Only the Sacramento Bee would do a “Watchdog report” about the Sacramento County Department of Revenue Recovery’s director using her personal money to buy scratch-off lottery tickets and gift cards to award collection staff who meet collection goals.
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The key here is the department head spent her own money, not one dime of public money, to motivate and boost staff morale. It’s not like selling newspaper advertising, where a sales rep stands to make more money. County collections staff don’t get paid extra for collecting more bad debts. In private industry they do make more money by collecting more.
According to the Nov. 10 story, the Revenue Recovery Department exceeded its budget projection by $1.6 million in 2011 and $2.6 million in 2012, nearly a 63 percent increase.
The real motivation for the story was revealed when the writer quoted several e-mails between department leaders about getting the “scratchers” during lunch. For somebody to copy these innocuous e-mails and send them to the Bee, which used them like some smoking gun, indicates some jealousy and resentment somewhere on the collections staff. Someone got passed over for a promotion or didn’t win big on the lottery scratcher. The odds are most employees won’t talk if they win something off a lottery scratcher. Most, in fact, win nothing. Someone who wins and talks about it is going to incite disappointment with a few among those many who won nothing.
With each clerical position bringing in $250,000 to as much as $1 million, the one who brought in $1 million is likely to get more rewards, another point of possible resentment by the less ambitious.
However, even the one attorney the story quoted said, “…as long as no public money is involved ‘there isn’t an issue.'”
It was a story largely about nothing.