Discussion planned December 1

Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 11/18/2009 09:50:40 PM PST

Board of Supervisors Chairman Gary Ovitt will call for a closed-door meeting Dec. 1 to discuss the selection process for a new San Bernardino County chief administrative officer, his top aide said Wednesday.

“It’s important that it not only be a process but a process that everyone feels they can be a part of,” said Mark Kirk, Ovitt’s chief of staff.

Ovitt declined to comment for this report.

In a closed-door meeting Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors voted 3-2, with Paul Biane and Josie Gonzales opposing, to fire County Administrative Officer Mark Uffer.

Uffer had been the county’s top administrator since September 2004.

In a statement Tuesday, Ovitt called the decision difficult but necessary in order to move in a “different direction.”

“Certainly, he (Ovitt) has strong opinions on what direction the county needs to go in at this point, but he wants to discuss that with his colleagues and come to a unified understanding of where that direction needs to go before a new CAO is brought on,” Kirk said.

The Board of Supervisors is pushing to fill the vacant post as soon as possible.

“I think everyone understands there’s a need to move expeditiously,” Supervisor Neil Derry said.

Meanwhile, Assistant County Administrative Officer Dean Arabatzis will assume the duties of CAO until a permanent replacement is named.

Derry said he would like to see a new CAO on board by January and has three people at the top of his list who he feels are ideal candidates: Ontario City Manager Greg Devereaux, Rancho Cucamonga City Manager Jack Lam and Fontana City Manager Ken Hunt.

He said he would like to have a CAO well versed in economic development and redevelopment issues who will aggressively push for the development of a new county government center, possibly at San Bernardino’s Carousel Mall.

Uffer said the government center project is strictly a board decision and that his office carried out policy set by the board.

“There’s never been any criticism of the process by any board member,” Uffer said.

In addition, Derry said he wants a CAO who can bridge an employee relations gap left by Uffer.

“I think that’s been a big issue,” Derry said . “I can tell you from my own personal experience that there’s been a lot of tension.”

Earlier this year, relations between the San Bernardino Public Employees Association, the union representing more than 17,000 county employees, and the county hit a snag when the county was forced to consider layoffs and pay cuts in order to help bring its budget in line.

Uffer was at the center of the contentious negotiations.

Union members were angry when the county, after the union refused to forgo annual cost-of-living pay raises, eliminated alternate work schedules for employees to save about $18million.

“It served no useful purpose other than to apply pressure to the employees to concede to the county’s demands,” said Bob Blough, SBPEA general manager.

In May, the impasse reached an end when union members agreed to forgo a 3.25percent pay raise in exchange for not having their hours cut.

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