Santa Clara County Board Could Limit Extra Time Off for DA Office

Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors will vote Tuesday on a contract that limits the number of “administrative leave” hours the District Attorney can grant annually, after an NBC Bay Area investigation.

A new contract [PDF] between the Government Attorneys’ Association (GAA) and Santa Clara County will go before the Board of Supervisors Tuesday for a vote. The contract includes new restrictions on the amount of administrative leave attorneys can take.

The change comes nearly a year after an NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit report exposed DA Jeff Rosen giving thousands of hours of extra time off to appointed “lead attorneys” to make up for a 5 percent bonus lost during budget negotiations in 2011.

NBC Bay Area’s investigations showed Rosen directed his staff to alter time sheets, crossing off vacation requests and sick time and changing them to administrative leave, allowing attorneys to bank that time off and cash it out later.

Lead attorneys in the DA’s Office received 2200 hours of administrative leave in 2012. Their vacation time used was cut in half. Lead Attorneys in other GAA-represented offices like Child Support Services and the Office of the Public Defender lost their bonus and received no extra hours of administrative leave.

Since then, the bonus that was cut has been re-instated.

The new contract would cap administrative leave at 80 hours per year and specifies situations where administrative leave can be given like specific on-call and ride-along duties [PDF]. Any additional administrative leave will require approval from the County Executive’s office.

“We needed to clarify what administrative time was used for," said County Executive Jeff Smith, "and how much of it was going to be used in order to have some consistency with our expenditures.”

Last year, Smith called Rosen’s giving of administrative time “a secret action” and suggested if other departments followed suit, “the budget would be totally out of control.”

“We pushed for the cap because we wanted to make sure that there wasn’t over-utilization of administrative time,” Smith said.

The GAA contract would be the first and only union contract in the county to put a limit on administrative leave.

DA Rosen declined NBC Bay Area’s request for an interview but instead issued a statement reading in part:

“The ‘new’ terms regarding administrative leave affirm and clarify my continued desire to compensate prosecutors for specialized assignments, including supervisory duties and after-hours work. That is, and was, my authority under the law and previous contracts. The ‘new’ terms ratify how this Office has been handling comp time aka specialty administrative leave, for three decades”

We've uploaded a PDF of Rosen's full statement.

“This will eliminate the ability of the District Attorney or other department heads to abuse the system,” GAA President, Max Zarzana, told NBC Bay Area. “I’m sure if it wasn’t for the stories [by NBC Bay Area] that there wouldn’t be a cap on administrative leave in the current contract.”

Zarzana said GAA believes a cap of 80 hours is a fair amount and he is happy that the county will have to review any extra hours.

“For the first time there will be an open and transparent system for awarding administrative time off for extra duties for our members,” he said.

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