La prensa

SD Dems Support County Hire They Don’t Even Know

County building
Author: La Prensa
Created: 29 April, 2024
4 min read

By Alberto Garcia
Investigative Reporter

The San Diego County Democratic Party is supporting the appointment of the County’s next Chief Administrative Officer with a resolution they passed last week and a rally outside the County building tomorrow without even having interviewed or even met the candidate.

Last week, the Party passed a resolution supporting Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez for the position of the County’s top staffer who is responsible for the day-to-day management of nearly 20,000 employees and its over $8 billion annual budget.

Chavez, who previously served on the San Jose City Council and lost a bid for San Jose Mayor in 2022, had been selected by the Board of the Supervisors in a closed door session in early 2023 but they needed to take a final public vote to approve her employment.

That vote never took place after then-Supervisor Nathan Fletcher announced his resignation amid allegations of sexual assault and retaliation leveled by a female transit agency employee.

Although the selection of Chavez had been a secret, La Prensa San Diego discovered her name from a source in the Bay Area and, on April 3, 2023, became the first media outlet to report her name.

LPSD tweet

Chavez, who previously served as the leader of the Bay Area’s labor council before being elected to public office, has never served in a management position similar to the requirements of a County Chief Administrative Officer.

Board Chairwoman Nora Vargas later announced that the decision on the CAO would be made after a replacement for Fletcher was elected. After San Diego City Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe won the special election on November 7, 2023, the process was restarted through what was described as a more public and transparent process even though none of the names of any prospective candidates have been released.

But last week, the San Diego County Democratic Party debated a resolution supporting Chavez for the position at the request of the Service Employees International Union (SEUI) that represents thousands of County employees.

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Sources within the Party confirm that Chavez herself did not seek the support of the local Party, and no one on the Party’s Central Committee had even met Chavez.

“We are voting to support someone for the County’s highest position without knowing anything about her except that we can Google ourselves,” one elected member of the Central Committee told La Prensa San Diego before the vote. The Party voted 32-12-1 to pass the non-binding resolution.

By the end of the week, the Board had announced that they would not interview Chavez, essentially ending prospects of her being hired.

Sources within the County have suggested that the Board does not have at least three votes for Chavez given the public exposure of her candidacy for the position.

Last Friday, political consultant Jesus Cardenas, who was convicted of two felony counts earlier this month, reposted a flyer on Facebook being circulated by another union, the United Domestic Workers who represents home care workers funded by the County, calling for people to “tell the Board to interview Cindy Chavez”, calling the decision not to interview her a “flip-flop”.

Cindy Chavez flyer

This morning, County Party Chair Becca Taylor sent out an “Action Alert”email asking local Democrats to “join the rally and board meeting tomorrow to push for more transparency in our county leadership”.

Chavez Dem email

Taylor did not respond to a request for comment on whether the Party had interviewed Chavez, and whether Taylor herself has met her.

The controversy over Chavez as the selection stems from her long career as a union organizer and supporter of labor unions. 

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In the March primary elections, the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the election of 36 candidates for the Democratic Party’s Central Committee, including LiUNA’s local leader and his adult son who is also a union official.

Taylor, the Party’s current Chair, was one of the candidates supposed by LiUNA’s coordinated effort to take over the local Party’s governing body.

29 of those candidates won seats on the Central Committee and will be sworn in beginning in January 2025.

Labor unions have maintained a strong relationship with the Democratic Party for years, but their influence in funding local campaigns through the Party has increased since the Citizens United Supreme Court case that allows huge campaign donations to move through political action committees (PACs) and the two major Parties.

Several members of the Party’s Central Committee raised issues with the resolution to support Chavez, including former State Assemblywoman Lori Saldana, who was the only member to abstain from voting on the resolution.

The Board of Supervisors will meet tomorrow morning at 9:00 am at the County Administration Building.

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