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10:00 PM PST on Tuesday, December 15, 2009

By IMRAN GHORI
The Press-Enterprise

Newly-elected San Bernardino County supervisors will be allowed to hire two staff members for up to 45 days before they are sworn in, under a policy approved by the board Tuesday.

The Board of Supervisors approved the transition staff policy on a 3-1 vote with Supervisor Josie Gonzales opposed and Supervisor Paul Biane absent.

The proposal was introduced by Board Chairman Gary Ovitt following a grand jury report in July that recommended the board establish rules for transition staff. In August 2008, the board approved staffing for Supervisor Neil Derry three months before he was sworn in, a process the grand jury report criticized as “arbitrary.”

Ovitt had initially suggested that new supervisors be allowed transition staff for no more than 30 days but agreed to increase the period to 45 days after a board discussion on Dec. 1.

Transition staff would be limited to a chief of staff and executive secretary that would be paid at the county’s lower range for those positions and receive no benefits, under the policy. They would automatically become regular staff when the supervisor takes office unless their contracts were terminated.

The transition employee duties would be limited to gathering information and interviewing other potential staff members although no employment contracts could be approved until the supervisor is sworn in.

Ovitt said the policy would allow new supervisors to be fully prepared when they take office.

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