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New furlough dispute brews between controller and Schwarzenegger administration

January 12, 2010 |  4:20 pm

State Controller John Chiang told Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration today that he intends to end forced furloughs for state correctional officers this month, prompting a threat from the governor’s office to dock other pay from state prison workers and resort to layoffs.

If Chiang follows through on his decision and it is not overturned, the prison guards would be the largest group of state workers to have succeeded in overturning the forced furloughs that have been in effect for a year and amount to a 15% reduction in pay.

The dispute centers on Schwarzenegger’s appeal of a Dec. 17 decision by Alameda County Superior Court Justice Frank Roesch overturning the furloughs for members of the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn. The governor’s office said the appeal, filed Dec. 31, triggers an automatic stay of the court decision.

In a letter Monday, Debbie Endsley, Schwarzenegger’s personnel chief, told Chiang that a “unilateral decision” eliminating the furloughs would violate court rules.

“The controller has overstepped his authority by taking this illegal action during our appeal,” the governor’s spokesman, Aaron McLear, said today.

But in a letter today, Chiang’s chief counsel, Richard Chivaro, said the type of order Roesch issued can’t be appealed.

So starting Jan. 31, the controller’s office “has eliminated the pay differential and will pay the amount due for all hours worked,” Chivaro wrote.

A spokesman for Chiang, Jacob Roper, said the decision was related to the court order, and had no connection to the $13,100 in political contributions the union has made to the controller since 2006.

-- Michael Rothfeld in Sacramento