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Explaining the motives of the DCA/CSAC civil war

By Zach Arnold | June 26, 2012

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The biggest question I’ve struggled to answer for our readers regarding the turmoil at the Department of Consumer Affairs and California State Athletic Commission is the following: why does the DCA, which manages so many high-profile bureaus under their umbrella, give a damn about the lowly athletic commission?

From the outside-looking-in, watching the DCA control the way the CSAC is operated & handled has been a curiously fascinating exercise. Watching the DCA & politicians from Sacramento & Los Angeles maneuver around to appoint people to the athletic commission has been exasperating. This is why we focused on the tenure of John Frierson, the current CSAC Chairman, and his political ally Linda Forster.

As we’ve struggled to answer the obvious in regards to DCA’s puppet-mastering of the CSAC, I was reminded of our report from over the weekend in which we wrote that Governor Jerry Brown had made two appointments to the California State Athletic Commission, only for those two appointments to be allegedly held up in the state Senate by boss Darrell Steinberg via recommendation from the DCA. Why was DCA interested in having these appointments blocked?

Understand that John Frierson, who is a political lifer (his career started during the days of Richard Nixon), is someone who at least has boxing in his blood. He loves the sport. Brian Edwards, who we noted had a huge conflict of interest in being appointed to the CSAC board due to tax breaks the board gave to Mark Burnett’s TV show The Contender, was at least someone who not only was a good legal mind but also a supporter of the fight business. He understood the intricacies of business dealings on that front. Compared to the other CSAC board members, Edwards brought to the table a background that could help steer the ship in the right direction. So, naturally, he lasted less than a year on the board and got out of town after the DCA fired off an insolvency letter to the CSAC. Edwards wanted no part of the civil war brewing.

As a result of Edwards departing and Governor Brown reportedly having two appointees rejected, Governor Brown did what other California Governors have done in regards to appointing new members to the commission: he chose a government lifer with no experience working in combat sports.

Dean Grafilo, 40, of West Sacramento, has been appointed to the California State Athletic Commission. Grafilo has been the associate government relations director at the California Medical Association since 2009. He served as chief of staff to Assemblymember Warren Furutani from 2008 to 2009 and as senior legislative assistant for Assemblymember Alberto Torrico from 2004 to 2008. Grafilo was an organizer representative for Service Employees International Union Local 925 from 2003 to 2004 and an organizer for International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 142 from 1996 to 2001. Grafilo earned a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Washington. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Grafilo is a Democrat.

If you are Governor Brown and you know that the CSAC is in financial trouble, obviously you would want to put into place someone with experience in combat sports who could bring financial stability & acumen to the commission, right?

We got our answer to that question.

There are two lessons to be learned by this appointment, which needs to be approved the state Senate (Darrell Steinberg). The first lesson is that the Department of Consumer Affairs wants control over the CSAC because they consider it to be a dumping ground & transfer station for other government lifers who work at other boards that DCA regulates. For example, let’s say that the Board of Occupational Therapy is over budget and there are some workers in danger of losing their job. Rather than laying off those workers, those workers get transferred to a place like the CSAC. In the case of former AEO (Assistant Executive Officer) Bill Douglas, after he resigned from the CSAC he ended up making a lateral transfer from the CSAC… to the Pest Control Board. The CSAC is simply a vessel for the DCA to reward or protect their most-favored politicians and to keep the taxpayer money flowing to those they like the most. This is why the Department of Consumer Affairs is fighting so hard to maintain control of the CSAC & play hardball with those who want to clean up the corruption & incompetence.

The second lesson is that the Department of Consumer Affairs never anticipated that there would be any media coverage of what is going. In reality, there aren’t a lot of articles and public comments online about the situation. However, don’t mistake this for people in the fight business & in the media not paying attention. Offline, I’ve been bombarded with phone calls & messages from all corners about this civil war situation. There’s a lot on the line for promoters, fighters, and fans in the state of California. I’ve had many media writers who have been silent on reporting about this topic approach me and acknowledge they are following what is going on. So, our media coverage is making a difference.

