Big Daddy

Big Daddy

Dear Big Daddy,
Shoplifting at Neiman Marcus. So do people under the dome rally around Mary Hayashi and offer support?

Dear Intrigued,


It’s not because of the alleged crime, it’s because of the nature of the Capitol.

There are bad bosses in the Capitol – most of the worst ones, I’m ashamed to admit, are Democrats – just as there are in the private world.

But in the Capitol’s echo chamber, the antics of the bad bosses are magnified exponentially, so by the time all the incidents and rumors get sorted out the bosses come off looking like Attila the Hun. Usually, accurately.

The under-the-radar word in the Capitol for years was that Hayashi was an extraordinarily  difficult, temperamental, anal-retentive and demanding boss – note my choice of words: I didn’t use irrational, slave-driving and punitive – and that when it came to picking the best places to work, her office wasn’t at the top of the list.

It’s not fair to single her out, of course: She’s only the latest in a long line of odd, angry or stress-filled electeds or administration staffers who rule their fiefdoms with abandon. Of course, one remembers Kevin Shelley, Carole Migden, Rebecca Cohn, Lynn Schenk, Maria Contreras Sweet, Nicole Parra, Barry Keene and John Vasconcellos, just for starters. It’s a long list and a dreary one, and it goes on and on.

But the point is that people rally around the people they like. Mean bosses don’t get a lot of internal support from staffs they have abused – Migden may be the best, most recent example – so when they get popped for something bad, there’s not a whole lot of support there.

Professionally, fellow politicians may try to help – appointments to boards, for example – but the key people of the Capitol, the staffers, are not rushing in to offer help.

Even bad bosses get some support if their problem is a personal issue – Migden’s medication, Shelley’s anger – but if the problem is legal and potentially criminal, it’s a whole new ball game. Hayashi’s problem crosses into both dimensions, and that adds to the problem.

The Capitol is kind of like Hollywood – the people you meet on the way up are the same ones you meet on the way down. So the smart ones treat them right.
A thoughtful, sensitive reporter was asked recently how he could tell the rising stars of the Capitol among incoming rookies and his answer was illuminating: The lawmakers who surrounded themselves with good staffers and treated them professionally seemed to make the most of their public careers in the long term. There are exceptions, of course, but the generality applies.

As speaker and treasurer, I treated most of my employees as they treated me – a relationship that resembled an armed truce tinged with black humor and cynicism.
But most of us stayed out of jail and emerged unscathed. Sort of.

So a note to the electeds: Treat your staffs right or you’ll wind up in trouble. If you have to abuse them, make sure no one’s looking and the electronic devices are off.
Enough said.

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