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Failed power plays has DCA interested in sunsetting the California State Athletic Commission

By Zach Arnold | August 19, 2012

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August 9th, 2012 video news report by ABC News 10 in Sacramento

Behind the scenes in Sacramento, there has been a whirlwind of activity that can only add to the legend of incompetence that the Department of Consumer Affairs has been highlighted for in regards to their mismanagement and interference in the business affairs of the California State Athletic Commission.

First, the TV stations in Sacramento are starting to pick up interest in what a mess the California State Athletic Commission has gotten themselves into. This News 10 report by John Myers highlights the station’s efforts to use Freedom of Information Act requests to get more information about where the money is going. Unfortunately, the report also relies upon already-debunked DCA propaganda touted in their infamous insolvency letter — including the claim that CSAC was $35,000 in the red to start the 2012-2013 Fiscal Year and that spending levels wouldn’t change, therefore CSAC would be in the red by $700,000. It’s completely false data and DCA had to admit that there was cash in the bank for the start of the 2012-2013 Fiscal Year and made this admission while still going for a loan from the state’s Department of Finance.

If you compare our articles to the other news reports on CSAC business affairs, you will spot some differences.

Second, there have been some major political maneuverings in Sacramento that should be highlighted.

The Department of Consumer Affairs, in their panicked efforts, are re-arranging the deck chairs on the proverbial titanic by shifting many workers out of departments under their bureaucratic umbrella to new departments. Their hope in pulling this off is to try to flush out who they suspect are media moles that are feeding information out of their complex. It’s an ill-fated attempt by DCA bosses Denise Brown & Awet Kidane because they are under intense pressure from California state Senator Darrell Steinberg in regards to the finances of special funds and other operations that DCA has connections to. CSAC remains very high on their list of things that spook them in a big way. They do not like the negative attention they are receiving.

Speaking of debacles, multiple sources (on background) confirm that there was an attempted power play this past week at the Department of Consumer Affairs that backfired. Kathi Burns, the DCA bean-counting lifer who has been around for many years in Sacramento, was positioned as Interim Executive Officer at CSAC. This job is a make-or-break situation for her career positioning at DCA. One of the major issues facing the commission is that many people who work for CSAC also happen to work for the state of California full-time during the day. This means that when they work as inspectors or officials representing CSAC at shows as intermittent state employees, they are not only getting paid time-and-a-half for salaries but they are also getting in-state travel benefits. The end result is skyrocketing budget costs and political wounds as raw as canker sores because of certain people being chosen over others to work shows based on their employment with the state.

According to multiple sources this week, DCA attempted to end the status of CSAC front office workers Sarah Waklee and Brandon Saucedo as lead inspectors. The attempt to stop both of them from working in both the front office and as lead inspectors was based on a claim that doing both duties represented a ‘conflict of interest’ and that it needed to be stopped. Mind you, both individuals have been working both in the front office and as lead inspectors at shows for years.

Within a day of this attempted power play, the Department of Consumer Affairs immediately backed down when they were challenged on the matter. DCA stood down and both Waklee & Saucedo are continuing to work in the CSAC front office and as lead inspectors at shows.

Let me frame it to you this way. DCA wasn’t trying to fire these individuals from their office jobs. They weren’t trying to fire them on a ‘with cause’ basis. They, instead, came up with a cheesy & convoluted way to try to get two front office workers to stop working at shows as lead inspectors. No notice of adverse action filing with the State Personnel Board, no 11126(a)(1) public hearing in front of the CSAC board was required. DCA was pulling what looked to be, on paper, a simple power play… and they messed it up.

Both Waklee & Saucedo are considred civil servants by the state, whereas the Executive Officer of CSAC is considered an at-will/Exempt employee that DCA can try to fire at any time. This is what happened when DCA tried to get George Dodd fired as Executive Officer at the June 26th El Monte, California hearing. In the case of DCA trying to get Waklee & Saucedo out as lead inspectors due to their supposed conflict of interest, the fact that they couldn’t remove them is indicative of what a mess DCA has on their hands in the Sacramento office. The legal department at Consumer Affairs is an absolute joke. The decision making process by DCA is horrific. They are the ones who are driving CSAC into the ground and, yet, they still have heavy portions of the media believing that CSAC is a self-sufficient, independent commission when it’s simply not the case.

The level of disconnect between the Sacramento office and the inspectors out in the field is extraordinarily depressing.

