Plagiarism that beats even Percy Clark’s

Rewriting someone else’s stories is one thing. Simply stealing them word for word is another. We all know that the one-man-band news site Pasadena Now doesn’t have much staff, whether in Bangalore or Pasadena. That’s why they can’t cover the news like a professional organization. It’s tough all over, but our science and health writer Elise Kleeman, a Caltech grad and extraordinary professional journalist, worked hard recently to get the long covered-up story about a huge back-pay settlement Huntington Hospital has been ordered by a court to pay its nurses.

If the blog doesn’t have the staffing to do actual reporting, and yet wants to get the word out about real news as reported by a real news organization I suppose it could just link to our story, with attribution. Instead, pretending it had filed a real story of its own “From Staff Reports,” it just lifted Elise’s story, quotes and all, essentially in its entirety, with a few trims.

Bad form that needs to be noted — and halted immediately — and a sign that genuine journalism is still needed in Pasadena. Elise’s story in full follows; then the illegal plagiarism from Pasadena Now.

Hospital employees win restitution for overtime
By Elise Kleeman, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 01/28/2008 11:06:49 PM PST

PASADENA – Huntington Hospital employees won $32.8 million in restitution Friday for five years of miscalculated overtime.

Superior Court Judge William MacLaughlin, who ruled in September that the hospital was attempting to dodge overtime laws, sided with the employees again in accepting their calculation of the underpaid wages.

Huntington lawyers had argued the restitution amount should be decreased by approximately $20 million.

The class-action lawsuit, filed by four former Huntington nurses, charged that the hospital failed to pay adequate overtime for 2,117 employees between 1999 and 2004.

“We’re very pleased,” said Joseph Antonelli, lawyer for the nurses. “I think it’s going to be a landmark decision because there hasn’t been a trial court decision on this issue before.”

MacLaughlin is still considering an injunction that would bar Huntington from continuing the disputed pay practices. Antonelli expected that ruling could be issued within the next few weeks.

“We are disappointed by the court’s action today, and we are evaluating whether to appeal the decision,” read a statement the hospital released Monday. “Huntington Hospital has always been committed to complying with the law, and we are awaiting the court’s ruling on how to proceed with our pay practice going forward.

“It is important to note that we have always paid our employees fairly and treated them fairly,” the statement read. “The 12-hour schedule that is the subject of this litigation was devised and adopted at the request of our employees and with their overwhelming support.”
Huntington spokesman Connie Matthews declined to answer whether the hospital’s insurance would cover the settlement, or how hospital operations might be affected.

“The case is still being tried and it’s premature to speculate on the ultimate impact of the court’s action until we have a final resolution,” she said.

The nurses’ complaint stemmed from a complicated pay structure enacted after California mandated daily overtime pay in the last decade.

To ensure employees working 12-hour shifts and earning overtime would make roughly the same as employees ` eight-hour shifts over the course of each pay period, the hospital lowered the hourly pay rate for 12-hour shift employees.

But in some circumstances, 12-hour shift nurses worked shorter days than expected, losing out on valuable overtime pay. Huntington therefore instituted a correction known as the “short shift premium,” an hourly bonus added to the first 10 hours the employees worked.

The nurses argued that the premium should be included in calculating their overtime salaries, without which they would make more per hour for the first 10 hours each work day than for the 11th or 12th.

“The idea that the base rate would vary depending on the number of hours worked is fundamentally inconsistent with the whole overtime structure,” said Noel Ragsdale, a USC law professor. “I think the court would look at the circumstances and see that this was all designed to basically avoid paying the overtime rate.”

There are ways for employers to legally establish “alternative workweeks” for employees regularly working longer shifts, Ragsdale said.

Matthews declined to comment on whether the hospital had considered adopting that pay system.

