A confluence of events and circumstance has resulted in San Bernardino County’s top ranking staff member being placed on an involuntary extended vacation leave, by the end of which it is anticipated his not quite three-year reign as the chief executive in the largest geographical county in the lower 48 states will draw to a close.
San Bernardino County Chief Executive Officer Leonard Hernandez’s steep and dramatic rise from what originally seemed a studious librarian with relatively humble aspirations to what was arguably the county’s most domineering administrator in its 170 year history now appears to be on the brink of being matched with a no less dramatic and even more abrupt plunge into premature retirement.
Primary factors in the turnaround include his inability to put a cap on the forceful nature of his personality that at first had so impressed his political masters on the board of supervisors with his can-do attitude and a classic entanglement with a femme fatale he unwisely welcomed into his administration.
In September 2020, Hernandez was promoted to assume the post of county chief executive officer and replace Gary McBride, his predecessor, the following month.
Hernandez, 45, has now spent a quarter of a century employed in government, having begun in 1998 at the age of 20 as a part-time library assistant at the Chino Branch Library while he was attending Cal State Fullerton while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in history. Upon graduating from college, he obtained a full-time position at the James S. Thalman Chino Hills Branch Library. He then earned his Master of Science degree in library science through Pennsylvania’s Clarion University’s online learning program and promoted into the position of the Fontana Branch Library manager within the San Bernardino County Library System. In 2008, he became the director of libraries with City of Riverside, but in 2010, anticipating the retirement of San Bernardino County Librarian Ed Kieczykowski, returned to San Bernardino County. In 2011, upon Kieczykowski’s departure, Hernandez moved into the position of San Bernardino County librarian.In 2013, Hernandez was offered, while he was simultaneously serving in the librarian post, a secondary position as the director of the San Bernardino County Museum.
In 2015, then-San Bernardino County Chief Executive Officer Greg Devereaux promoted Hernandez to the position of county deputy executive officer overseeing the community services group, which includes the county’s library and museum systems, the registrar of voters, regional parks, county airports and the county department of agriculture/weights and measures.
In 2017, the same year that McBride was made county chief executive officer, Hernandez was given the interim assignment of county chief operating officer and then ultimately that of full-fledged chief operating officer.
McBride, whose experience consisted of working within the county’s finance division, was affable and non-confrontational, accordingly reluctant to become forceful with the county’s various department heads. He delegated much of his interaction with staff to Hernandez. Over time, the board of supervisors, and in particular the strongest personality on the board, Supervisor Curt Hagman, began to bypass McBride, going directly to Hernandez, instruct him to carry out not only what the board as a whole had voted upon but to put into play whatever it was that Hagman on his own wanted to see accomplished. Hernandez, looking to get ahead and recognizing that Hagman was the de facto leader of the board and the county, swung into immediate action in accordance with those instructions. Ultimately, the board opted to remove McBride and replace him with Hernandez.
Very little time went by before Hernandez had an opportunity to demonstrate his value to the supervisors who promoted him. Barely a month after Hernandez was officially in place as chief executive officer, the county’s voters in November 2020 passed by a supermajority – 516,184 votes or 66.84 percent to 256,098 or 33.16 percent – Measure K, which mandated the five supervisors be deemed part-time legislators, such that each was to see his or her total annual compensation, which ranged, depending on the number of their familial dependents covered under their benefit plans, from $242,941.27 to $280,905.92 annually, reduced to $60,000. Hernandez, in coordination with then-County Counsel Michelle Blakemore, the county’s top in-house attorney, formulated a plan to prevent the supervisors’ pay reduction from taking place. The county, through the office of county counsel retained three attorneys – Bradley Hertz, James Sutton and Nicholas Sanders of the Los Angeles-based Sutton Law Firm – and authorized them to sue the supervisors’ own immediate employee, Lynna Monell, the clerk of the board of supervisors of San Bernardino County, in a legal petition to keep her from implementing Measure K. The board complied with that proposal, authorizing the lawsuit, and further acceded to the strategy of pursuing the matter in San Bernardino Superior Court wherein the matter could be kept in front of a judge known to be sympathetic to the county’s governmental hierarchy rather than removing it to another county where there would be less prospect of political, administrative or financial pressure being brought to bear on the adjudicative process. Simultaneously, at Hernandez’s urging, Blakemore, who as county counsel was supposed to make a spirited defense of Monell’s right and obligation to effectuate the directives inherent in Measure K, forewent making any defense of the initiative or assertion of Monell’s duty to enforce its provisions.
