Jane Dolan’s new job

She’s catching flak, but is it deserved?

Jane Dolan has been catching flak in letters to the editor lately as a result of being appointed to the Central Valley Flood Protection Board by Gov. Jerry Brown. The post pays $40,669 a year and requires her to attend one meeting a month in Sacramento.

One writer to the Chico Enterprise-Record, Erik Lyon of Chico, broke that down to $417 an hour, or $3,333 per meeting. “This is the type of deal that only 1 percent of the people will ever see, while 99 percent of the taxpayers will be given the bill,” Lyon fumed.

Another man, Michael Strick of Durham, complained in his letter that Dolan’s appointment “is just another way California is extorting money from taxpayers over the flood that will never come.” He’s wrong about that flood, though. It will surely come. We live in a big bowl ringed by mountains that has flooded dozens of times over the years, and many levees are old and weak. Sacramento is at greater risk of flooding than any other major American city.

There’s no question that Dolan is highly qualified to sit on the flood board. Her three decades as a Butte County supervisor and her recent work as executive director of the Sacramento River Conservation Area Forum testify to her experience and skills.

And each of those monthly meetings will take many hours, if not days, of preparation. It’s hard to say how much Dolan will earn per hour, but even if it’s $200, your average lawyer’s rate, she’s well worth it.

But appearances matter, and the fact that her husband, Bob Mulholland, is a high-level consultant to the state Democratic Party with access to the Governor’s Office is catnip to cynics. It doesn’t help that this is the second time a Democratic politician has given Dolan a job. In 1987 then-Controller Gray Davis appointed her as Butte County probate referee, a position she still holds.

A Los Angeles Times investigation showed that many probate appointees had little or no background in asset appraisal and often were politically connected. The Sacramento Bee editorialized, “It’s the appearance of political favor that makes the probate referee system seem so distasteful.”

Dolan, contacted by phone, said the governor appointed her to the flood board because she was qualified. “I don’t know why it would be surprising that the governor would appoint someone he knew [could do the job]. I have the knowledge and experience, and this is a good opportunity for me.” She said she will be taking unpaid days off from her SRCAF job and working weekends to do board work.

She got the probate job, she said, because for many years she worked with her father, who was the local probate referee before her, and he encouraged her to become certified and apply for the position. The business is now such that she can rely on her “very competent assistants” to manage it.

As for her ability to handle two jobs and run a business at the same time, she said, “I don’t work to live; I live to work.”

Robert Speer is editor of the CN&R.