Antonelli’s firm has filed two other claims against Huntington Hospital. One seeks damages for employees who quit or were fired without receiving the overtime owed them. The second claim was filed on behalf of 12-hour shift employees working at the hospital between 2004 and the present, he said.

elise.kleeman@sgvn.com

(626)578-6300, Ext. 4451

Hospital Employees Win $32.8 Million In Pay Dispute
Huntington Hospital attorneys want claim to be reduced to about $20 million

From Staff Reports
Tuesday, January 29, 2008 | 9:45 am
Huntington Hospital employees have won $32.8 million in restitution Friday for five years of miscalculated overtime and the Superior Court judge who ruled in their favor is also considering an injunction that would bar the hospital from continuing the disputed pay practices.

Superior Court Judge William MacLaughlin, who ruled in September that the hospital was attempting to dodge overtime laws, sided with the employees again in accepting their calculation of the underpaid wages.

Huntington lawyers had argued the restitution amount should be decreased by approximately $20 million.

The class-action lawsuit, filed by four former Huntington nurses, charged that the hospital failed to pay adequate overtime for 2,117 employees between 1999 and 2004.

“We’re very pleased,” said Joseph Antonelli, lawyer for the nurses. “I think it’s going to be a landmark decision because there hasn’t been a trial court decision on this issue before.”

Antonelli expected that ruling could be issued within the next few weeks.

“We are disappointed by the court’s action today, and we are evaluating whether to appeal the decision,” read a statement the hospital released Monday. “Huntington Hospital has always been committed to complying with the law, and we are awaiting the court’s ruling on how to proceed with our pay practice going forward.

“It is important to note that we have always paid our employees fairly and treated them fairly,” the statement read. “The 12-hour schedule that is the subject of this litigation was devised and adopted at the request of our employees and with their overwhelming support.”

Huntington spokesman Connie Matthews declined to answer whether the hospital’s insurance would cover the settlement, or how hospital operations might be affected.

The nurses’ complaint grew from a complicated pay structure enacted after California mandated daily overtime pay in the last decade.

To ensure employees working 12-hour shifts and earning overtime would make roughly the same as employees eight-hour shifts over the course of each pay period, the hospital lowered the hourly pay rate for 12-hour shift employees.

But in some circumstances, 12-hour shift nurses worked shorter days than expected, losing out on valuable overtime pay. Huntington therefore instituted a correction known as the “short shift premium,” an hourly bonus added to the first 10 hours the employees worked.

The nurses argued that the premium should be included in calculating their overtime salaries, without which they would make more per hour for the first 10 hours each work day than for the 11th or 12th.

Antonelli’s firm has filed two other claims against Huntington Hospital. One seeks damages for employees who quit or were fired without receiving the overtime owed them.

The second claim was filed on behalf of 12-hour shift employees working at the hospital between 2004 and the present, he said.

Copyright 2008 by Pasadena Now.com

Thorny Rose take on the State of the City

Wayne Lusvardi, chairman of the anti-Measure D group Citizens for Responsible Government, which opposes the measure on Pasadena’s Feb. 5 ballot, didn’t show up at the Doo Dah Parade Sunday to take his turn as the city’s annual Thorny Rose, but he did compose a long rebuttal to Mayor Bill Bogaard’s State of the City address. A shorter version will run as a printed letter to the editor in the Star-News of Jan. 22; the entire text, links and all, without any trimming or copy-editing, appears below.

Rebuttal to State of the City Address of
Mayor Bill Bogaard
January 18, 2008
Mayor’s Speech: http://www.insidesocal.com/pasadenapolitics/2008/01/sahtsee.html

A BUDGET REALITY DISCONNECT
Citizens for Responsible Government

Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard’s State of the City speech (“A Vital Connection”) delivered
January 17 reflects a vital disconnection with the mood of the citizenry and from the facts about the status of the City budget as we face a likely national economic downturn, an avoidable State budget deficit from overspending, and the specter of imposing new “blue sky” taxes on the Internet if Measure D is passed and Congress lifts the Federal moratorium on Internet taxes which is likely as soon as the public heat is off national elections in November 2008.

It is not possible in this amount of time to actually rebut the Mayor’s message in full and in detail, nor might it be useful. But let me make a few comments about the most imminent issue – Measure D – the Internet Tax – and the Utility User’s Tax on Water and Electricity as well as the large budget surplus the City has amassed in its Stranded Electricity Reserve Fund without first offering its customers a rebate.