The filing of the lawsuit put Measure K into abeyance while it was subject to legal challenge, preventing the salary reductions from going into effect until such time as the matter was adjudicated.
The matter was maneuvered into the courtroom of San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Donald Alvarez, who was known to county officials to be beholden to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department for having accorded him the courtesy of being escorted home on occasions when he had too much to drink before getting behind the wheel of his car. Judge Alvarez made a finding invalidating the entirety of Measure K on the grounds that its secondary provision limiting supervisors to a single four-year term was unconstitutional and that the term limitation element of the measure was not separable from its salary and benefit reductions. This, Judge Alvarez ruled, rendered Measure K unenforceable.
Ultimately, the sponsor of Measure K, the government reform advocacy coalition known as the Red Brennan Group, appealed Alvarez’s finding and obtained a tentative ruling reversing his invalidation of the measure. But the Hernandez/Blakemore legal ploy bought the board of supervisors two years of time, during which the county government placed on the November 2022 ballot what it represented as its own government reform initiative, Measure D, which restored each individual supervisor’s total annual compensation to roughly $255,000 to $275,000 while imposing on the supervisors term limits of three four-year terms, essentially equivalent to what had been the wage-scale and number-of-years-in-office rules that had been in place before Measure K’s passage. Measure D passed by a margin of 241,894 votes or 58.22 percent to 173,582 votes or 41.78 percent.
In hatching a plan to prevent Measure K and the county’s government reform advocates from reducing the supervisors to a financial status coequal to the average county resident, Hernandez vindicated the faith the board had placed in him.
When Hernandez made the transition from chief operating officer to chief executive officer, Luther Snoke, one of the county’s deputy executive officers, was promoted into the position of chief operating officer to replace Hernandez.
Hernandez’s promotion came in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. He and Snoke managed to guide the county through the pandemic despite its unprecedented challenges, earning high marks for his performance in making everything, or virtually everything, the county’s political leadership wanted to accomplish doable.
The element that made and makes Hernandez so effective is at the same time his Achilles’ heel. Just as his value as the county’s chief operating officer under McBride consisted of his ruthless willingness to exercise his authority, his reach as chief executive officer has in equal measure been contingent upon intimidation and fear. His stock has risen while he was in the capacity of chief operating officer because of a symbiotic exchange with the board: he was willing to do what neither McBride nor most previous chief executive officers would allow, which was to let the board of supervisors have their way or put into play the action they wanted taken without having to hold a public vote ratifying the policy they were embarking upon. In return, Hernandez’s own power grew. What the board members, in particular Hagman, wanted, Hernandez wanted and therefore achieved for them. Under this arrangement, the county’s department heads had a simple choice: either do what Hernandez ordered them to do, whether what he was asking of them was officially approved by the board of supervisors or not, or risk being fired. When he made the transition to chief executive officer, he continued to apply that formula.
About a year-and-a-half into his time as the chief executive, however, the county structure was beginning to feel the toll of the way he had been operating. One issue is that Hernandez’s reach exceeds his grasp. His authority and ability to strike fear into those he commands and have them carry out those commands is not matched by his depth of experience in informing the wisdom of or determining what those commands should be. Virtually his entire work history consists of being a government employee, giving him no workable knowledge of the demands of the private sector. Additionally, the breadth of his experience as a government employee prior to moving into top management was confined to the county’s libraries and museums, departments which have different levels of significance, priority, intensivity, controversy, invasivity, authority and urgency involving a far less substantial outlay of public funds than many other departments. Upon becoming chief operating officer, Hernandez knew very little about public works and engineering; the county hospital; land use services; the county health department; behavioral health; the department of human services formerly known as social services or the welfare department; the building department; real estate services, not to mention the departments that function under the authority of county elected officials other than the board of supervisors.
Despite his lack of expertise in those areas. Hernandez demonstrated a tendency toward micromanaging. This led to his efforts to dictate activity with regard to matters he did not fully understand, and which put those in positions of responsibility into a position of following through with action they sometimes recognized as being ill-conceived. His insistence on being in the loop with regard to actions each department was to take such that he was electronically carbon copied on emails department heads and mid-level staffers sent out in many cases engendered paralysis among employees within certain county divisions where the contemplated action was deemed sensitive or in any fashion controversial.
