A breakdown in protocol caused two Republican senators to miss last
Wednesday night’s important floor session on bonds. The incident has led to
a contrite sergeant-at-arms and a discussion over the ubiquity of Blackberry
wireless devices in the Capitol.
More importantly for Republicans, it caused a spat between Senate minority
leader Dick Ackerman, R-Irvine, and Senator Tom McClintock, R-Thousand Oaks,
the party’s candidate for lieutenant governor.
It all started last Wednesday afternoon as senators were waiting for an
announced Wednesday-night session to try to work out a compromise on the
infrastructure bond. Shortly after 5 p.m., Secretary of the Senate Greg
Schmidt sent out an e-mail to senators and staffers saying that the night’s
session had been cancelled. At approximately the same time, Senate Chief
Sergeant-at-Arms Tony Beard announced the same thing over the loudspeaker to
However, after emerging from a Big Five meeting with Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger, Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, decided to
call the session after all, for 8:30 p.m. Beard said that he had a short,
face-to-face meeting with Senator Ackerman at a location near the Capitol.
Beard said, and Ackerman’s office confirmed, that Ackerman said he would
contact all the Republican members. Normal procedure would be for Beard or
one of his sergeants to call every senator on their cell phones, or whatever
number they had specified, when they needed to be reached urgently.
Instead, Ackerman’s office sent out an
e-mail to all Republican chiefs of staff at 6:46 p.m. The e-mail did not go to any members or other staff members. McClintock told Capitol Weekly that he carries a Treo wireless device and would have received an e-mail. He also said that he sent his staff home around 6:30 p.m. after double-checking Schmidt and Beard’s offices and finding them empty.
Unlike most high-level staffers in the Capitol, McClintock’s chief of staff,
Kirk Hutson, does not carry a Blackberry wireless device and did not get the
message. McClintock, who prides himself on rarely missing votes, said he did
not discover that session had been held until he showed up for work the next
day at 8:30 a.m. He said he promptly had a “spirited discussion” with
Ackerman, whom he described as “apologetic.”
“I don’t think it was malicious,” McClintock said.
Beard declined to blame Ackerman, saying he should have instructed his staff
to make the customary calls.
“It was my responsibility,” said Beard. “It will not happen again.”
Another Republican senator, Roy Ashburn of Bakersfield, also missed the
session due to miscommunication. He said he was traveling by car to his
district when he got a message from Ackerman asking him to call. The two men
called back and forth at least twice before connecting, at which time
Ackerman told him of the session. However, Ashburn said he had traveled too
far at that point to make it back in time.
“It was a confusing situation, but I do think senators should rely on the
official channels: Tony Beard or Greg Schmidt,” Ashburn said.
Meanwhile, four Democrats missed the Wednesday night session. Richard