Pasadena’s Water and Power Department says each customer’s electric bill includes a rebate but doesn’t disclose how much this discount is on each bill. Everyone’s utility bill is a “Bermuda Triangle” of undisclosed discounts and overcharges siphoned into the City’s General Fund. This “trust me – your utillity bill is correct” policy must be made more accountable. This sort of chicanery is why the California Supreme Court forced cities in California to obtain a majority vote before imposing Utility User Taxes.

As to the Utility User’s Tax on telephone and Internet usage known as Measure D, the Mayor is concerned that the City will lose $10 million per year in revenues for “critical City services.” Not mentioned in the Mayor’s report of the City’s economic situation is that Pasadena ran a $26 million budget surplus last year. If Measure D – the Internet Tax – is defeated Pasadena will merely have a $16 million budget surplus and there will be no effect on vital city services or city employee’s salaries or overtime. What the political fight over Measure D is all about is Internet taxation, for the first time and forever, and how much budget surplus the City should responsibly have – a whole lot or somewhat less than prior years.

What Mayor Bogaard conveniently avoided saying is that Pasadena has averaged a $21.6 million General Fund budget surplus over the last 8 years and has a whopping $633 million in cash and investments, including over $60 million surplus from overcharging of our electricity bills in its stranded electricity reserve fund. Pasadena has refused to rebate you the electricity customers these overcharges and instead is proceeding to plan to spend the money on a list of “Unfunded Priority” luxury projects such as a boondoggle park over the 210-Freeway that will expose children to auto exhaust fumes and will be an attractive nuisance. None of these “Unfunded Priority” projects will increase the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the City or raise the property tax base.

Pasadena’s cash, reserves and investments are tantamount to a bank account of $11,669 for every household in the City. Do you think the City of Pasadena should be holding a bank account of $11,669 for your household especially while we enter a likely economic downturn? To put this in perspective the average credit card debt per household is about $2,500 per household according to the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Pasadena doesn’t need a $10 million per year phone tax and sleeper Internet tax. The City of Pasadena has gorged itself on taxes for the last 8 years has had an average annual General Fund surplus of over $21 million per year.

Click here to see read the City of Pasadena General Fund financial statements showing a surplus for 2007 of $26 million.

http://crgovernment.net/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/2007_General_Fund.5121405.pdf

Click here to read the city documents showing that the City of Pasadena was holding $633 million in cash and investments as of September 30, 2007. http://crgovernment.net/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/cityfunds.4215423.pdf

Click here to read the financial statement notes showing that the City of Pasadena is hiding $60 million in a slush fund inside the City-owned Pasadena Water & Power fund.

http://crgovernment.net/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/Pagefrom_PWP2007_annual_report.5121433.pdf

Click here to read the City of Pasadena payroll report showing grossly overpaid City of Pasadena employees, with 412 employees making more than $100,000 in 2006. http://crgovernment.net/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/pasadenasalaries.4214842.pdf

Pasadena collects the highest General Fund revenues per household per year – $3,761 – of all the largest cities in Southern California. A General Fund is for city operations such as police, fire, libraries, and parks. By comparison, the City of Glendale does police, fire, libraries and parks for $2,307 per household per year. Even the wealthy and cultural arts City of Santa Barbara runs its municipal services for only $2,920 per household per year. And Santa Barbara has roughly the same crime rate as Pasadena.

Rebuttal to Councilman Sid Tyler
Allow me to also respond to City Councilman Sid Tyler’s recent claims that: Citizens for Responsible Government wants to wipe out $30 million in Utility User’s Taxes on electricity, water, and natural gas, not just $10 million on phone/internet taxes; that the City has no flexibility to fund a half percent ($1 million) shortfall in its General Fund Reserves; and his claim that the City has a “right” to impose a Utility User’s Tax.

No less than the California Supreme Court has ruled that overcharging for municipal and public utilities is illegal. Pasadena has no “right” to continue Utility User’s Taxes without a vote of the people. Pasadena has called a phony financial “emergency” when it has over $6 million in its Utility User’s Tax Reserve Fund, a $60 million surplus stashed in its Stranded Investment Fund, and over half a billion dollars in cash and investments.

