In a July 16 email to the Sentinel, San Bernardino County’s official spokesman, David Wert, took issue with several elements in the article, “Board’s Emerging Political Divide Overwhelming County’s Top Administrator,” which ran as the lead story in the Sentinel’s July 13 edition.
Wrote Wert, “Just read your article and there were a few factual errors that should be addressed:
“–’Devereaux was not hired into the post of county administrative officer – the title historically conferred upon San Bernardino County’s top employee – but rather the enhanced position of county chief executive officer.’ – Greg [Devereaux] was hired as county administrative officer. The board did not create the position of chief executive officer until Nov. 2, 2010, about nine months after Greg joined the county as CAO.
“–’Devereaux was given absolute autonomy with regard to overseeing the county’s operations as well as the hiring and firing of county department heads that went beyond the authority of any previous county administrative officer.’ – Greg’s authority to oversee the county’s operations and hire and fire department heads was no different than it was for previous CAOs and is for the present CEO. There are a handful of positions –Behavioral Health director, Child Support Services director and public defender, to name a few – that by state law are board of supervisors appointments. Most department head positions have always been and still are CAO/CEO appointments for which there is no legal mechanism for board appointment or termination.
“–’the board did not confer upon McBride the title of chief county executive officer. Rather, the previous title of county administrative officer was reinstated as the county’s top staff position with his promotion.’ – Gary [McBride] was hired as and serves as “chief executive officer.” He has never held the title of “county administrative officer,” which has not existed since November 2010.
“–’the practice of restricting the county’s department heads from having direct substantial contact with the board of supervisors.’ – There has never been a ‘practice of restricting the county’s department heads from having direct substantial contact with the board of supervisors.’ When Greg was hired, he and the board agreed that individual board members and their staff members would refrain from giving orders to county departments behind the scenes, and county departments who received orders from individual board members and their staff members would refer the matter to the CAO (later the CEO). Direction from the board can only come from the board taking action as a body in an agendized meeting. That agreement was memorialized in an ordinance passed on Nov. 2, 2010. However, it was made clear from day one of Greg’s tenure (I know, because I was there when Greg communicated this to county department heads) and it continues to be the rule today that department heads and other county staff are to respond promptly to questions and requests for information from individual board members and board staff, and keep board members and board staff informed of significant situations and events. The CEO needs to be kept in the loop on those communications for obvious reasons. Therefore, there is no and never was any restriction on contact between department heads and the Board of Supervisors, or on the board as a body providing direction to county agencies, just a restriction on individual board members and board staff from giving direction to county staff behind the scenes.
“This is not to say that I’m confirming the other elements in your story. As I mentioned, what you say you’re hearing and what I’m seeing and hearing do not match.
“Thanks, and take care,