Board Keeps Devereaux Firmly In Control Of The County

San Bernardino County Chief Executive Officer Greg Devereaux will remain on track to serve out the full ten years specified in his employment contract with the county, it was announced Wednesday, after his annual evaluation by all five members of the board of supervisors on Tuesday.
“The board continues to have complete confidence in Mr. Devereaux as CEO,” according to a county press release.
“We had a very productive discussion about what we are doing well, challenges we have faced and addressed, and how to continue to move forward. Yesterday was an example of how the board members and CEO are effectively working together to address the county’s needs and move the county forward,” said board of supervisors chairman James Ramos.
Devereaux was appointed to the newly created position of county chief executive officer in 2010 to succeed the county’s former top executive, Mark Uffer, who carried the title of county administrative officer.
Upon his hiring in January 2010, Devereaux was given an extraordinary degree of job security, autonomy and sway over county operations in addition to the enhanced title.
His contract
stated, “The term of this contract shall commence on February 13, 2010 and continue in effect for a period of approximately ten years unless earlier terminated.” The contract contained an unprecedented measure of job security for the county’s chief administrator, who historically could be cashiered on a simple majority vote of the board. Devereaux’s contract stipulated that he could not be terminated on a simple 3-2 vote. Rather four votes of the board are needed to fire him.
In addition to bestowing on him that level of job security, the currently composed board and those that preceded it have deferred to Devereaux in nearly all particulars pertaining to county governance. The entire county budget is essentially a document Devereaux works up with assistance from the county’s various department heads. He has been practically unfettered in giving direction to the county’s lower echelons with regard to policy and operations. Whereas under previous county administrative officers board members would have direct dealings with department heads and were free to take up with each of the county’s divisions specific issues or complaints lodged by the supervisors’ constituents, any hashing out or ironing out of constituent problems now goes through Devereaux, and board members are no longer at liberty to talk to department heads. This is seen as both a sign of Devereaux’s domination of the governmental machinery and the degree to which the supervisors want to be disengaged from the nuts and bolts running of the county.
On May 7, 2013, the board of supervisors guaranteed Devereaux’s contract as chief executive officer to March 2017, with an annual salary of $305,000, which translates into a paycheck of $11,730.77 every two weeks. In addition to that, he is provided with an array of health, continuing educational, traveling & transportation, communication and information processing and retirement benefits. Yearly performance evaluations, however, remain a routine element of the relationship between the board and the top administrator and they present the major juncture at which the board’s members have any leverage over the CEO.
In just-concluded 2015, the most severe test of the six-year running relationship between Devereaux and the board took place upon the board learning in October that Andrew Lamberto, who had been the county’s human resources director prior to Devereaux’s 2010 arrival, had been convicted in August of soliciting a prostitute in Orange County. That conviction stemmed from Lamberto’s March arrest on the charge. Devereaux learned of the matter less than two days after the arrest but had not disclosed it to the board, instead imposing administrative discipline on Lamberto, which included docking his pay.
The disclosure of the arrest and conviction caught the board of supervisors flatfooted and instigated suggestions that Devereaux had withheld the information to arm himself with information with implicit blackmail potential over a key county department head that gave him even greater control over the county governmental structure than he already possessed. There was no clearly stated policy with regard to the disclosure of criminal charges or convictions of county employees to the board, however, such that Devereaux’s withholding of the information regarding Lamberto did not provide the board with legal cause to discipline or terminate him. Moreover, because of the board’s disengagement from the day-to-day operations of the county’s departments involving nearly 18,000 employees, Devereaux was essentially free to handle the matter in the way he felt best, which arguably might have included a decision not to air the issue publicly and thereby prevent embarrassment or discredit being shed on the county.
There were two subtle indications in the press release put out on Wednesday that the Lamberto incident may have registered with the board. The first was a passage stating, “The board and the CEO will soon discuss potential changes to the CEO’s contract that would institutionalize improved communication strategies and ensure consistent opportunities for the board and CEO to exchange information and ideas.” This was augmented with a statement from Supervisor Josie Gonzales.
“I expect this will result in improved communication, a more inclusive leadership style, and a culture of mutual respect,” said Gonzales.

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