SIR – There are concerns that, when Donald J Trump is inaugurated the 45th US President, he may bring in some extreme laws and regulations with a Republican majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate. There are some safeguards in place. A majority of the US Congress may not pass a President’s plan, if it is unsuitable or not in the best interests of the country.
The downside of this; party politics can over-rule what are the best interests of the country. An elected public service official, unlike a permanently employed one, may have flexibility in refusing an order from a higher authority or a State Governor like what happened in the Summer of 2008.
Then Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, issued an executive order to cut wages of some 200,000 public state employees to the minimum State wage of .55 an hour to pressure the State’s senate and assembly to pass his Budget. The employees would receive their full wages again, once the budget was passed.
John Chiang, the State controller official in charge of wages, refused as he believed it was illegal and cruel to people surviving a tough recession with mortgages and bills to pay. There were sufficient State funds for salaries.
He believed it could not be justified and beyond the Pale. He responded with a firm no. I have to include at this point that Schwarzenegger was a Republican and the California state legislature was majority Democrat and the official, Mr Chiang, a Democrat also.
Governor Schwarzenegger sued the official and his department. The case went through the system until Schwarzenegger was not re-elected in 2011. New Governor, Democrat Jerry Brown, stopped the lawsuit. Mr Chiang was re-elected State controller and next elected California State Treasurer in 2015.
John Chiang spoke recently of the lesson he learned from 2008: ‘I think, always, you look deep into your conscience and then you move from there. People have a sense of why they serve.
‘At times, we will prevail; at times, we will fail. But to stand and watch idly and do nothing – I think people will regret if things go along and they didn’t offer up their very best.’
People in the public service in this country have done as he did, like garda and Health Service whistle-blowers. Chiang, born in New York, raised in Chicago, and son of parents from Taiwan; may be elected Governor of California in 2018; showing nice, competent guys can finish first in the bruising political world. He hopes to be a candidate.