SLO County supervisors won’t correct staff error over appointment

October 6, 2021

Supervisor Debbie Arnold


After a heated debate and a few tears, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 not to correct staff’s misdirection that led to an advisory committee selecting only three candidates who had worked in a clerk recorder’s office, instead of seven based on approved qualifications.

During a July 13 SLO County Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Bruce Gibson argued that the person chosen for the job needed to have experience working in a county clerk recorder’s office. The board then voted 3-2 to have a committee select seven candidates while rejecting Gibson’s proposed requirement, with supervisors Gibson and Dawn Ortiz-Legg dissenting.

In support of Gibson’s desire to have a staffer take the position rather than putting it out to bid, the Tribune then incorrectly reported the board had asked for “up” to seven, while failing to note the criteria had also been changed. This was followed by editorials accusing the conservatives on the board of playing partisan politics.

During public comment on Oct. 6, speakers either sought for the board to follow the committee’s recommendation to hire one of three candidates who had worked in a county clerk recorder’s office, while others spoke of the need to have county staff abide by the board’s direction.

Before speaking on the issue, Supervisor John Peschong noted threatening and nasty emails he had received based on allegations he had questioned the results of the last election. Peschong said he thought both the presidential and governor recall elections were legitimately conducted, while questioning why these false allegations were being circulated.

Peschong then said he wanted seven candidates for the position as voted by the board majority.

In response to allegations that Supervisor Lynn Compton was attempting to select a candidate that would help her win the next election. Even though she did not have a legal conflict of interest regarding voting for a lawyer that temporarily worked for her three years ago, Compton said she would recuse herself if attorney Stew Jenkins was on the list. Compton then said she would vote to move forward with the three candidates.

Noting she was upset over the issue, Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg said she thought problems with ballots in past elections supported her and Gibson’s goal of appointing a staffer to run elections. Ortiz-Legg began weeping while disparaging criticism of staff and their failure to follow board direction.

Supervisor Debbie Arnold than made a motion to add to the selection list all seven candidates previously mentioned by the committee. Her motion lost 2-3, with Peschong voting with Arnold.

On Oct. 12, the Board of Supervisors will interview candidates Helen Nolan, Elaina Cano and Jeffrey Barry.

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My opinion is that there should be a “no vote” until the staff and or appointed committee follow the instruction of The Board of Supervisors. If there is no accountability then government is not working for the public as intended by design.