Hernandez’s propensity to act without having a comprehensive understanding of all of the county’s various moving parts or the full implication of what he was ordering led many to conclude that Devereaux had acted prematurely in making him chief operating officer. It would have been better, they observed, if Devereaux had allowed Hernandez to obtain more seasoning by having him remain in the capacity of a deputy or assistant executive officer or understudy to the chief executive officer for another five to ten years so that he might have familiarized himself with the function of a wide variety of the county’s departments and divisions either in depth or at least in a manner that was not superficial, providing him an understanding of how the various county departments are purposed to articulate into an overarchingly cohesive operation before he took the helm as the county’s top administrator.
Devereaux, however, lasted less than two years as chief executive officer after Hernandez came into the county administrative suite, at which point Hernandez found himself thrust into the post of chief operating officer. His response to this was to use his primary asset – his utter ruthlessness – to serve his political masters, to threaten department heads with termination if they didn’t do exactly what he told them to do, regardless of whether what he was ordering them to do was in accordance with standards or agreed upon best practices, wise, sustainable or justifiable in the long run. If those department heads did not do as they were instructed, they were soon out of a job. Hernandez established his reputation as someone who got results.
In his capacities as both the county’s chief operating officer and as its chief executive officer, Hernandez encountered employees who resisted, or refused to follow, his orders or instructions. Virtually everyone of those employees were forced out of the county, and were replaced by others who then sought to comply so that they too were not cashiered. In his role as chief executive officer, county employees remarked, Hernandez valued loyalty above competence. Under Hernandez, a department head who saluted and carried out his or her marching orders, realistic or unrealistic, was highly valued. Mid-level employees fled the county or retired in droves.
Amidst the hemorrhaging of experienced employees and department heads, mistakes have been made, some of them costly. In April, it was publicly revealed that the county refunded to the federal government $4.4 million of $8.5 million it had received in emergency grant funding to house homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic because it had failed to make use of the money within a specified timeframe. Word now comes that the county is about to lose state grant funding that could have been applied to redress homeless issues. County employees say they were hamstrung in completing the requirements to maintain that funding because of micromanaging and unnecessary interference by Hernandez.
Similarly, new state laws intended to streamline the approval process for certain types of development, including so-called accessory dwelling units, are in effect throughout the state. In San Bernardino County, however, the land use services department has been slow to process such applications for a variety of reasons, some of which are attributed to Hernandez having forced that division’s department head, Terry Rahhal, into departing unnecessarily. Despite the county having enlisted a journeyman governmental planning official, Mark Wardlaw, who was the community development director with Mammoth Lakes, the director of planning and development with San Diego County and the community development director with Walnut Creek, to replace Rahhal, the restoration of the department to full functionality has yet to take place.
Whereas four and five years ago complaints about McBride’s inability to facilitate quick action were being heard while Hernandez was being lauded as a dynamic result-oriented actor, similar complaints are now being heard, with the county’s dysfunction being laid at Hernandez’s feet. To cut through county red tape and bureaucracy at this point, one is directed to bypass Hernandez and go directly to Snoke.
Hernandez’s heretofore firm grip on the machinery of county government was most meaningfully compromised by the recent rupture in a code of silence that had been maintained with regard to his affair of longstanding with Pam Williams, a relatively low ranking analyst in the county’s human resources division who promoted rapidly within the county’s strategic initiatives division to ultimately become the county’s principal administrative analyst after Hernandez’s rise in stature to county chief operating officer and then was given the position of chief of administration within days after Hernandez becoming chief executive officer. When a few intrepid employees came forward to note their objections to what they said was a lapse in standards inherent in Hernandez promoting his mistress into the head administrative position and the bypassing of others they felt were more qualified, those complaints were not officially logged but deemed to be informal and the complainants prevailed upon to remain quiet. Others who considered making note of the circumstance with Assistant Executive Officer Diane Rundles, who oversees the Human Resources division, or actually did so, upon seeing her turn what was termed “a blind eye” to the matter resulted in the aforementioned code of silence developing in which employees, fearing retaliation in the form of discipline or the loss of employment, ignored the situation and avoided talking about it.
Within the last fortnight, however, more than a dozen midlevel county employees have been brought in by human resources and questioned about what they know of the relationship between Hernandez and Williams. The contrast between the attitude that prevailed previously, when alluding to or relating any known details of the relationship was considered grounds for termination, and what is going on currently, with employees being encouraged to expound on what they know of the relationship and any perception that Hernandez and Williams might have compromised the professionalism and standard of impartiality that needed to be maintained within the county’s managerial/administrative echelon, is a stark one.
It took some doing to get to that point.
