County’s Top Job Filled With No Public Notice
When San Diego County Chief Administrative Officer Walt Ekard announced his resignation, he also announced his successor. Advocates of open government have concerns about how the transition of the top job at the county was handled.
The Chief Administrative Officer of San Diego County manages a $5 billion budget. Walt Ekard unexpectedly announced before a county land use meeting on Wednesday that he will resign in December - and he named his chosen successor.
“I could not be more proud of what we have achieved these past 14 years,” Ekard told the board in a brief two minute speech, ”and I will leave the management of county government in the most capable hands of my long time partner and colleague, Helen Robbins Meyer.”
The five-member Board of Supervisors joked as they thanked Ekard for his years of service about handing over "the keys to the kingdom." They waived rules on holding meetings with adequate public notice to vote later that afternoon to confirm Robbins-Meyer.
Kathay Feng is director of California Common Cause, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that works in the public interest. She said not conducting a more public selection process raises inevitable questions.
“In my experience when a major public agency is choosing the head of the agency, they go through a very public process,” Feng said. “It may be that that selection process would have produced the exact same final candidate, but it is very unusual for a major public agency to skip that.”
Feng said appointing someone as interim CAO while the board considered other options, possibly with public input, would have dispelled any questions about how the supervisors filled the powerful position.