The creation of our current organization was brought about by the public displeasure over the sordid history of the City of Los Angeles in the early 1930s. City government in Los Angeles was as corrupt as it could be from the Mayor (Frank L. Shaw) and Police Chief (James Edward Davis) on down. At that time, there were 1800 bookies, 600 brothels, and 200 gambling dens in the City, all protected by payoffs at the highest levels of local government. Public works contracts also involved payoffs as well as substandard workmanship. Personnel services were not immune from corruption as civil service test questions and answers were sold, test scores on examinations were changed, and appointments to City jobs were sold.
This history and how it was turned around was published in the November 1977 issue of Westways, the magazine of the Automobile Club of Southern California. In 1934, County Supervisor John Anson Ford appointed civic leader and restaurateur Clifford Clinton (of Clifton’s Cafeterias fame) to the Los Angeles County Grand Jury to investigate these allegations. Two things angered Clinton as he served on the Grand Jury. One was that the City of Los Angeles was a tangle of vice, gambling and dirty politics at the very highest levels. The second was that the Mayor could and did ignore the Grand Jury. That was because the Grand Jury was also rigged.
At the end of the Grand Jury’s term in December 1937, the majority issued a report which ignored racketeer influences. Clinton issued a minority report, which the majority of the Grand Jury members tried to suppress. It was a blistering attack on what he called the city’s “invisible government”. Clinton then took to the airwaves in a series of public speeches to lay out the evidence which the Grand Jury had refused to hear.
Clinton formed an organization called CIVIC (Citizen’s Independent Vice Investigating Committee) to start gathering signatures to recall Mayor Frank Shaw. The press soon sided with the recall effort by publishing other nefarious deeds on the part of the crooked politicians.
On Election Day, the people of Los Angeles gave Frank Shaw the dubious distinction of being one of the first mayors of a major American city to ever be recalled. Police Chief Davis was forced into retirement. Police Captain Earle Kynette was convicted of murder. Joe Shaw, the mayor’s brother, was charged with selling city appointments and changing civil service examination test scores.
The ousting of Mayor Shaw and the election of Superior Court Judge Fletcher Bowron as Mayor marked the beginning of a new era in city government.
One of the first acts of Mayor Bowron was to request the resignation of all city commissioners. This allowed the mayor to appoint highly qualified citizens to the various commissions.
The Los Angeles Civil Service Commission, which had been at the heart of the previous administrations dishonesty, was now headed by Emery Olson, Dean of the School of Public Administration at the University of Southern California, and also President of the Public Personnel Association – the forerunner of IPMA (International Personnel Management Association). Because the entire technical staff of the Commission had been discharged as part of the “housecleaning effort”, examinations were given and a new staff was assembled. In August 1939, Barton Hunter, a retired Navy Captain, was appointed General Manager. John Fisher was appointed Director of Classification and Joseph W. Hawthorne as Director of Examinations. Both would later become Presidents of IPMA, Fisher in 1953 and Hawthorne in 1959.
The City of Los Angeles transition from a corrupt personnel system to a merit system was a regional recognition of the need for reform. At the national level this reform was first introduced in 1883, with adoption of the Pendleton Act. That Act classified certain jobs, removed them from patronage ranks, and established the United States Civil Service to administer an employment system based on an individual’s merit. The City of Los Angeles was not alone in recognizing the need to strengthen its personnel system from outside influences. The County of Los Angeles and City of Los Angeles School District also felt the need to select, train, develop and promote employees according to their merit, efficiency and fitness. Personnel managers from these jurisdictions along with a number of local municipal personnel directors began to meet periodically to exchange ideas and employment practices to further this purpose. In the spring of 1940 this group was formally recognized as Chapter 2 of the ASPA (America Society for Personnel Administration).
Theodore L. Sharp of Glendale was elected as the first President of the Southern California Chapter in 1940. He was followed by Presidents from the three largest public organizations. Margaret Marshall, County of Los Angles in 1941; Lyman Cozad, City of Los Angeles in 1942; and Ernest C. Wills, City of Los Angeles Personnel Commission in 1943.
During these early years a growing need for training of technical practitioners emerged. To satisfy that demand the SCPTA (Southern California Personnel Technicians Association) was formed. In the beginning, there were many more men than women members. That started to change during World War II, as more women were hired into technical and professional positions. During the 1940’s monthly meetings were held in the evenings. To encourage attendance, these meetings were usually held at school districts’ cafeterias. These dinner meetings offered very acceptable evening meals with china and silver flatware. Attendance averaged about 75 members with a few guests. The success of these meeting was due to the support and attendance of nearly every personnel director in the area. Directors encourage their staff to attend. Since many of the technical and professional personnel were new to the field, these meetings provided an opportunity to know others that were doing the same work. Monthly speakers were primarily from the larger agencies.
In the 1950’s, representation from personnel directors began to decline. A constitution was adopted (later to become the Chapter By-laws) to provide for a Board of Directors to oversee the operations of the Chapter. The Board began a pattern of monthly Board business meetings that continue to this day. The monthly membership meetings were switched to luncheon meetings at the Tick-Tock Tea Room in Hollywoodand later back to evening meetings at Taix on Sunset. Instructional workshops were offered for the first time. By 1958 there were 212 members. The City of Los Angeles and the area school districts had the largest representation. Still men represented the vast majority of membership.
