SAN DIEGO — The County Board of Supervisors will be pausing the search for a new Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) amidst the upheaval following the allegations against Supervisor Nathan Fletcher.
In a joint statement from Chairwoman Nora Vargas and Vice Chair Terra Lawson-Remer, the hiring process will be halted until the Board can fill the looming vacancy in the District 4 seat currently held by Fletcher.
“Our leadership has gone through an extensive search for a new Chief Administrative Officer and this process has been thorough and yielded outstanding candidates,” the joint statement said. “However, due to recent events, we must pause this process to ensure fair representation for ALL San Diego County residents.”
The CAO is one of the most important positions for the county, overseeing the implementation of policy directives from the Board and managing the daily operations of the county government.
The current CAO, Helen Robbins-Meyer, announced her retirement from the job in October 2022 with an end date at the end of March. Her employment with the county was extended in the wake of the sexual assault allegations against Fletcher.
A spokesperson for the county said that the Board of Supervisors spent several months in closed door meetings to find potential candidates to replace Robbins-Meyer after the announcement of her retirement last year.
While the details of what occurred during these meetings is considered confidential, Fletcher was described as a “powerful presence” during these proceedings, according to the spokesperson.
The Board of Supervisors’ decision to hold off on the hiring of a new individual to assume the vital role for county operations would be an opportunity to reset without Fletcher’s vote, the spokesperson said, as he is poised to step down sometime in the coming months.
Fletcher announced plans to resign at the end of his medical leave on May 15, after allegations of sexual misconduct were levied at the Supervisor in a lawsuit filing by a former Metropolitan Transit System employee.
Since his announcement, a growing number of city and county leaders have begun calling on Fletcher to step down immediately, including his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors who unanimously passed a “no confidence” resolution against him Tuesday.
In a statement Sunday announcing the “no confidence” vote, Supervisor Jim Desmond cited the need for Fletcher to resign immediately in order to fill the seat so the body can move forward with the hiring of a new CAO for the county.
If Fletcher steps down, the seat could either be filled by an appointment or through a special election, according to the county charter. The Board could also appoint someone in the interim until a special election can take place.
A spokesperson from Vargas’ office said that whoever fills the seat next, regardless of whether it is an interim appointment, will have a say — and a vote — in the key personnel decision.
The Board of Supervisors will discuss the options for how the body plans to fill the vacant District 4 seat during their May 2 meeting.
The terms of Robbins-Meyer’s extension in the CAO employment allows her to stay through the fiscal year and about 40 days into the next, Vargas’ office said. The pausing of the search for Robbin-Meyer’s successor will not impact this timeline, they said.