One of the things George Dodd was accused of doing was flying to many Southern California fighting events in order to go visit family. Well, if DCA was so interested in roasting George over that, what will they have to say about Kathi Burns flying to events? I guess that’s part of the process of getting someone up to speed who isn’t a fan of the fight business?

So, given all of this… including Sarah Waklee fighting back against DCA and exposing what kind of limited stature Kathi Burns has as the current CSAC Interim Executive Officer, the question then becomes: who in their right mind, from the outside-looking-in, would ever want to become the Executive Officer of the California State Athletic Commission?

When the State Personnel Board posted the job application for CSAC E.O. on August 13th, we immediately pointed out what was missing on the application.

Within days of the application being posted online, the posting was canceled. Strangely, it was replaced by this job bulletin on Friday. It’s the exact same bulletin as the previous one, with the same deadline of August 24th (this coming Friday).

Don’t ask me why.

There is a meeting in Sacramento scheduled for October between DCA & the Senate Business & Professions committee over the fate of commission. Should CSAC get sunset, it would mean that the current board of commissioners would be wiped out and that DCA would take all commission duties private with no immediate transparency. It would end the current process of information disclosure and essentially leave disclosure of information in the hands of SBP at their Sacramento meetings.

It would also mean the end of formal CSAC public meetings. If you’re a promoter or fighter and you’ve been going to CSAC meetings to voice concern about rule changes or business procedures, the prospects of CSAC getting sunset should be alarming to you.

For those who think that sunsetting CSAC would be a good idea, keep this in mind… the last time CSAC was sunset, Armando Garcia ended up getting chased out of Sacramento due to a sexual harassment lawsuit (settled for $75,000). Armando then got replaced by Bill Douglas & Dave Thornton. Thornton worked for decades at the state Medical Board and cost DCA over $750,000 in a legal settlement to end a high-profile racial & sexual harassment case. That’s right, DCA replaced one accused sexual harasser with another one who cost them 10 times as much in cash to settle the legal trouble. Once Thornton took over, the budgets that were rubber-stamped by DCA for CSAC started exploding in terms of costs. It’s a myth that everything started going haywire under George Dodd. Things started getting real messy during the final days of Armando Garcia’s tenure and during Dave Thornton’s stint at the commission. We even laid out the budget numbers to prove this.

And in between the Armando Garcia & Dave Thornton eras, they appointed a man (in 2009) in Bill Douglas who just got charged on seven misdemeanor counts by the Sacramento District Attorney’s office for allegedly trying to get members of CSAC’s front office like George Dodd, Che Guevara, and Nichole Bowles fired by supposedly using the identities of other individuals and sending communications under different names.

It should be noted that the investigation into the matter was lead by the California Highway Patrol, not the Department of Consumer Affairs.

As for what Bill Douglas’ job status is currently as the Executive Officer at the Pest Control Board, it depends who you talk to. Multiple sources all back the assertion that he’s on indefinite administrative leave, while there’s a split as to whether or not he’s actually been fired. There’s a Pest Control meeting scheduled for this Wednesday in Anaheim at 9 AM. Either way, he’s going to have a difficult challenge getting back into the state’s good graces based on what happens in court (August 30th at 8:35 AM) and if they use the issue of moral turpitude against him if he pleads no contest, is found guilty, or enters into a plea agreement.

So, yeah, sunsetting CSAC might not exactly be the best development for fight promoters in California. However, as the turmoil continues to churn in Sacramento, the chances of the commission getting sunset increase. There is another reason why the Department of Consumer Affairs may be very interested in sunsetting the commission: missing cash.

(Historically, what event ended up really revealing the cracks in the CSAC foundation? The sale of Strikeforce to Zuffa. Once the money stopped flowing from the local events, suddenly the DCA spending game got exposed as revenues declined in a hurry. When you go from revenues of $1.7-1.8M USD to $1.2-1.3M USD, people notice.)


Topics: Boxing, CSAC, Media, MMA, Zach Arnold | 3 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

3 Responses to “Failed power plays has DCA interested in sunsetting the California State Athletic Commission”

  1. BECCA says:

    Pls send me an email address or phone number where you and I can talk.
    So many things I believe that Ms. Waklee or whomever you are getting your “inside” information from is not all true, maybe for the benefit of themselves, but definitely not for the so called “health and safety of the fightrs”



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