In 1967 the Chapter decided to add an annual two-day training conference for members. It was the duty of the Vice-President Elect to appoint a committee to arrange for location, prepare a program and provide for the evening entertainment. These early conferences were scheduled from noon Friday through lunch on Saturday with overnight accommodations. The first couple of conferences were held at the old Voorhies Campus in San Dimas. The campus was an old ranch that had become a school for boys, named after Jerry Voorhies, U.S.congressman. Meetings were held in the former owner’s mansion. A few years later the Voorhies Campus was closed and the property was donated to the State of California, eventually becoming the southern campus of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, until it separated from San Luis Obispo in 1966. California State Polytechnic College moved three miles south to the property formerly owned by breakfast magnate W. K. Kellogg.
In 1969 the annual training conference was relocated to “Kellogg West” campus, where it would remain through 1992. The Friday- Saturday format remained unchanged. Overnight accommodations and meals were provided by the college. Friday night entertainment had become a highlight of the conference. In 1968, a play entitled “Knights of the Square Table” was produced and acted out by SCPMA members. In the following year, a tradition of assembling a band made up chapter members was started. Members danced to popular and oldies hit tunes. Attendees networked, while enjoying their favorite librations.
During the 1970’s, the monthly membership meetings were changed back from evening meetings to luncheon meetings usually held at Luminarias in Monterey Park. The mailed notice to membership of monthly meetings began to expand to include listings of new members, job openings, legislative updates, conference and workshop reminders, and related HR articles of interest. The Chapter By-laws were amended to add a Newsletter Editor to the Board of Directors. From the mid 1970’s until the end of the century membership continued to grow. The chapter offered a full schedule of activities. Monthly luncheon meetings with specific topics covered by guest speakers, three to four training workshops a year, an annual training conference, a monthly newsletter, and distribution of a yearly membership directory to all members.
In 1993, SCPMA and the Western Region IPMA agreed to a one year merger of their respective annual training conferences. In part, this decision was to avoid having competing conferences in the Southern California area at the same time of year. However, SCPMA membership had outgrown the ability of Cal Poly to handle the number of attendees. The Hyatt Newporter Hotel in Newport Beach was chosen as the location and the conference schedule was expanded to two and a half days. Although the conference was successful it marked the end of a long successful relationship with Cal Poly Pomona. In the mid 1990’s the annual SCPMA conference was held at the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach. In 1999 SCPMA and Western Region IPMA again co-hosted the annual conference at Universal City.
In 1995, chapter membership had reached 338 and would exceed 400 by 1998. Membership demographics had also changed. Men and women were equally represented and ethnic representation had greatly increased. Membership from smaller cities now exceeded the traditional big three, the City and County of Los Angeles and school districts.
THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
Economic recessions and consequential governmental budget cutbacks dominated public sector decision making in the 1990’s and the beginning of the twenty-first century. Vocational references to staffing were changing from “Personnel” to “Human Resources”. SCPMA had proposed that the national association change its name accordingly. In 2002 IPMA amended their by-laws to change the name of the association to “International Public Management Association – Human Resources”. The following year the SCPMA Chapter elected to change its name also (Southern California Public Management Association – Human Resources).
It had become apparent that human resources’ departments were changing, especially during tight economic times, to become more involved in the organization’s strategic planning and the impact of change on its workforce. To address this, IPMA-HR developed “HR Competency Training” for human resources staff in the area of change management, business partnership and leadership. In 2002, SCPMA –HR board selected key members to become trainers to make this four day training available to all members. Since then HR Competency training has become a core component of the chapter’s training effort. Also in 2002, the chapter changed from monthly membership luncheons to quarterly half-day training sessions.
The annual training conference has continued to be a well attended event. In reaction to organizational office work schedule changes, the conference changed to a Thursday-Friday format and in 2009 to a full one day. The conference location has often changed in recent years to accommodate attendees need while remaining cost effective. Over the years the chapter has successfully provided outstanding keynote speakers. Some of the more memorable included: Howard Jarvis, an anti-tax lobbyist responsible for passage of California’s Proposition 13 in 1978; Paul Conrad, three time Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist for the Los Angeles Times; Rafer Johnson, 1960 U.S. Olympic Gold Medal Decathlon Champion and Hollywood actor; and William Popjoy, Interim Chief Executive Officer for the County of Orange during the largest public bankruptcy in history.
To facilitate conference and workshop registration a SCPMA-HR website was developed. In 2009 this website was expanded to be the official website for all information regarding SCPMA-HR (www.scpma-hr.org). The SCPMA-HR Newsletter was discontinued to encourage members to use the website for information involving training, membership, Job opportunities, and association meetings.
SCPMA-HR is particularly proud that from its membership eight people have been elected to President of IPMA-HR or its predecessor organization: Emery E. Olson 1940, John F. Fisher 1953, Joseph W. Hawthorne 1959, Muriel M. Morse 1976, SSandra M. Comrie 1985, John J. Driscoll 1991, Susan Toy Stern 2001, Fred M Weiner 2004, and Margaret "Maggie" Whelan in 2010.
Written by William Osness, SCPMA-HR Historian, 2013
A special acknowledgement of Gunther Dumalski, SCPMA-HR President 1969-1970, who’s SCPMA-HR Newsletter articles “Out of the Past” provided valuable insight into the organization’s early years. A grateful thank you to Irene Tresun, SCPMA-HR President 1976-1977, who provided her own personal reflections on the growth and development of SCPMA-HR.