The Orange County Board of Supervisors is quietly negotiating with Santa Barbara County's CEO, Chandra L. Wallar, to take over the reins of the county’s $6-billion bureaucracy, according to sources with knowledge of the talks.
Wallar is relatively new to Santa Barbara, assuming her position as CEO in September 2010 after serving since 1999 as a deputy chief administrative officer in San Diego County's land use division.
In Santa Barbara, Wallar manages a bureaucracy of 4,300 employees with a budget of just over $800 million. In San Diego, she managed a budget of $400 million and a workforce of about 1,500. Previously, she held public works posts in Decatur, Ill., Jefferson City, Mo., and Little Rock, Ark.
Sources close to the process say Wallar is now in the lead position after an unsuccessful lobbying effort earlier this month by Supervisor Shawn Nelson to appoint Steve Danley, director of Orange County Human Resources.
Before becoming head of Human Resources, Danley was the county performance auditor, a move that reportedly put him at odds Supervisor Janet Nguyen because Danley’s audit reports on Human Resources played a key role in the ousting of former CEO Tom Mauk, an ally of Nguyen's.
The supervisors apparently do not want to hire a new CEO on a split vote.
Mauk resigned as county CEO last July in the aftermath of sex crimes charges being filed against top executive Carlos Bustamante. A series of other high-level departures ensued, with some, like Public Works Director Jess Carbajal, being fired. Deputy CEO Alisa Drakodaidis is still on paid administrative leave after writing politically explosive allegations against supervisors.
Voice of OC successfully sued the county to force release of the Drakodaidis documents and still has a pending lawsuit for more information about the slew of secret internal investigations still ongoing that review executive conduct.
Danley is part of a special panel overseeing those internal probes, which are being conducted by a law firm hired by the county.
The county’s chief financial officer, Bob Franz, has been interim CEO since August.
Nelson, now chairman of the Board of Supervisors, voted against Franz, ostensibly arguing against a long-term interim leader, which has turned out to be the case with Franz.
Wallar, who became the first female chief executive for Santa Barbara County, signed a three-year contract in 2010 reportedly worth more than $250,000 and including executive benefits such as car allowances, pension credits, health care, vacation allowances and relocation expenses.
Wallar’s tenure in Santa Barbara County has been largely characterized by Great Recession budget cutting. She took the job after Santa Barbara County supervisors reduced the CEO’s authority over the budget.
It’s unclear whether she cut any of her own contracted benefits during that time.