We're not clear if state Treasurer Bill Lockyer doesn't have enough to do or he needs more money. Either way, his announcement this week that he will work part-time for a national law firm while serving the last year of his term should trouble all Californians.
The state treasurer chairs 14 state boards and 33 bond finance committees, he sits on 12 other key boards, and he is directly or indirectly responsible for the management of hundreds of billions of dollars.
The nation's largest state deserves full-time officeholders at the top of the organizational chart, whether it's, for example, the governor, the attorney general, the controller or treasurer. These are executive positions that hold far more than 40-hour-a-week responsibilities.
Californians should feel secure that those officials will give their undivided attention to their elected posts. And there should be no questions about conflicts of interest, or even the possible appearance of them.
That said, it's also time to reconsider the salaries some statewide officeholders receive. The amounts are set by the California Citizens Compensation Commission. Some are way too low. Lockyer's salary was just raised to $139,189 annually.
While that's more than most of us earn, it pales in comparison to the income of private-sector executives with similar responsibilities. We don't want to create a system where only those who are independently wealthy seek these critical statewide posts.
Although it's wrong for Lockyer, 72, to take on outside employment, one can understand why he did so. He has spent more than 40 years in state elective office, including the last 15 as attorney general and treasurer. Yet, his financial disclosure statement for 2012 indicates that apart from his family's Hayward home and a Long Beach rental unit, he owns only a mutual fund worth less than $10,000. This is not a wealthy man.
Lockyer announced last week that he was taking part-time work for an undisclosed salary with the Orange County office of the Brown Rudnick law firm. Nothing prevents him from moonlighting provided it presents no conflict. And Lockyer says it doesn't because the firm does not lobby in California.
This is not the first time Lockyer has performed outside legal work while holding his current post. He and the Brown Rudnick news release insist the new job will not take time away from his state job. That's hard to believe.
He should have waited until the end of his term, in a year. Meanwhile, the compensation commission should rethink the way it sets salaries for the state's most-critical jobholders.