County’s Human Resources Director Announces Retirement

The top human resources official for the Orange County government’s 17,000 workers announced Monday that he plans to retire.

In an email to his fellow county executives titled “It’s Time,” Human Resources Director Steve Danley said he will be retiring next Friday after 33 years with the county.

“After long consideration, I believe this is the right decision and time to conclude a very full career,” he wrote, without explaining further.

“I want to thank you for participating in the journey with me. Good luck to each of you going forward.”

Danley didn’t return an email late Monday afternoon seeking comment.

As HR director, he has had a major role in the county’s employee relations, including hiring, labor negotiations, discipline, compensation, benefits and training.

Danley was brought in as the HR head in May 2012, after he issued a scathing report as performance auditor about the HR department granting dozens of management salary hikes without proper justification.

The most egregious instances involved some of the county’s highest-ranking executives. Then-assistant CEO Rob Richardson, for example, saw his salary increase by 47 percent between January 2006 and April 2008, a period during which hundreds of rank-and-file employees lost their jobs.

During his time as HR director, Danley presided over a re-centralization of human resources from county departments, following a botched misconduct investigation of county parks executive Carlos Bustamante by a subordinate in his department.  Bustmante would later be charged with multiple sex crimes for alleged acts against women in his agency.

He has also held the line on county policies when it came to a politically-connected employee.

In December, Danley sanctioned influential Republican insider Brian Probolsky for attending weekday meetings as a water board member while also on the clock in his job as a county government manager.

The following month, Danley rejected a request by a newly sworn-in supervisor, Andrew Do, to pay Probolsky $60 per-hour as his chief of staff, a salary range reserved for employees with “outstanding performance.”

Do would later publicly confront Danley about the rejection, and Danley defended his decision as being consistent with the county’s policy.

The intensity of Do’s questions prompted Supervisor Michelle Steel to remark that it felt like she was sitting in court.

Before serving as performance auditor, Danley was director of administration for the county’s Public Works and Waste & Recycling departments, as well as for the District Attorney’s office. He also served as chief of organizational assessment and development for the county CEO and a regional landfill manger.

It’s unclear who will replace Danley. An interim director will likely be named before a permanent replacement is found.

You can contact Nick Gerda at, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.