Alameda Probation Teamsters Beat Cronyism

Alameda County Probation Teamsters stood together to beat cronyism.

Alameda County Probation Teamsters stood together to beat cronyism.

When Alameda County Probation Teamsters heard that a clerical supervisor — who had no probation officer experience — was appealing to be considered eligible to apply for a position supervising probation officers, they were understandably upset. Not only did this kind of move not make any sense, it went against the County’s own Civil Service Rules, which require that applicants meet minimum qualifications, including performing actual probation case work such as supervising clients and preparing status reports.

In response, Teamsters 856 Attorney Malia Vella filed an appeal with the County’s Civil Service Commission, strongly urging them to reject the clerical supervisor’s request.

“Even though the position wasn’t a Teamster job, it still affected the membership,” Vella said. Probation Supervisor is one of the few promotional opportunities for members in the Department, and it also qualifies for safety retirement — a benefit afforded to law enforcement officers in recognition of the years of high stress associated with the occupation.

“We had a duty to make sure that the person who filled the position was qualified,” she said.

Initially, the Civil Service Commission agreed that the clerical supervisor did not meet the minimum qualifications for the job. However, when they spotted the Alameda County Chief of Probation in the audience at the hearing, they solicited her opinion, which was that she was there in support of the clerical supervisor.

“This is the very definition of cronyism,” said Vella. “There is a system in place to make sure the hiring process is fair and unbiased. The Chief never should have any say as to who is in the pool of candidates being considered.”

856 Shop Steward Ed Braun was equally frustrated with what was occurring.

“It seemed incredible that County’s human resources, our own department’s human resources, and the Commission appeared to be unaware, or unwilling to review, enforce, or understand their own rules and regulations throughout this bizarre series of events,” said Braun, who’s been a probation officer with Alameda County for 16 years.

Eventually, through the compelling testimony provided by Teamsters 856 probation officers who went on record and strong arguments by Teamster attorneys, including Vella, the Commission reversed its decision — unanimously denying the supervisor’s bid to become eligible for the promotion.

“By organizing, taking a stand, and fighting smart together we emerged with a big victory against the cronyism that has plagued the Department,” said Vella. “Our preparation and dedication was recognized by the Commission, who acknowledged that they now have a better appreciation for and understanding of all the work our members at Alameda County Probation do,” said Vella.

“Malia should be commended for her excellent appeal and work dealing with the difficult and combative bureaucracy here,” said Braun.

“At the Civil Service Commission, thanks to the efforts and work of Malia, I for the first time, saw management, and line staff employees, come together united on an issue that has seriously fractured our agency. I just want to express my appreciation for the efforts and fight Local 856 brought on behalf of all of us, and our department, to stand up and solve this problem,” said Braun.