Michael Allen lost his job in the November election, but he landed pretty softly.
Allen, defeated by Marc Levine in his reelection bid for a state Assembly seat representing part of Sonoma County and Marin County, was appointed on Thursday to the state Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board.
The five-member panel, which meets monthly, is the final arbiter in appeals of unemployment and disability claims involving workers and employers.
The job pays $128,000 a year. That's a hefty bump from an Assembly member's base pay of $95,300, although that is supplemented by travel and living expenses they receive each day the Legislature is in session.
Assembly Speaker John Perez, a political ally of Allen who supported him over Levine, announced Allen's appointment with other assignments handed out Thursday.
Allen said after the election results became final, he reached out to various government agencies and Perez about potential positions might be a good fit.
"I'm thrilled to be able to use my legal and medical background," he said. "It seems like it's something that's perfect for me."
Allen, who turned 66 on Wednesday, has worked as an attorney, a labor leader and a registered nurse. He served as the general manager of the Service Employees Local 707 and served nine terms as the president of the North Bay Labor Council.
He acknowledged that critics may complain he landed a comfortable political appointment to a cushy post, which he denies.
"It's actually a pretty vigorous job," he said. "I was disabused early of that notion that this is &‘collect a paycheck and don't work.'"
The board, created by the Legislature in 1943, is an independent administrative body for workers and employers who challenge rulings made by administrative law judges in the Employment Development Department.
Allen, who begins orientation for the post next week, said he has been told he will receive from 35 to 50 appeals each day. Each board member brings those cases with recommendations to the full board for formal rulings, he said.
"Any board that's hearing that kind of volume of cases isn't a make-work job," he said. "The alternative to having this kind of board is the courts... and that's a helluva lot more expensive."
The post has no set term, Allen said, but is at the pleasure of the Assembly speaker.
Allen, who has a residence in Oakmont and rented an apartment to qualify for residency in a newly drawn Assembly district, said he hasn't decided where he will live.
"I've been waiting on what my future held for me, whether to settle in Marin County, stay in Sonoma County, or move somewhere else," he said. "One step at a time."
You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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