Friday, January 28, 2011

Moonlighting officials steal private-sector jobs

I thought we were supposed to be creating jobs here in Colorado, not insuring the six-figure incomes of officials who are recruited to public service in the state.

Public service is called that for a reason, and I'm sure many state employees would love to make an extra 20 grand on the days they are forced to take unpaid furloughs in order to save the state some money.

But the public officials who insist on moonlighting to maintain $100,000-plus incomes and their status in the privileged class in Colorado don't seem to worry much about that. Neither, apparently, do they worry about setting a bad example.

The latest entrant to the "show-me-the-money" crowd is Dwayne Romero, an Aspen city councilman who apparently knows if you can't keep your salary cred in the respectable six figures you might lose some of your gilded Aspen status.

So instead of working as a full-time economic development director, he's giving up 19.2 percent of his state salary so he can part-time it as president of Related Snowmass, a subsidiary of a New York luxury real-estate developer.

Eric Brown, spokesman for Gov. John Hickenlooper (who gushed over Romero's gambit), told the Denver Post the new state employee will make about $28,000 less than other governor's cabinet members, which sounds to me like enough to hire a new assistant in the eco-devo/international trade office.

But that won't happen because the state is so short on money. Hickenlooper likes saving the money. He's assigned his lieutenant governor, Joe Garcia, to head the state Department of Higher Education, and has billed that as a way to save money, too.

But Garcia's double assignment was also a way to insure him a higher income, and that's the problem with the precedents being set here by Democrats and Republicans alike. Public service is public service and it has usually required some self-sacrifice from those who serve.

Now we have the elected Secretary of State, the elected State Attorney General, the elected state Treasurer, the elected Lieutenant Governor and the appointed executive director of the Office of Economic Development and International Trade making money on the side because the state won't pay them enough to make a "living" comparable to executive positions in the modern business world.

Actually, I don't begrudge the men -- notice they are all men -- the extra dough because private business in Colorado has been traditionally pretty cheap, certainly with most employees below an executive level.

But that's not necessarily true about private-company executives, so there's a bit of sticker shock among those members of Colorado's privileged class when they take on public-sector jobs. They don't want to lose their C-level social and economic status.

In a jobs-creating government, these good men would not only forego their private salaries and urge their former employers to hire or promote someone new to their vacated positions in the private-sector, but they might even double-down on their state public service and at least consider taking less money than is owed them for their valuable time.

That's the best way these wealthy men could serve the people of their state.

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