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Supervisors opt for continuity

Nelson and Bates will continue as chairman and vice chairwoman, respectively.

January 28, 2014|By Jill Cowan | This post has been corrected, as noted below.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors was facing a changing of the guard Tuesday, with the body expected to choose a new chair and vice chair for the year.

Instead, citing a need for continuity in contract negotiations with the county's biggest labor unions, Supervisor Patricia Bates asked to hang on to her place as the board's vice chairwoman, allowing Supervisor Shawn Nelson to serve another year as chairman.

Bates, who represents the board's District 5, said that in this "unique year," the board would benefit from the stability afforded by Nelson.

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So rather than accept a nomination to become chairwoman, as would have been customary, Bates refused and supported keeping the status quo. Typically, whoever serves as vice chair one year assumes the role of chair the following year.

But District 3 Supervisor Todd Spitzer said a new person leading the board might help the county overcome deep-rooted impasses in labor negotiations.

"I think [Nelson] did a really excellent job of getting us here," he said.

However, he added, addressing Bates, "I welcome a voice, a chair, with your personality that can help potentially maneuver a new direction."

Spitzer added that with Bates and Supervisor John Moorlach running up against term limits, and Supervisor Janet Nguyen running for state Senate this year, 2015 could see as many as three new supervisors.

"We use a system where the vice chair is supposed to learn the ropes," he said.

Moorlach, who represents District 2, agreed.

Nelson said that while it was a bit of an "awkward" situation, "I want to serve, and commit to doing the best I can."

Nelson and Bates kept their posts with a 3-2 vote. Spitzer and Moorlach dissented.

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Action on administrator

Also at Tuesday's meeting, the board took a step toward cleaning up a department whose elected leader was pushed out following blistering reports of "egregious" financial mismanagement.

In 2011, the county stripped Public Administrator John Williams of most of his duties, which included managing the estates of people who have died but have no known heirs or other people willing to take care of their assets. He was locked out of his office in 2012.

The position, which Nelson described as a part-time job that pays about $30,000 per year, has been vacant and those duties performed by other departments.

But because voters have decided that the public administrator should be elected, county staff gave the supervisors the option of tacking on the title to another elected position.

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