From the Columbus Dispatch…
High-ranking state workers moving to protected jobs after Strickland's loss
22 at ODOT now won't be subject to changes by Kasich; practice is common
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
By James Nash
Outgoing Gov. Ted Strickland's administration is moving to protect high-ranking employees - including 16 deputy transportation directors - by moving them into positions from which incoming Gov. John Kasich can't fire them.
Strickland's transportation director has approved new, civil-service-protected jobs for 22 Ohio Department of Transportation employees since Kasich won the election Nov. 2, according to documents released yesterday under a public-records request.
Eighteen of the 22 will take pay cuts, some of them significant. Deputy Director Rachel Livengood will see her salary drop from more than $100,000 a year to about $76,000. She is being demoted from the department's top human-resources job to a middle-manager position in the agency.
The employees getting raises generally were paid less to begin with. The highest-paid of the group, Michaela Baumann Peterson, will see her salary increase from $76,000 a year to $84,000 after being promoted from an attorney to an affirmative-action manager.
The practice is commonplace and legal in state government. Former Gov. Bob Taft's administration moved dozens of officials to protected jobs after Strickland was elected in 2006. Former Gov. George V. Voinovich's administration approved the practice in the 1990s as a way of assuring longevity for career professionals in state government.
Officials in Strickland's administration couldn't say yesterday how many employees have moved into protected positions since the election.
At the Ohio Department of Transportation, which has long held a trove of patronage jobs, spokesman Scott Varner insisted that everyone being moved deserves his or her new position.
"There is nothing illegal or improper about these changes," Varner said in a statement. "More importantly, we continue to keep Ohio's transportation system safe and moving - as taxpayers would expect - during this change in administration."
Kasich's aides did not complain about the Strickland moves.
"Gov.-elect Kasich's focus remains on appointing new leadership to state departments and agencies, and ensuring that they have the personnel and resources they need to get to work immediately on improving Ohio's economy and getting our state back on track," spokesman Rob Nichols said in a statement.
Strickland administration officials said vulnerable employees can't automatically move to protected jobs - they have to apply and show their merit.
"The state rules for who gets interviewed are pretty stringent," said Ron Sylvester, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Administrative Services. "It's not like we can just willy-nilly move people around."
Sylvester and Varner are not among the fortunate Strickland administration appointees. Neither has been moved to a protected job, and both likely will be casualties of the transition after Kasich takes office Jan. 10.