The final item of the year on the Nevada County Board of Supervisors agenda was the selection of a process to fill the position of Auditor-Controller after the court annulled the contest held in June.

The Board had two options, either a direct appointment of a qualified person under Government Code 26945 – after January 2, 2023 – or a recruitment, with the Human Resources Department advertising the position using standard county practices to solicit qualified candidates. The Board unanimously voted to use the direct appointment process.

Final agenda item of the year 2022 for the Nevada County BOS

Following the presentation of both options, District 5 Supervisor Hardy Bullock asked if the BOS had any latitude in determining the qualifications for the position. County Counsel Kit Elliott clarified the required minimum qualifications are set by the Government Code. “But of course, during an interview process, et cetera, you would be looking for who is the best candidate, but you certainly can’t go below those qualifications.” Elliott clarified.

District 2 Supervisor Ed Scofield commented, “Well, I will say that I lean towards a direct appointment. I think we’ve had two people that ran for the position. The person that got the most votes the courts decided was not qualified. That to me, says the next person down got thousands of votes and that should be good enough. It should be better than the five of us determining who that person might be, especially if it’s a person who did not run for the election. I mean, I just don’t think there’s any fairness in that.”

Outgoing District 3 Supervisor Dan Miller disagreed but started by saying “I believe that Gina [Gina Will, the current Assistant Auditor-Controller and runner-up in the election] is more than qualified to fill this position… I still want the selection to be transparent. And I think the transparency is more there by going through the process we did with the DA, where go ahead and advertise. It removes any suspicion of bias and I don’t mind that process, I think it was a good process.” For context, the then-District Attorney announced his retirement before his term of office was up and the BOS went through a recruitment process to appoint Jesse Wilson for the remainder of the term. Wilson has since won election to a full term.

District 1 Supervisor Heidi Hall found the arguments for both options compelling. “I think there’s a lot to be said for going through another process and like we did with the DA and doing interviews so that we’re appearing to be considering anybody who might might apply. I can also see one of the things that really strikes me is if Marcia had stepped down early and it wasn’t an elected position, who would we appoint to fill that role in the meantime? It would have been Gina, she’s the most qualified person to step into that role under any circumstance… So I could under these circumstances, I think I’d be comfortable making an appointment. But I do see the argument for going the other way as well.”

Five members of the public weighed in, all urging the Supervisors to appoint Will as the Auditor-Controller.

As the discussion moved back to the Supervisors, Miller conceded a point made by a member of the public, “I know the one thing that is important that was brought up and for some reason it wasn’t mentioned, was that we wouldn’t be here and we wouldn’t have found out that we had a disqualified candidate if it wasn’t for Gina. She knew and brought it to everyone’s attention and we got a court judgment because of Gina. And so, I would support a direct appointment.”

Chair Sue Hoek, representing District 4, interjected “I want to be clear though, this wasn’t a County issue. This was a Court issue… We had to look at what was important for the County. But this was something that was decided by the Court.” For context, the lawsuit disputing the qualifications of the top vote-getter in the June election was brought by Gina Will. After a two-day trial, the court agreed. “Court finds and concludes that Defendant does not meet the qualifications required by law in Government Code section 26945 to serve as Auditor-Controller. As such, the Court annuls and sets aside the election of Defendant as Auditor-Controller.”

County Counsel then clarified for the BOS “that they “If the board were to make a motion for a direct appointment that would have to come back next year, this board cannot appoint for next year’s candidate…So the motion would be to bring this back beginning of next year for a direct appointment.”

Chair Hoek agreed, “So it’s really a decision on the process… what we’re doing is having a decision on the process.”

County CEO Alison Lehman suggested the BOS give direction to staff to bring back a resolution at the first meeting in January to appoint Gina Will. Supervisor Scofield made that motion, seconded by Supervisor Hall. The vote was unanimous.