Hiring A CEO: A Lesson in Transparency?

magnifying-glassToday the Orange County Board of Supervisors will be discussing both the compensation for their new CEO (Item #47) and the appointment of that CEO (Item #SCS #10), the latter in closed session. With all of the kerfuffle over the severance package and compensation that former CEO Tom Mauk received, one might think the Board of Supervisors would not try to ram anything through at the last minute. In particular, because of their self-professions of transparency. Based on the posted agenda, a skeptic would be rightfully concerned.

While the name of the potential CEO was leaked last week, to the surprise of Supervisors in Santa Barbara County, the agenda item to appoint Chandra L. Wallar was not added until the very last minute as a supplemental item. Even more surprising however is the agendized discussion of the CEO compensation. Well, maybe not the discussion, rather, the fact that there is no staff report covering what that compensation might be. The information simply does not exist.

Chandra L. Wallar (Photo: Noozhawk)

Chandra L. Wallar (Photo: Noozhawk)

This is surprising given the fact that the Board has a practice of presenting employment contracts for a period of review before they vote on them. Even the current agenda has the contractual details for the reappointment of County Counsel Nicholas Chrisos (Item #31) included in the staff report. When the County Manager’s contract was up for approval in December last year, the contract was available for public review prior to the meeting.

We are hoping that in the spirit of transparency the Board will provide the public the same opportunity to review, and comment, on the terms and conditions of any new CEO employment contract. Such transparency would require the posting of the contract for at least a 72-hour period of time, though, a week ahead of time would be more in line with the spirit of allowing transparent public review and comment.

We would be encouraged to see the Board thoughtfully consider incorporating reductions in compensation and perks similar to the compensation sacrifice  they have proposed for their rank and file employees. As we have previously discussed, the compensation and severance packages for senior government executives have gotten out of control. Now would be a good time for the Board of Supervisors to show leadership and roll back such excesses.

We hope that the Board will take the opportunity today to hold their debate about the terms and conditions of the compensation for the next County CEO, and then put off their final decision on that compensation, until their next meeting, a week from today.