Board picks interim CAO as next assistant administrator

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SBC

Supervisors approved reinstating an assistant county administrative officer July 23, with Ray Espinosa set to fill the position when a new county administrative officer is hired. Espinosa has been serving as interim CAO for 10 months.
Supervisor Robert Rivas was outspoken against the move to fill the assistant CAO position, which has been vacant since 2010. The remainder of the supervisors supported the move.
“I pulled this item from the consent agenda because I can’t support it,” Rivas said Tuesday, adding that he owed an explanation to Espinosa. “For me, it doesn’t make sense.”
Rivas said he was not in support of filling the position because supervisors balanced the 2013-14 budget on one-time money from the Health and Human Services Agency.
“A lot of department heads don’t have assistants,” he said. “Small counties have had to drastically reduce staff – 2011 and 2012 were very painful. This year we balanced our budget, but we used a lot of one-time money.”
Rivas said he was also uncomfortable with the contract attached to the position, which calls for a two-year commitment with a severance agreement. While the annual salary was not listed in the contract, the reported income for San Benito’s assistant CAO position in 2009 was $137,875, according to the state comptroller’s website.
“We don’t need an assistant CAO,” Rivas said. “I think a full-time CAO could do an assessment and as a board we could have a debate about organization and changes. … This action is premature.”
Supervisor Margie Barrios said she had heard support from several department heads of the supervisors filling the long-vacant assistant CAO position.
“Even though sacrifices have been made, they feel it is important to have leadership,” she said.
She also noted the scope of the job description had been changed so that it includes information technology duties, which Espinosa had overseen before he took on the interim CAO position.
“The person we want to put in the position is a proven individual,” she said. “Ten months ago he was given the task of carrying out some very difficult work. He has carried out the goals of the board. We will be getting a county administrative officer but that will only strengthen (the department.)”
Supervisor Anthony Botelho said he supported the appointment of Espinosa. He said while the supervisors are pursuing candidates for a permanent CAO they weren’t sure how long it would be to fill the position. He clarified Espinosa will remain as interim CAO until a permanent CAO is hired at which time he move to the assistant position.
“When we have a new CAO, they can hit the ground running, if he or she needs some guidance,” Botelho said. “It starts at the top.”
Before a vote on the appointment, a human resource analyst answered Rivas’ question about the severance package in the contract. While the county does not have a written policy, a county employee said the practice has been to give department heads a three-month notice and three-months of pay if they are terminated.
Granger said the practice started four years ago when it was noted that department heads had written contracts that varied in regard to severance packages. The supervisors at the time decided they should keep the severance packages the same to be fair to all department heads.
Supervisors voted 4-1 to approve the appointment, with a detailed reference to the severance package.

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