Supervisors May be Inching Closer to Agreement With New CEO

Chandra Wallar

Chandra L. Wallar, who rejected an offer to become Orange County CEO, has lost her CEO contract in Santa Barbara County. (Photo by: Noozhawk)

After weeks of private talks between the Orange County Board of Supervisors and Santa Barbara County CEO Chandra Wallar, a two-year deal seems to have surfaced. The board has scheduled a public discussion of her salary for March 19.

While an agenda item for Wallar’s contract was posted Wednesday, her proposed contract was being held back. Officials with the clerk of the board said they expected her employment contract to be available for public release sometime today.

A key stumbling block to negotiations so far has been Wallar’s cost for her pension. County supervisors, who unanimously imposed a labor deal on county attorneys over the issue, have publicly stated that a central goal of their labor negotiations is to have all employees pay their share of annual pension payments.

Two county supervisors — Chairman Shawn Nelson and John Moorlach — have said they do not want to pay more than the $253,000 salary they paid to ousted CEO Tom Mauk. Both have also said they expect a full pension pickup, just as they are requiring of all labor groups.

Last month, supervisors’ private talks accelerated after Voice of OC revealed that Wallar was being courted as CEO.

Supervisors Pat Bates and Janet Nguyen have been negotiating in private with Wallar for some time. Last month, Nelson forced a public discussion about the salary offer to Wallar, citing state law that requires a public discussion.

Having that discussion in public clearly bothered Bates.

At the supervisors' Feb. 26 meeting, however, Bates forcefully argued that salary ranges in excess of $300,000 for a CEO were reasonable given what nearby counties are paying top executives.

That sort of pay range would allow Wallar to take the job, pay for her pension and still get a raise in pay.

Ironically, Bates and Nelson were together on the issue in 2011 when they collectively criticized “a salary arms race” in their subcommittee report on questionable raises in the executive ranks of the county and its Human Resources department.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer has maintained so far that he wants to see a CEO appointed by a unanimous vote. That does not seem likely at present.

Supervisors have been searching for a CEO since August when Tom Mauk resigned his post in the wake of a sex crime scandal involving a top public works executive.

District Attorney Tony Rackauckas is still investigating the county culture that allowed Carlos Bustamante, then also a Santa Ana city councilman, to have inappropriate relationships with female workers he supervised.

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