I understand that Governor-elect Jerry Brown wants to move quickly to try and get California's economic house in order. Good luck there. But, apparently in an effort to save some money, one of his first moves will be shutting down the inspector general's office established by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to make sure some $50 billion in federal stimulus money is being spent wisely, not to mention legally.
But this is one of those moves that may be symbolic yet stupid at the same time, some observers note.
Brown wants to demonstrate that he means business when it comes to cutting state waste. But my understanding from Inspector General Laura Chick is that, in reality, very little money will actually be saved by abolishing her office. Most of the staff will go back to the positions they held in state government before Chick's office was set up more than a year ago with great fanfare. That means they will remain on the state payroll. Only about three people (including, of course, Laura Chick) will be out of work, my understanding is.
The real problem is that it took this amount of time to get the office properly staffed and up and running. It also took until now for the bulk of that $50 billion to start making its way into the state.
So, just when a fearless champion of good, clean government (Chick, you may recall, is the former Los Angeles Controller who exposed much that was, and sadly still probably is, fiscally wrong in the city of Los Angeles) is needed the most, the incoming governor gives her and her office the boot.
Come on Jerry. Do you really think the state's own controller has the staff to keep track of all that federal money? Or, that federal monitors, who must watch over all 50 states, will be able to, either?
Of course not.
While he was governor, Schwarzenegger, according to his many critics, didn't have many good ideas for running the state of California. But establishing the special office of Inspector General to oversee how that federal money is being spent -- and hiring Laura Chick to fill the positon -- was, one may argue, one of the few really good ideas he did have.
There is little doubt that by hiring Chick, Schwarzenegger pissed off many state officials who looked at Chick as if she were a carpetbagger.
My guess is, these same people wasted little time whispering into Brown's ears as soon as he was elected governor that Chick needed to go.
They got their way.
The larger issue, of course, is not whether Chick stays or goes. The larger issue is, who will make sure federal money is spent without corruption taking ahold as it often does when huge sums are tossed about with no one watching closely over the entire process?
When he was running, Brown claimed he had lots of new ideas for running the state. Does he have a better idea now that he has fired Laura Chick?
Charles Feldman is a journalist, media consultant and co-author of the book, "No Time To Think-The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-hour News Cycle." He has covered politics and police in Los Angeles since 1995 and is a regular contributor of investigative reports to KNX1070 Newsradio.