This is my final article as PPOA’s executive director, as I will be retiring in March. Let me first say that one of the great pleasures of my life has been to serve as your executive director. I am extremely proud of representing our members in the L.A. County Sheriff ’s Department, District Attorney’s Office and Department of Medical-Examiner Coroner. I know that for most of you, your job is a “calling” and not just a job — the work that you do on a daily basis is absolutely necessary for our society to function. I am honored to have served you.
When one of my daughters was very young, she asked me what I did for a living. Knowing that she would not yet understand the concept of unions, I simply said to her, “I help people.” Her 3-year-old mind accepted that as a perfectly reasonable job description. But that is a great description of what PPOA does every day. We help people, and we do it with integrity, service and honesty. I have tried my bestto instill these three words — these three concepts — into PPOA’s DNA. Simply stated, you can trust PPOA to do the right thing, and to do it with integrity, service and honesty. We may not always get it right, but our motives have always been pure.
We have worked very hard to provide the best services to our members. During my time at PPOA, we have purchased and designed our own building and filled it with our credit union, insurance agency and charitable foundation (the Star and Shield Foundation). We also have competent PPOA attorneys, extremely effective lobbyists in Sacramento and the finest staff found anywhere. Lastly, we developed our online uniform store and integrated the FOP Legal Defense Plan. These programs and services, among many others, compose the greatest set of benefits of any union of our size in America. But I am, perhaps, most proud of our work with collective bargaining, grievances and appeals, and in filing lawsuits in defense of our membership. These, along with our legislative and political efforts, are the core of what any union does for its members, and we work extremely hard to do our best work in these areas.
In my 18 years at PPOA, our MOUs have kept us significantly ahead of the cost of living — even when we endured a few of those years without an increase. In those lean years, we always received medical premium increases and, unlike many counties throughout California, absorbed no salary or benefit cuts and experienced zero layoffs. For our safety classes, we bargained longevity pay (PPOA’s idea) and all of our uniformed classes have received significant uniform allowance improvements. All this was done in the face of two major downturns in the economy, including the Great Recession.
In the area of grievances and appeals, PPOA has been very successful in the individual defense of our members. Thanks to our hardworking labor representatives and attorneys, we win the vast majority of our cases. As you would expect, the amount of time and money spent on these core issues is staggering. In my 18 years here, our staff has handled almost 40,000 phone calls. The labor representatives and PPOA attorneys have represented our members in almost 6,000 cases, and we have spent over $31 million defending and representing our members.
We are also not shy about filing lawsuits to protect PPOA members. In fact, we have been called by County management “the most litigious of the County unions.” We don’t shrink from that label — we embrace it! In the last 18 years, we have won lawsuits that have brought almost $300 million into the paychecks of current and retired members and employees throughout the County! In all of the above areas, we have performed these functions with the core values of integrity, service and honesty.
These successes were accomplished by a PPOA team that is second to none. A huge thank-you to all the PPOA presidents that I have been privileged to work with: Dennis Slocumb, Roger Mayberry, John Stites and Brian Moriguchi. They have all been great partners, and none of these things could have been done without their help and support.
A special note here about Brian Moriguchi: Brian and I have worked together for nine years, and his intelligence, hard work and new ideas have been paramount to PPOA’s success. Also, a special thanks to all the PPOA Board members over the past 18 years (too numerous to list them all here) who have been integral to PPOA attaining its goals. They are dedicated and serve without any remuneration for all their hard work on behalf of their co-workers.
None of these things could have been accomplished without the work of the PPOA staff (listed here in order of seniority): Venise Wallace, Maricela Villegas, Greg Torres, Teresa O’Neil, Clare Franco, Norma Gomez, Violet Perez, Kevin Thompson and Shannon Schreck. They have made me look better than I have any right to look. I also want to single out retired members Jimmy Vogts and Art Reddy for their friendship and invaluable counsel over the years. I could continue to name hundreds of others who have helped me and, more importantly, PPOA. And I am well aware that whatever successes I have had in the past 18 years is due to their efforts and to those named above, while any failures fall directly at my feet. Luckily, there have been relatively few of those.
Finally, and most importantly, let me thank my wife, Lillian, and my daughters, Melanie and Michelle. I know it couldn’t have been easy holding things together in San Luis Obispo while I worked weekdays in L.A., but you did it all with good cheer, love and understanding. I can never adequately thank all three of you for supporting a husband and father who was away most of the time!
I leave PPOA in great hands. I have already mentioned the PPOA Board, staff and president, but I need to add one more name to that list: Wayne Quint. Wayne is the new PPOA executive director and was chosen from a list of 300 applicants. I am absolutely certain that he will do a great job leading the next generation of PPOA members. To all of you who I’ve mentioned and to those who will have a hand in helping this union move forward, please take good care of PPOA.
Goodbye and good luck!