In one of his final acts as governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed a politically connected interior designer and wife of a long-time aide to a six-figure post on the state's Public Employment Relations Board, which oversees and enforces collective bargaining rules among the state's public employee unions.
Kari Miner, the wife of former Schwarzenegger aide Paul Miner, would be paid $128,109 for her post on the commission, which comes with a five-year term. Paul Miner was the architect of Schwarzenegger's "blow up the boxes" initiative early in his first term, which sought to reorganize state government by, among other things, eliminating hundreds of appointed positions.
Kari Miner was described in Schwarzenegger's press release as an "independent consultant to small businesses focusing on image and efficiency." She is an interior designer who has been quoted in Sacramento Magazine commenting on her work, including a remodel for the sprawling home of Bob White, one of California's most influential corporate and political consultants.
The five-person Public Employment Relations Board is charged with overseeing and enforcing collective bargaining rules among public employee unions statewide. Her appointment is subject to confirmation by the state Senate.
Miner would appear to be coming to the commission with a thinner public affairs resume than its three current members, which include a former mayor and top administration official; a former employee of the U.S. Department of Labor, state Senate staffer and appointee of former Gov. Pete Wilson; and a long-time member of the employment relations board.
Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear emphasized that Miner worked for six years in public service as a statewide development and programs officer at the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs under former Govs. Pete Wilson and Gray Davis. She left state service in 2002 to raise her second child, he said.
After leaving the Schwarzenegger administration, Paul Miner joined General Electric as manager of California government relations.
Eleventh-hour appointments to friends and allies are not unusual, nor is it unheard of to name appointees whose experience in the fields of their appointed positions is not immediately obvious.
Miner's appointment is among dozens that Schwarzenegger had made during the final days of his administration – many of which have rewarded political allies and top staffers. Last week, he appointed his chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, to a new commission that will negotiate health insurance rates. Kennedy's wife, Vicki Marti, received two appointments of her own with salaries totaling nearly $170,000.
Political allies including Sens. Roy Ashburn and Dennis Hollingsworth landed six-figure posts, as did several lawmakers who broke with their Republican colleagues to support Schwarzenegger's budget plans.
Schwarzenegger has also drawn criticism this week for commuting the sentence of Esteban Nunez, the son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez who was sentenced to 16 years in prison for his role in the stabbing death of a San Diego-area college student. His decision to shorten Nunez's sentence to seven years infuriated the victim's family.
Working early in his term with Paul Miner on the California Performance Review, Schwarzenegger made bold pronouncements about his plans to scale back the size of government, including cushy appointments.
"I can also announce that we intend to wipe out nearly 100 unnecessary boards and commissions, abolishing over 1,000 political appointments in the process," Schwarzenegger said in his 2005 State of the State address. "No one paid by the state should make $100,000 a year for only meeting twice a month."
Though, as Don Thompson of the Associated Press noted last week, Schwarzenegger has "continued appointing members to many of those same boards, using the appointments as every governor before him had – to reward termed-out lawmakers who had supported his proposals."