Hernandez went on vacation in July. In taking what was anticipated to be nothing more than a three week absence, he willingly temporarily signed over his authority as county chief executive officer to Snoke. Hernandez was due to return on August 7.
A consensus had grown that as dynamic and promising as Hernandez had once seemed and how practically useful he had proven to be throughout his time as chief operating officer and the initial stages of his tenure as CEO, he had become to overbearing in his assumption of virtual absolute authority. A clear indication of his vainglory, even those who had been his longtime supporters admitted to themselves, was the brazenness in which he had installed his mistress into the key position of chief of administration, confident that through their combined authority they could override any challenge to the arrangement. A testimony to how powerful he had become was that no single individual – neither a member of the board of supervisors nor anyone up or done the county staff, all of whom were somewhere on the chain of command below Hernandez – dared challenge him. What was needed was a collective, one that would form with cunning and stealth, which was willing to engage in what the conspirators only with some level of protest refer to as a coup. Those involved ranged from four members of the board of supervisors, some but not all members of their staffs, a select handful of senior managerial/administrative staff and a cross section of the county’s mid-level management.
With Snoke in place as the acting CEO, a plan was formulated, one which to the greatest extent possible was to require no overt action or public display of challenge to Hernandez. It was anticipated that Hernandez would be in place for the board of supervisors meeting on August 8, at which the board, during its routine closed session where items deemed confidential such as pending and ongoing litigation, personnel matters, real estate sales and labor negotiations are discussed outside the earshot of the public, had previously been scheduled to carry out of review of Hernandez’s performance. During that closed session, amid discussions of seven ongoing legal cases and two cases of anticipated litigation and the evaluation of Hernandez’s performance, the board opted to extend, without Hernandez having made any such request, Hernandez’s vacation leave by another thee weeks. As this did not involve suspending Hernandez, placing him on administrative leave or a public report of the action, the board was able to ace Hernandez out of his position of authority and oversight, at least temporarily, in a way that did not being any negative attention or backlash to Hernandez or itself, as a direct termination or placing him on administrative leave would have.
The move gave the county nearly three weeks of breathing room during which it is believed Hernandez can be convinced to voluntarily tender his resignation as CEO and avoid a showdown in which he will ultimately run the risk of being terminated for cause.
Whether Hernandez is willing to go gentle into the good night remains to be seen. The county CEO post provides him with $336,561.82 in salary, $40,746.20 in pay add-ons and perquisites and $196,035.72 in benefits for a current total annual compensation of $573,343.74. He is yet five years away from retirement, such that he may be reluctant to simply give up the job he has and subsist until he reaches the age of 50. Under the retirement formula for the San Bernardino County Employees Retirement Association in which he is a participant, if he leaves the county now and does not return to government work, he would become eligible for an annual pension of $252,421.36 for the rest of his life in June 2028. By simply resigning now or accepting a dismissal, he would potentially, although not necessarily, harm his chances of landing a job elsewhere. For that reason, Hernandez may resolve to dig in his heels and fight.
Were he to do so, he is not entirely without leverage.
Over the last nearly three years as CEO Hernandez both hired and promoted a good number of the county’s current crop of top administrators, and during his three years as COO, he cleared the way for or made recommendations for the hirings or promotions of others.
Hernandez can absolutely rely upon the support of Williams, whose status as the chief of administration puts her in charge of special projects, the county’s public information arm, the county office of emergency services and the county’s marketing and promotional efforts.
Hernandez was instrumental in assisting Deputy County Executive Officer Daniel Munoz in his advancement, which at this point includes his oversight of the Inland Counties Emergency Medical Authority and the county office of emergency services.
It was Hernandez who made the decision on hiring Chief Communications Officer Martha Guzman-Hurtado two years ago.
Diane Rundles, who was hired by San Bernardino County as human resources director in 2019 and under Hernandez acceded to the position of Assistant Executive Officer, has been entrusted with overseeing, in additon to human resources, the county’s labor relations, purchasing, risk management veterans’ affairs, children and family services and behavioral health departments as well as the county’s performance education resource centers and its Children’s Network. More than a dozen county employees who had sought the intercession of Rundles and the human resources division when they objected to or resisted orders from Hernandez were not given the insulation they sought and were terminated or forced to resign.
Brad Jensen was Hernandez’s choice to lead San Bernardino County as the county’s dierctor of legislative affairs.
Chad Nottingham, a longtime technician in the county engineering department, was moved into the land use services department as a coordinator in 2017, while Hernandez was chief operation officer and had oversight of the land use services department. In 2019, Nottingham was promoted to the position of assistant building official in land use services. In 2021, he was promoted to head the land use services department and then was given the added duty of deputy executive officer, overseeing the land use services, innovations and technology, projects and facilities management, public health, animal control and real estate services departments.
