Please let me preface my post with this humble acknowledgement: Math is not my strong suit. I struggled through the basics at every level. My high school geometry teacher, normally sweet and patient with her students was so addled by my energetically inept interpretation of her beloved subject she actually asked me to drop her class and promise to never put another unsuspecting maths teacher through her agony.
When asked by others why I dropped geometry, I would explain, “To me, geometry is like standing in front of an ancient column adorned with Greek inscriptions and attempting to use the Hebrew alphabet to translate them into Russian so an Arab could read them and my mind just isn’t agile enough to make that many leaps all at once.
I say this so you will have great pity for me and perhaps understand why I’m quite literally agonizing over the mathematical side of Sarah Palin’s quitting arguement regarding ethics violations complaints and how much they’ve cost Joe the Alaska Guy.
“These frivilous lawsuits and ethics complaints have cost Alaska thousands of hours and millions of dollars – and have so bogged down our system of government I have to quit in order to get anything done – blah blah blah…” Ok that’s probably not a direct quote but certainly it’s close enough for moose shoes.
It is my understanding, from asking folks in this previous post, (special hattip to EyeOnYou & not that sarah) that there are three members of the Alaska State Personnel Board. They are all volunteers and not on the state payroll. It is their job to review complaints against state employees and either dismiss or press forward. When they cannot decide amongst themselves if a complaint has merit or not, they turn the complaint over to a solicitor for advice. Said solicitor now makes the actual assessment of the complaint, determines if it has validity and either recommends to the board to dismiss the complaint flat out, or to proceed with a full investigation.
Please note that more than a dozen of these ethics violations complaints have been summarily dismissed, thereby not creating any cost other than the hours put in by the legal team (and since I am not privy to the actual name of the legal team I fondly refer to it as the legal team of Palin Hollers & I Jump). Granted legal costs can be substantial, but none of the complaints dismissed included court or litigation fees, and none played out in front of a jury. So reasonably, one would assume the actual review costs would have only reflected research and investigation.
Get comfy. the maths part is next. Try looking out of only one eye.
There are 52 weeks in a year with 40 hours in each full-time work week. Subtracting an average of five holidays per year, plus one week’s vacation, plus five sick days, the average full-time employee works approximately 1,952 hours a year. That’s not counting coffeebreaks, personal telephone calls, coming in late, leaving early, chatting with co-workers, daydreaming, family emergencies, inter-office parties for showers or birthdays, running errands or reading non-work-related emails, twitters and blogs. So let’s be fair and call it an even 1,900 hours of actual labour per full-time position per year.
To meet Sarah’s claim of she and her Personnel Board staffers spending ‘thousands of hours’ on frivilous ethics violations complaints, at least two of the members would have had to devote a minimum of twenty-five weeks – each – of full-time hours devoted solely and exclusively to reviewing ethics violations complaints. That’s non-stop, constant scrutiny of a complaint and doing nothing else five solid days a week for at least six months. How long does it take to read a few pages of text times 15-18 before realizing it’s over your head and you need a solicitor to make the decision? And once that step has been taken what’s left to do that takes up thousands of hours of state time?
For the $2,000,000 claim to be valid, the volunteer staffers would have had to bill the state for those hours worked.
But wait – can a person bill hours against a volunteer position? And if they turn the complaints over to a legal staff for review because ‘they’ are not comfortable making the calls themselves, where do the legal costs fall? Why are the Personnel Board members, whose job it is to review ethics violations complaints, not capable of making these decisions? Or to be more succinct: What the heck are they doing in positions (even volunteer posts) when they obviously can’t fulfill the job description? If all they did was take papers from one source (the complainant) and turn it over to another (the solicitor) they’re no more than a messenger service.
What is it, exactly, in their review which caused such a massive amount of work hours? How can this statement possibly be justified and why is no one in the media as perplexed as I am?
And why, pray tell, was the governor’s office involved? Why did these complaints cause the governor’s office to grind to a complete halt?
Maybe what Alaska legislators should review in their next session is how complaints are reviewed in the first place. My apologies if I’m speaking out of turn. It’s not my fault though, my brain is fried from having had to duel with a calculator tonight.
Other bloggers have put beauifully constructed graphs and charts together to show the lunacy of Sarah’s claim that her gathered complaints and lawsuits have cost Joe the Alaska Guy more than two million dollars. In fact, here’s a link (courtesy of Progressive Alaska) I highly recommend.
Now if someone would just address the fact that there’s no physical way 15-18 ethics violations complaints, issued over the course of one year, to a volunteer staff of three, with each complaint turned over to a solicitor for review and the majority dismissed outright, could have cost Alaska thousands of hours in wasted state time and/or resources, because my math is crap and even I can figure out that none of this adds up.
I am so tired of the press never holding Alaska Governor Sarah Palin accountable for the barrage of inaccuracies that fall out of her mouth, I could spit. They were all over President Clinton when he said he never smoked marajuana even though he almost sort of maybe tried it in college – but they give Sarah a free pass when she tells the world $300,000 is really $2,000,000.
I’m not even going near the fact that two-thirds of that 3k were the costs of a suit she filed against herself . I’ve already taken a hammer to the calculator.
The brick wall I keep banging into is that it feels like no journo with a brain in the lower 48 is taking her seriously. The danger with that, of course, is there are far too many brainless people in the lower 48 who do.
To comment on this post scroll back to the title: The $2 Million Campaign slogan: When the Going Gets Tuff, the Tuff Go Fishing and click on the word comments just beneath – thanks, OzMud