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Columnist: WCAB Move Fits Pattern of Rewarding Friends With Patronage

  • State: California
  • Topic: WEST
  • - Average time spent on item: 18 minutes
  • - Popular with: Legal

California Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision to appoint a high school classmate to the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board fits with a pattern of rewarding friends with political appointments since the start of his third term in 2011, according to columnist Dan Walters.

Juan Pedro Gaffney

Juan Pedro Gaffney

Walters, a former columnist for the Sacramento Bee who joined the nonprofit CALmatters as a commentary writer in 2017, said that shortly after Brown took office in 2011, he rescinded an appointment his predecessor made to the state community college Board of Governors.

Brown’s office explained at the time the governor was substituting his own selection over the “11th-hour appointment” of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Brown appointed Natalie Berg to the position. Berg is the wife of late San Francisco lobbyist Peter Finnegan, whom Walters calls one of Brown’s “oldest and closest friends.” The governor appointed people to the Public Utilities Commission and High Speed Rail Authority who served for him during his first two terms in office, starting in 1974.

The appointment of Juan Pedro Gaffney to the WCAB matches the same pattern. Walters says Gaffney’s qualifications for the position is that he and Brown have been friends since they graduated high school together.

As WorkCompCentral reported after the appointment was announced in June, Gaffney and Brown both graduated from St. Ignatius College Preparatory school in 1955.

Walters notes that Brown has also appointed staff members to various positions, including Katherine Dodd, his deputy legal affairs secretary who was also appointed to the WCAB.

The Senate Rules Committee in August recommended the full Senate confirm both appointments.

Gaffney acknowledged his friendship with the governor in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle earlier in September.

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James Witkop Sep 21, 2018 a 7:09 am PDT

I am not exactly thrilled with the appointment of Ms. Dodd, but from what I hear about her (I've never met her because I am not involved in politics, and she has never been involved in workers' compensation) she is very smart and ambitious. So far, comments about her have been positive and at least she has a license to practice law. She is a political appointee. Those happen all the time. Mr. Gaffney on the other hand is a crony appointee. Crony appointments contributed to Grey Davis being recalled because they are inappropriate and make a mockery of our system. He has no business being appointed to one of the most prestigious positions within the WCAB. To be clear, I am not blaming Mr. Gaffney for his appointment. I wouldn't expect him to say no to the pay increase. I am, however, blaming Jerry Brown, and I do so very strongly. He has committed a great disrespect against our community, and that will forever be his legacy for me.

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