Michael Jimenez, who had been the county librarian, was promoted by Hernandez to deputy executive officer in 2021, in which capacity he oversees the departments of economic development, fleet management, library, museums, registrar of voters, and workforce development.
Trevor Leja, a land surveyor with San Bernardino County who in 2018 left San Bernardino County for a surveyor position in Riverside County for higher pay, returned to San Bernardino County in 2019 to become a division manager in operations working for Hernandez. Hernandez in 2020 moved him into a deputy director position within public works and in 2021 made him the assistant director of public works. Last year, Hernandez promoted Leja to deputy executive officer overseeing public works, project & facilities management, regional parks, airports and agriculture/weights & measures.
Child Support Services Director Amy Coughlin, formerly a human resources officer who worked closely with Hernandez when he was the deputy executive officer overseeing libraries, the museum, the registrar of voters, regional parks, county airports and the county department of agriculture/weights and measures, has benefited from her relationship with him. He can count upon her loyalty, as well as that of Victor Tordesillas, the director of veterans affairs and risk management, and Gina King, the assistant director of human resources.
Paloma Hernandez-Barker, a principal administrative analyst, was promoted to a deputy executive officer/deputy finance director position in 2021 by Hernandez. She oversees the financial operations of the assessor/recorder/county clerk’s office, the auditor-controller/treasurer/tax collector’s office, the board of supervisors, the clerk of the board of supervisors, fleet management, human resources, information and technology, public works, purchasing, risk management and special districts.
Carrie Harmon, the director of community development and housing, was brought to San Bernadino County from Riverside County recently by Hernandez.
His emphasis on loyalty has created a management cadre upon whom he can, if not entirely, then in large measure, rely. While it would be awkward to do so, and he has been cut off to ready and easy access to the troops he so recently commanded by the extension of his vacation leave and would be further cut off if he is officially and fully separated from the county, Hernandez could, if he dares, call upon those whose careers he propelled forward to stand up for him if he decides to make a contest of it. It would be about an even bet that a fair number of the high-level county functionaries would join him in trying to vindicate himself, and the county’s political leadership and the successor county administration would need to calculate what the price of trying to maintain a semblance of order and marginal efficiency would be if key operatives went dormant.
Moreover, Hernandez did not zoom from being what everyone took as a milquetoast librarian to one of the most dominant taskmasters in county government without having skill, apparent or hidden, in vicious political infighting.
As impossible as it is to ignore Hernandez’s already demonstrated ruthlessness and instinct for professional survival and advancement when it came to stepping over or kicking to the curb or otherwise dealing harshly with county employees down the chain of command by threatening to fire them or indeed actually terminating them if he perceived doing so to be in his interest, it is equally apparent that in order to remain in place he is willing to pull the trigger or at least threaten to pull the trigger on his political masters up the chain of command. There is indication that he “made book” on the members of the board of supervisors while he was chief operating officer and has continued to do so while he is serving as chief executive officer, a vantage point from which he is excellently positioned to observe corners being cut, the way decisions are made, what arrangements have been made and what political horsetrading has taken place in backrooms or during closed sessions. And just as he and Blakemore were able to maneuver the lawsuit the board of supervisors filed against its own clerk into the courtroom of a Superior Court Judge who had a few secrets that judge did not want exposed which were exploited to obtain a determination that kept the supervisors from losing their quarter of a million dollars a year compensation, Hernandez may prove himself to be more than capable of threatening to lay out for general scrutiny a few things the supervisors did they might rather the voters didn’t know about as a means of convincing at least three fifths of the board’s members that they might want to think twice or maybe three or four or five times before they relieve him of his job.
Despite the very real possibility that Hernandez will seek to make removing him as CEO as politically expensive as he can, possible, four of the members of the board of supervisors – Kurt Hagman, Paul Cook, Jesse Armendarez and Joe Baca, Jr. – have misgivings about his performance. Hagman is in a lead role in what is said to be an effort to “clean the county slate.”
Supervisor Dawn Rowe, the current chairwoman of the board of supervisors, is more favorably disposed toward Hernandez than her board colleagues. It is widely acknowledged that Rowe’s supervisorial staff is less steeped in the rough-and-tumble of governmental operations and political maneuvering and thus less effective than the staffs of all four of the other supervisors. For that reason, Rowe has been particularly dependent upon Hernandez for guidance and the operation of her office.
