By ART CHANCE
Dermot Cole, a Fairbanks writer and political gadfly, is parroting the the congenital ‘crats and former employees of the previous administration in their opposition to Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s consolidation of departmental administrative services functions into the Office of Management and Budget.
It is the standard attack on the newbies and especially on the new director of OMB, who Cole avers “knows nothing about Alaska.” Cole asserts that the Administrative Services Divisions are where the expertise about State operations reside and all this expertise is being supplanted by newbies who don’t know anything and are about to radically upset the congenital ‘crats’ applecart.
In the fall of 2002 a group of us who had survived the Knowles Administration’s concerted effort to destroy the State’s institutional memory and culture to make it safe for them to do as they pleased without nagging rules ran up the black flag and let our name show on APOC reports as contributors to Frank Murkowski.
That will get you fired if you’re not careful; merit system rules don’t apply to Democrats. A few months later three of us were in charge of the wages, hours, and conditions of all classified and partially exempt employees of the Executive Branch.
There is nothing radical about actually having the Governor’s Office in charge of the government! There is nothing radical about a new Governor putting his/her own people in charge of things.
Let me show you “radical.” Here’s an excerpt from what three of the more knowledgeable and experienced merit system direct reports to political management were thinking about organizing State government 16 years ago:
The Eight Stars Program
A Quality Initiative Plan
The following assumptions underlie this plan:
- A Republican Governor cannot staff the State government with loyal, qualified appointees.
- The Governor’s Office of Management does not manage and its budget functions largely duplicate those that are or could be performed at a lower level.
- The current structure is ossified and intensely hierarchal.
- Each department is stovepiped.
- Most State employees have no sense of a corporate culture or values beyond bureaucratic self-preservation.
- The integrity of the State’s human resources and financial management systems has been severely compromised.
- There is no incentive to excel.
- Employees generally know more about their work than their politically appointed managers.
- The State’s statutory and contract pay schemes are inadequate to attract quality managers.
- Only the first of these assumptions is a good thing.
Run the Whole Government from the Governor’s Office
We propose to assemble a top-quality management team reporting directly to the Governor or Chief of Staff, placed in the exempt service, and paid whatever it takes to attract them. These managers will be tasked to put the management back in the Office of Management and Budget.
Since these managers will be in the exempt service, they will not be subject to, and thus slaves to, the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS), and can be offered attractive 401Ks or other retirement schemes that they can take with them when they leave.
This will have the additional benefit of forcing current employees who might be suitable for one of these positions to make the hard choice of leaving the PERS entitlement. Eight Star Managers will be the chief executive officers of eight functional entities comprised of logical groupings of functions now performed by one or more departments.
There will be no commissioners; the duties conferred to them in statute or through executive organization will be delegated by the Governor to the appropriate Star Managers.
The Star Managers will have the authority to employ subordinate managers for sub groupings in much the same manner as a division director might now be employed, but this plan envisions much larger and many fewer entities than the current division system. The current departments and divisions would continue to exist, but essentially only as accounting entities. The primary consideration in organizing the groupings is that the organization requires no statutory changes.
State Services Should be Grouped and Managed by Function
We propose the following functional groups:
Assets Management Group to comprise the core functionsof the current Department of Revenue, the Division of Finance, the Division of General Services, the information technology functions of ALL departments,and the facilities functions of the current Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. Some of the oil and gas functions of the Department of Natural Resources might logically accrete to this group.
Human Resources Management Group to comprise the current Division of Personnel, Division of Retirement and Benefits, and the human resources functions of all the current departments.
Public Protection Group to comprise the current Departments of Corrections, Public Safety, Military and Veterans Affairs, and the juvenile justice functions of the Department of Health and Social Services. Strong consideration should be given to moving the Criminal Division of the Department of Law to this group.
Transportation Group to comprise the transportation and airport functions of the current Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, the Marine Highway System, the Division of Motor Vehicles, and the various transportation regulatory and enforcement entities.
Natural Resource Enhancement Group to comprise the Departments of Fish and Game, Natural Resources, and Environmental Conservation.
Human Services Group to comprise the current Departments of Health and Social Services, Education, and the Senior Services functions of the Department of Administration.
Economic and Workforce Development Group to comprise the current Departments of Community and Economic Development and Labor and Workforce Development.
Legal Service Group to comprise the Department of Law.
Longtime veterans of State service will recognize this as somewhat similar to the Budget Request Unit scheme of the Program Budget Accounting system.
One Swift Stroke
The new management scheme should be enacted by Executive Order immediately upon the Governor’s swearing-in. Concurrently, the Governor should demand and accept the resignations of all Commissioners, Deputies and Assistants, and Directors. The only explanation offered should be that the new administration will be implementing a transition management, and that we will be happy to entertain their application for a position in the new government. They will figure it out when nobody calls them. The new functional group managers should be appointed immediately and their delegations should be pre-prepared and signed. Department human resources staff should be ordered to audit all return rights agreements, and the new administration should void all for which it can develop a colorable argument (This may cost some money eventually, but getting rid of congenital appointees with rights to return to the classified service will be a bargain even at twice the price.).
Epilogue: We actually got some of it done over the vehement opposition of the congenital ‘crats. As long as we remained in government we could keep some of it in place. Once we left the counterattack began in earnest and today only some vestiges remain. Maybe this time some reforms can be made to stick.
Art Chance is a retired Director of Labor Relations for the State of Alaska, formerly of Juneau and now living in Anchorage. He is the author of the book, “Red on Blue, Establishing a Republican Governance,” available at Amazon.