace Officers Association denied they were working to undermine reform efforts.
"The fact that we're looking for common ground (with the union) does not mean we're retreating from reform issues," Schwarzenegger Legal Affairs Secretary Andrea Lynn Hoch told Hagar. "The governor believes we will not get prison reform by ignoring the union."
The federal oversight was enacted as part of the settlement of an 11-year-old lawsuit over inmate abuse, employee discipline and what Hagar called a pervasive "code of silence" that protects wrongdoers and punishes whistle blowers within the nation's largest prison system.
The federal judge already has taken control of the system's $1.1 billion-a-year inmate health care system, acting in a separate class-action lawsuit.
As evidence of the union's influence on the administration, Hagar alleged that Aguiar lied to him in an April 20 telephone conversation when the cabinet secretary said acting Corrections Secretary Jeanne Woodford was resigning for family reasons.
In fact, Hagar said, Woodford resigned because she was upset that she was being undermined by union leaders' meetings with Kennedy and Aguiar. Administration officials responded that Woodford's public comments indicated she was resigning for family reasons and said that was the reason she gave to them.
Aguiar, from what I've read, is one of the good guys. Nothing would surprise me about Susan-Oracle-Kennedy though. I hope she isn't dragging Aguiar into the mud.
I'm confused.. This article, while misleading in the headline, let slip that the folks under investigation are liberals. An editor must have been asleep at the wheel - only Republicans can be named as being crooks and cheats, the others simply omit the party affiliation.
As to the request, my opinion is split. Random investigations by the federal into state business, much less judicial into executive, are things I tend to stand against.
By the time an individual reaches the status of Special Master, phrases like "in the pocket of" and the naked verb "lied" are little used except in closed hearings in the more flagrant cases.
Adding to the presumptions created by the two resignations, this uncharacteristic bluntness on the part of a SM appears to point toward politics as usual in Sacramento. It does not point toward a partisan situation. Both sides of the isle are apparently willing to meet the demands of the CCPOA as long as they're reelected