Other forces are arraying themselves against Hernandez.
Virtually every mid-level administrative employee in the county is looking forward to his departure.
Hernandez presumed that he had the backing of County Counsel Tom Bunton, who leads the county’s stable of in-house attorneys. Bunton, who has the full confidence of the board’s members to navigate them through not only legal but many operational challenges, has demonstrated himself to be independent of Hernandez on multiple issues.
Looking down the road at the prospect that the move afoot to depose Hernandez as county chief executive officer will succeed, a consideration for the board is what portion of the senior county staff in place will go with him.
If, indeed, Hernandez engages in a scorched earth attempt to stay in place and fails, it is difficult to see how any element of county staff that aligns itself with him can survive. Even if Hernandez does not put up a fight and goes voluntarily, it appears likely that Williams and Rundles will be casualties of his ultimate departure, given all that has already occurred. On the other hand, were Hernandez to pull through, he will likely be able to extend an umbrella of protection over them.
The suite of five administrators within the county’s finance division – County Chief Financial Officer Matthew Erickson and the four deputy executive officers for finance and administration that serve under him, Robert Saldana, Valerie Clay, Paloma Hernandez-Barker and Diana Atkeson – could play a pivotal role in whatever stab at survival Hernandez will make. With money being not only the mother’s milk of politics but of governance, whosoever not only controls the purse strings but manages to maintain stability in minding the county’s money is likely to capture the high ground in this battle. Erickson, Saldana, Clay, Hernandez-Barker and Atkeson owe their current vaunted positions within the county to some degree or other to Hernandez, either for keeping each in place or promoting them. Still, if all five side with the forces intent on removing Hernandez from office, it is difficult to see how he can remain as CEO. A prognostication of the outcome in this circumstance could well be how each of these five comport themselves in the weeks ahead.
Munoz, whose rise at the county is closely identified with Hernandez, finds himself in a tenuous position.
Both Hernandez and Munoz and to a lesser extent Williams have been pointedly criticized over the lackluster response to the nearly three-week-long blizzard that blanketed the San Bernardino Mountain communities in February and March, leaving roads impassable for most of that time, resulting in food, fuel and medicine shortages and deaths. There are reports that employees with the county’s office of emergency services, directly overseen by Munoz, made multiple requests for equipment, materials and the means to respond to the blizzard conditions but were frustrated in that effort. Those employees, it is reported, at least partially attributed the loss of life that took place in the mountains during that crisis, to Hernandez’s failure to act. A report on the blizzard response compiled by a committee formed at the behest of Supervisor Rowe laid the responsibility for those shortcomings at the feet of Munoz without mentioning Hernandez. It is unclear at this point the degree to which Munoz is willing to accept responsibility over the blizzard response inadequacy, and if doing so will appreciably help Hernandez in his effort to remain in place as county CEO.
If Munoz displays the loyalty some expect him to and he backs Hernandez, his continued viability as a county employee will likely rise or fall on whether Hernandez survives. Munoz represents a bellwether for Hernandez. If he makes a show of loyalty to his patron, he may inspire others to stand by Hernandez. Conversely, if Munoz breaks with Hernandez, as perhaps the best known and maybe even the closest friend and ally county chief executive officer has in the county, the likelihood that others will stand with Hernandez will likewise diminish.
A whole host of other top administrators at the county – Behavioral Health Department Director Georgina Yoshioka, Children and Family Services Director Wendy Alvarez, Assistant Executive Officer Diana Alexander Deputy Executive Officer and Health and Human Services Director Cheryl Adams, Aging and Adult Services Director Sharon Nevins, First 5 Director Karen Scott, Public Works Director Brendan Biggs, Real Estate Services Director Terry Thompson and Arrowhead Regional Medical Center Director William Gilbert – are expected to keep their heads down while this plays out and ultimately side with the board of supervisors majority if pushed to take a position.
It is unclear whether the board majority would favor elevating Snoke from Hernandez’s temporary to full-fledged replacement. An informal and unscientific survey of the county’s middle-management indicates Snoke is considered a viable replacement for Hernandez.
As far as the Sentinel can determine, there has been no discussion of who would replace Snoke as chief operating officer if he were to be appointed CEO and accepts that posting.
A confluence of events and circumstance has resulted in San Bernardino County’s top ranking staff member being placed on an involuntary extended vacation leave, by the end of which it is anticipated his not quite three-year reign as the chief executive in the largest geographical county in the lower 48 states will draw to a close.