Now, given that the DCA didn’t anticipate any media coverage over what’s going on at CSAC, they also didn’t anticipate any sort of fight in reaction to their heavy-handed tactics. The DCA illegally threatened Executive Director George Dodd with personal liability for any CSAC debt. If there was such a law on the books in California (and upheld by the courts as constitutional), you wouldn’t see half the seats filled for the Executive Director slot on various DCA boards. No one would want those jobs. As we noted before, problems at DCA regarding their budget mismanagement were well-known before George Dodd was appointed by the DCA as Executive Director. The mismanagement was spelled out on paper, too, for everyone to see. What DCA didn’t count on is that the public would start to put two + two together, even if the numbers presented by the DCA in public had hidden costs to them. The fact that anyone cares about this subject, let alone is writing about it, has blown them away and put them in a panic. Who would ever consider the fact that the reason costs are so high for inspectors & in-state travel (for the CSAC) is because the DCA favored inspectors in Sacramento & Los Angeles working out-of-area shows while being full-time state employees during the day so that those inspectors could get paid time-and-a-half rates and have air fare, rental cars, and dinners paid for on the taxpayer’s dime? As Dwayne Woodard alleges in his retaliation & age discrimination lawsuit, the DCA allegedly favored certain inspectors & civil servants over other more qualified CSAC employees that could have done the job in a more professional manner and for less cost to the state’s taxpayers.

Now, ask yourself the following — does Dean Grafilo sound to you, based on his profile, like a man who is going to stand up to the Department of Consumer Affairs and fight the DCA over certain inspectors getting work & running up the budget because they are full-time state employees and hence get paid an overtime rate? Is Dean Grafilo going to stand up and be able to look in the face of a promoter like Roy Englebrecht and plausibly claim that he understands the kind of business that Roy is in and knows what it takes for someone like Roy to succeed? Hell no.

This is why the Department of Consumer Affairs wants the DCA/CSAC civil war story to go away in the press. They do not want this story to have any sort of oxygen or longevity. The more people read online about this story, the worse it’s going to get for them. The more exposure this story gets, the more people in combat sports who have a stake in California being a successful breeding ground are going to put up a fight. Not just a political fight, but a legal fight as well. The DCA has had their way for so long, they never anticipated that anyone would challenge them. And now that someone is actually bothering to challenge them, they are going to bring out their heavy-handed tactics to maintain power. For the DCA, the CSAC is a potential cash cow. Right now, the CSAC is broke. Given that the DCA needs CSAC to maintain a high baseline for what the Governor budgets per year to them, they have every incentive in the world to play the politics that they are right now with the commission. If it means DCA tells the CSAC board members that it wants the number of inspectors per show cut from 6-7 to 3 in the name of bean counting, then so be it. Forget about the fact that they are increasing their liability substantially by having less inspectors per show, the DCA has a budget to protect so that they can continue using the CSAC as their transfer grounds for displaced DCA lifers.

Believe it or not, the worst-case scenario for this story is not the CSAC shutting down. The worst case scenario is if the DCA decides to disband the CSAC and take all regulation of combat sports in California secret. This would mean that there is no transparency for budgeting, licensing, appointees, DCA transfers, drug testing, and matchmaking approval of fights in the state. If DCA sunsets the CSAC and decides to take over regulating duties in private, you can forget about any sort of positive future for small-to-mid-sized fight shows in California. Only the major promoters will be welcomed — and the invitations will come with a political cost for them, too.

Topics: Boxing, CSAC, Media, MMA, Zach Arnold | 6 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

6 Responses to “Explaining the motives of the DCA/CSAC civil war”

  1. […] that has the bureaucrats frightened. Then the DCA’s motives in their civil war with the CSAC were exposed for the public to see. Then, all hell broke loose for the DCA when referees, inspectors, observers, judges, and promoters […]

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