His special interest

One would assume that there is a struggle for the soul of Rudy Bermúdez.

On one side are his career and loyalties: He is a parole officer and a member of the powerful California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA). Those roles traditionally have called for strong allegiances and strict codes of conduct. Once you’re in, you’re in for life.

And yet, now Bermúdez has sworn to take on the duties of an elected official in the state Assembly. He is working for both the voters from his district (Norwalk) and all citizens of California. Now that he has been sworn in as a legislator, his loyalty certainly must be thrown toward stewardship of government for the benefit of all! Those past allegiances become secondary and must be set aside. Right?

Yet, Assemblyman Bermúdez’s soul is definitely still owned by the CCPOA.

He has used his position as chairman of a budget subcommittee overseeing the Department of Corrections to shove some good old-fashioned political power down the throat of the department’s administration and the governor. During hearings regarding protective equipment for guards, Bermúdez—the union member— invited his friends at the CCPOA to testify. He also threatened to withhold the entire corrections budget, which obviously is upping the ante in the political struggle between the department and the union (see “Decline of the empire”).

A legislator’s private interests always will present some concerns of conflict—hey, many of them are attorneys. But blatant conflicts must be dealt with.

It appears that in Bermúdez’s case, he and the leadership of the Assembly have to decide if his personal interest clashes with his duty to serve the public’s interest. The struggle for the soul of corrections, and its attempts at reform, are at stake.