SBCO Seal

SB County

Posted: 11/21/2009 08:15:22 PM PST

Attention, San Bernardino County residents: Get ready for your county government to go in a new direction.

Given the scandals and tribulations of the past decade-plus, it’s hard to argue against a new direction – any new direction – for county government.

After the Board of Supervisors dismissed County Administrative Officer Mark Uffer on Tuesday, Supervisors Neil Derry and Gary Ovitt invoked the need for a different direction.

We await word on what direction it will be, hoping supervisors will articulate it for the public and for the new CAO they hire.

In the meantime, we’re troubled by early developments – specifically the fact that Derry has already named three local city managers whom he likes for the CAO job.

Now don’t get us wrong. We have great admiration and respect for Greg Devereaux, Jack Lam and Kent Hunt, and the jobs they have done as longtime city managers of Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga and Fontana, respectively.

All three are among the best city managers we’ve seen, so Derry has excellent taste. We’re sure, based on their track records, any of the three could do the CAO job and do it well. And we think all three are honest, straight shooters.

We have less confidence in the Board of Supervisors.

All five members of the board have been summoned to appear before the county grand jury in an ongoing investigation into public corruption that has already uncovered rampant misuse of taxpayer money and cronyism in the Assessor’s Office under former Supervisor-turned-Assessor Bill Postmus.

A county-commissioned investigation into the Assessor’s Office also linked political activities in Postmus’ office to the offices of other county supervisors.

In that context, the board’s ambiguous explanation of Uffer’s firing coupled with Derry’s speedy nomination of three people he already knows just doesn’t sit right with us.

It smacks of a deal that’s already done and makes us wonder whether other board members have made up their minds as well.

After all, other supervisors are surely acquainted with Derry’s picks.

Devereaux, for example, used to be Ovitt’s city manager when Ovitt was mayor of Ontario.

Lam worked for Supervisor Paul Biane when Biane was a Rancho Cucamonga councilman, and one of Lam’s current bosses is Rex Gutierrez, one of the five former assessor’s employees being sued by the county.

Devereaux, Lam and Hunt all know the people the supervisors know.

To read the entire editorial click here.