Ontario’s City Manager Greg Devereaux got the interview, and got the job.
When San Bernardino County’s Board of Supervisors announced its selection from the large pool of applicants on Jan. 14, some eyebrows were raised as to the fairness in granting just one interview.
“It is stupid and probably illegal,” said Dr. Barbara O’Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at Sacramento State University. “They also missed a good opportunity to compare what is outside their comfortable incestuousness.”
It’s not illegal though.
In fact, it’s absolutely legal for a body in San Bernardino’s position to use any process they want. It’s what the body thinks best serves itself.
“This is not the norm, but really elected officials in their role do have the discretion to appoint whomever they want in any manner they want,” said Dave Mora, Western Region Manager of the International City-County Management Association.
In the case of San Bernardino, the county supervisors clearly had the guy they wanted for the job. Like any good business, efficiency needs to be paramount.
I spoke with Devereaux on Monday morning, and while Devereaux couldn’t speak on behalf of those who hired him, he did provide a history of working relationships with each of the supervisors who appointed him.
“All of them have had an opportunity to observe the results of my work and know me as a person,” Devereaux said.
Devereaux served 12 years as Ontario City Manager and served as the City Manager of Fontana.
“It is fair to say that Greg really was head and shoulders above all the other applicants,” said Mark Kirk, Chief of Staff for San Bernardino County Board Chairman Gary Ovitt.
“It’s not only on paper, but it’s also in the relationships that he has and the track record of success in San Bernardino County that made him stand apart from anyone else.”
Dr. O’Connor’s point of incestuous relationships does carry weight though. Why not look outside of the county’s bubble to help bring fresh ideas?
“Even if you have an outstanding inside candidate it behooves you to bring people in because it gives you insight from outside,” O’Connor said.
It was a good point, so I asked Kirk what he thought.
“I think in an ideal world that is a great move, but unfortunately the current climate in California and the Inland Empire is less than ideal,” Kirk said. “It was imperative to get someone into the county and get them up to speed as soon as possible.
“As we start heading to the end of the fiscal year, we need as much time and as much attention paid to budget deficits, declining revenue and the state stealing money from local coffers as we can get.”
At the end of the day, the county felt they had the best man for the job. Every day that the county didn’t have someone at the helm was another day of uncertainty.
Yes, it was at the cost of interviewing just to interview. But sometimes, time and decisions are simply more valuable.
James Spencer is the editor of PublicCEO.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 916.333.5285