Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens got a ringing endorsement of her term in office Wednesday, with an unofficial ratings report by the deputies’ union giving her assistant sheriffs, commanders, captains and lieutenants generally positive marks, based on anonymous surveys submitted by rank-and-file deputies.
By contrast, the majority of District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’ top managers who oversee agency investigators, four out of six, got dismal marks.
Investigators gave Asst. Chief Lou Gutierrez a high rating of 4.25 (out of a possible 5) and Commander Eric Akerlind a rating of 4.77.
One anonymous comment credited Gutierrez for having “every quality of a solid leader and demonstrates it on a daily basis.”
Akerlind was called “extremely smart and has a natural leadership style.”
Asst. Chief Carol Mona got a rating of 2.4 with one comment saying she “lacks leadership and credibility.”
Three top commanders inside the agency got scathing ratings and remarks.
Commander Ron Seman earned a 2.56 from his troops with conclusions like “there are a wide array of problems in the way he leads.” Seman was called a micromanager with poor communication skills.
Commander Alan Vanderpool got a rating of 2.52 with the conclusion that “he is not a good representative for the organization, and that he has limited leadership skills and experience. DAIs [District Attorney Investigators] report of dishonesty and low morale in the unit.”
Commander Clint McCall received the lowest rating in the District Attorney’s Office with a 2.18, and was described as “toxic to the organization. Dishonest and someone who lacks integrity.”
“He reportedly pursues a selfish agenda and lacks integrity. DAIs indicate that his leadership is toxic and dishonest,” the comments read.
Rackauckas declined to comment on the survey results of his leadership staff.
Rackauckas also declined to provide the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs any photographs of his command staff. AOCDS took the existing photos in their report from another public document published by the DA’s office.
Hutchens, meanwhile, was credited by the association as being cooperative in the review, which is also conducted in Los Angeles County, where Hutchens was a top official before coming to Orange County.
While she warned against reading too much into the assessments, Hutchens called the review a positive thing that would allow managers to reflect on how they do their job, and credited the association for conducting a professional and fair ratings process.
“I’m proud of how our managers did,” Hutchens said, adding “virtually everybody who was rated, I promoted.”
Yet Hutchens noted the review has its flaws; the independent company collecting the surveys didn’t disclose how many responses were submitted and rank-and-file employees could submit anonymous comments.
Hutchens said the ratings offer an opportunity for “self-reflection.”
“We want leaders in the department that people respect,” she said.
Agency spokesman Lt. Jeff Hallock, who also is president of the law enforcement managers’ union and got an average rating of 3.24, declined to comment on the process on behalf of the union.
Three of Hutchens’ top command staff, known as assistant sheriffs, received good reviews.
Assistant Sheriff Don Barnes earned a 3.94 rating with comments like “leads by example” and “approachable.”
Assistant Sheriff Lee Trujillo, got a 3.73 score, and also was credited as leading by example and “a motivator.”
Assistant Sheriff Steve Kea got a 3.68 and was called “smart” adding he “cares about his troops.”
Assistant Sheriff Linda Solorza, got a “below average” rating of 2.43, and was criticized for poor communication skills, holding grudges and overthinking issues.
Top commanders all earned high marks, with Adam Powell earning a score of 4.52, Toni Bland a 4.07, and Tim Moy a rating of 3.38.
Two captains, Thomas Behrens and Robert Osbourne, were rated as exceptional. Another three were rated as very good. Three captains were rated as average.
Captains Sheryl Dubsky and Chris Wilson were rated as below average.
Dubsky, who is in charge of Hutchens’ internal assessment team, was criticized for how she ran her command while in charge of the Intake Release Center. Comments called Dubsky “a poor leader and communicator.”
Wilson, who worked in Mission Viejo before being put in charge of the Men’s/Women’s Jail, was called “disconnected,” an intimidating and demeaning leader who “kills morale.”
Eleven lieutenants received exceptional reviews; another ten were rated very good and just four were rated average.
Three lieutenants – Matthew Barr in Laguna Niguel, Cathy Irons in Transportation and Michael Miller at Theo Lacy – were rated below average.
Nearly 30 lieutenants were not rated, largely because they have not held their assignments long enough to trigger a rating.
“This will validate what we’ve been telling Chief Hunter, the District Attorney and the Sheriff,” said AOCDS President Tom Dominguez of the ratings report.
Yet Dominguez said not to expect any union action against managers with low ratings.
“The action on this will be subtle,” Dominguez said. “It will take time. People have to be patient. And we have to give these people who didn’t score too well the chance to improve.”
Contact Norberto Santana Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.