Political Nepotism Alive and Well in Orange County

Patrick McGreevy writes in today's LA Times about friends and family members of office-holders getting state jobs. Among them is Marisela Villar, daughter of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who state taxpayers pay $68,000 annually to work out of a Santa Ana state office for Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, pictured together.

Villar, whose father is a former Assembly speaker, was hired by one of Villaraigosa's friends, then-Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, in 2006 to arrange community meetings and handle constituents' calls in Southern California. Villar performs the same field office duties for Bass. The speaker says in the piece she inherited a staff of consultants that included Villar. "Everybody's working," Bass said. "I don't believe in make-work."

McGreevy also reports from the other side of the aisle, noting that Barry Nestande, brother of Assemblyman Brian Nestande (R-Palm Desert) and the son of former 70th District Assemblyman and Orange County Supervisor Bruce Nestande, is paid $104,000 annually as chief of staff for Sen. John Benoit (R-Palm Desert).
Brian Nestande, who used to be the chief of staff to Palm Springs-area Republican Members of Congress Sonny Bono and Mary Bono, was elected to the Assembly seat Benoit left to run for state Senate. Last I heard, Papa Bruce was lobbying on behalf of Orange County.

There is apparently nothing illegal about the well-connected getting these taxpayer-supported jobs, according to the Times story.

Lawmakers have broad powers to hire whomever they wish, and those they employ need not go through the Civil Service exam process that requires applicants to compete for jobs on merit. Some are paid as consultants, with vague responsibilities or assignments. Others have titles that bear little relationship to what they actually do.

At least a dozen political allies, relatives and friends of legislators, including political candidates in need of a salaried landing or launch pad between elections, were on the legislative roster last year at a cost of $754,000.

These plum positions do not pass the smell test, however. Tracy Westen, chief executive of the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles, tells McGreevy, "It looks like nepotism. It's the kind of thing the public doesn't like: people using their power and influence to provide cushy jobs to friends and family."


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