Contrary to Sid Tyler, Citizens for Responsible Government has no intention to wipe out the entire $30 million in revenue the City now imposes on residents utility bills. CRG is about “responsible” government, not no government. Pasadena needs to eliminate the phone/internet tax because it doesn’t need $10 million in taxes when the City ran a $26 million surplus in 2007 and averaged over $21 million in surpluses the last eight years.

The claim that the City has no “wiggle room” with its Reserve Funds to plug a half-percent ($1 million) shortfall in its General Fund Reserves is absurd. Sid Tyler’s statement is like a family saying it only has 7.5% of its annual income in savings instead of 8% when it has over 3 years of annual income sitting in its checking account.

There is a “Vital Disconnection” between what the City says in its official pronouncements and the reality of its Budget surpluses. Don’t believe the City’s deceptive statements that it passed an Amending Ordinance to Measure D which exempts the Internet from taxation. That Amending Ordinance has tricky wording that only exempts “Internet Access” not Internet Usage. Measure D is an EXPANSION of a tax to include the Internet not a mere Continuation of a tax. Vote NO on Measure D on February 5, 2008.
Wayne Lusvardi, Chairman
Citizens for Responsible Government

The lion and the Lab

This photo, forwarded by lawyer and trails advocate Paul Ayers, was apparently taken Wednesday by a Jet Propulsion Lab employee from the bridge that goes from the JPL parking lot in the Upper Arroyo Seco to the Lab itself.

In other words, the part of the Arroyo where the mountain lion is strolling is well within the city of Pasadena, and quite close to hiking and biking trails that hundreds of people use each day. Cause for widespread panic? Nah. The very reason I’m posting it is because it’s so rare to see one of the big cats so close to town. But, no, you wouldn’t want to meet up with it while taking a leisurely stroll to Gould Mesa with the family.

2592-web_cougar.jpg

A ‘spoiled sport’

What proponent of one side of a political issue going on a ballot would turn down an opportunity to literally parade his views before over 10,000 people just days before the election?

Not a guy who cares a lot about winning is I suppose the first and easiest answer.

Few beyond the minuscule local blogosphere could tell you much about Measure D, the utility tax renewal on Pasadena’s Feb. 5 ballot. Funding available for advertising the No point of view is tiny. Free press coverage, not to mention people lining sidewalks looking at and listening to you, is priceless.

And yet the chief opponent of D, blogger and Citizens for Responsible Government chair Wayne Lusvardi, has “decided to decline participation in the Doo Dah Parade as the recipient of the Thorny Rose award,” as Janette Williams’ news story and Todd Ruiz’s Under the Dome blog are reporting today.

Sure, the award annually makes light of the biggest pain in the rear in town, and some of its recipients have perceived it as an insult.

But the savvy folks who have had forced upon them this particular Crown City of thorns have also in the end realized that to decline is not only to be a pill — it’s to show a complete lack of a sense of humor, something no successful political animal can afford to do — not in this country, at least.

Americans despise pomposity, of which there is no clearer sign than a failure to be able to make fun of oneself.

Yes, my betting line the other day in this space was sure crooked when I said that the smart money was on Wayne’s anti-D ally and fellow Thorny Rose short-lister Martin Truitt. But Martin, who then suggested that others would perform the TR’s duties better than he could, would surely have taken the prize in stride had he been awarded it. And I would think that his political counsel to Wayne would be to do the same — clearly to no avail.

Some interesting moments in Wayne’s statement of decline: Acknowledging that it was a mistake to write an erroneous original ballot argument struck down by a court as, in his words, “over the top,” he says, “I don’t want CRG to be discredited again like that in the eyes of the public.”

“The Doo Dah Parade is way past its hey day of the counter cultural movements of the 1970′s.” Um, then why do so many people turn up for it in Old Pasadena every year?

“I would rather make my own cultural statement on that morning by not participating in the parade and attending religious services.” Doo Dah doesn’t start until 11:30. Join me, Wayne, at the 9 o’clock and there’ll be plenty of time to get there after church!

