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joined the nonprofit CALmatters as a commentary writer in 2017, said that shortly after Brown took office in 2011, he rescinded an appointment his predecessor made to the state community college Board of Governors.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