“I realize I run the risk of being duped a ‘spoiled sport’ but I hope the media and the community will at least respect my decision.” I would think that “dubbed” was the word being grasped for here, along with “spoilsport” : “a person who behaves in such a way as to ruin the pleasure of others.”

But they’d just as soon do without the rain

In a memo this morning to county supes, Donald Wolfe, public works director in the big Alhambra office, reports 4. 4 inches of rain since Friday in the San Gabriel Valley, vs. just 1.9 inches in the San Fernando Valley. But our mountains got a whopping 8.8 inches. That snow you can see on the front range from Pasadena is nothing compared to the total whiteout on the peaks visible from the East SGV, where I am this morning. Good day to be on the powdery slopes at Baldy or Big Bear instead of at our desks. More from Wolfe:

“Our Flood Maintenance and Road Maintenance personnel continue to monitor flood
control facilities and road conditions. Dams are holding water, and spreading of water
for water conservation has been initiated. Over the weekend, we conserved 8,700 acre
feet of stormwater runoff in our spreading grounds and impounded 5,700 acre feet in
our reservoirs.”

So the question is of course begged — how many more massive drenchings like this one until we are out of the woods on the water shortage? The Times said that L.A. would require eight more such storms until matters were back to normal — but that town gets much more of its water from Northern California sources in the Sierras. We get more of ours than Angelenos do from groundwater right underneath us — as well as from the Colorado River.

Not that I have a swimming pool to fill or refill, but are Pasadenans, say, still supposed to voluntarily “refrain from” that if they do have one? Or from watering more than once every three days? (No need to water for a week, though, after a soaking like we’ve just had — that much I can tell you.)

And not that I am a drought skeptic. One big storm does not mean a recovery has been made, and only the ignorant would assume it has been. But as I mentioned in a column the other day, we’re clearly in a regular, old-fashioned, normal-year storm track here, with really good rains coming through from the north every 10 days to two weeks.

Kindly do refrain from bemoaning this happy weather. Don’t be a sniveler. Recall the poem (this is all of it) by the great poet of the real and the surreal West, Ed Dorn:

Californians want the water
But they’d just as soon
Do without the rain

I happened to be in Big Sur at a conference from Friday through Sunday night, and if you want to talk wet … it was positively Ben Lomond-y on the edge of the continent. And falling rocks on Highway 1 Friday evening knocked out the cars of three conference-bound colleagues …

Rosing to the occasion

Word on the Doo Dah street is that the Pasadena Doo Dah Parades 2008 Thorny Rose Selection Committee, a highly confidential and eclectic panel of community observers, has narrowed its choices for this year’s award to a short list of three.

The eighth-annual award, whose selectors are protected by parade organizers Tom Coston and Patty Hurley’s motto “Secrecy Beyond Reason,” begins as a free-for-all with submissions from all observers. Today, the votes are being cast from among these three: the entire Falun Gong organization, Pasadena Pundit blogger Wayne Lusvardi and Pasadena political consultant Martin Truitt.

How does one win? By being the most “painfully unwavering” pain in town over the past year. Former winners include our own Chuck Cherniss, former editor of the Star-News and longtime columnist; former Councilman and now CofC boss man Paul Little – twice!, during his obstinate Gold Line board days; the late former City Council gadfly Roy Begley, who lobbied for jitneys instead of mass transit, and whose fantastic antics (he often dressed as Gen. George C. Patton) won’t be remembered by those who only started paying attention to Pasadena politics in recent years; and school board gadfly Mary Dee Romney.

It’s a dubious honor, but an honor nonetheless. If the winner doesn’t choose to ride in the parade, Tom and Patty ride them in effigy anyway.

The Thorny Rose betting line here on Colorado Boulevard for the big job, coming up Sunday, Jan. 20 at 11:30 a.m. in Old Pas, to which time the usually-in-the-fall event has been rescheduled? Subcomandante Truitt in a cakewalk. Falun Gong’s too big, and too self-immolating to pass local fire codes; Wayne’s name is not as well known to the casual observer; Martin is just plain everywhere.