NEVADA CITY, Calif. May 27, 2004 – Nevada County supervisors created a huge controversy on Monday when a majority decided to select former supervisor Fran Grattan-Freedle to replace the outgoing Clerk-Recorder and Registrar of Voters. Freedle was not a candidate proposed by two panels; her name was added to the list of finalists by a supervisor.

A much-interupted timeline

On October 14th of last year, Clerk-Recorder Lorraine Jewett-Burdick submitted her resignation to the BOS. The reason for her resignation, as explained in her letter, was as follows: “Due to budget cuts in Nevada County, however, the integrity of the Elections Office has been compromised beyond my ability to ensure the successful administration of elections.”

Her resignation was to be effective January 14, 2004. Months went by without a successful recruitment for the position. On December 1st, Jewett-Burdick offered to stay until June 30th  to provide an extended timeline for the recruitment of her successor.

In their April 13th meeting, supervisors unanimously approved a motion to have 2 panels interview the 23 candidates who applied for the position. The minutes of the meeting read as follows:

Ms. Gayle Satchwell, Human Resources Director, reviewed the three options with respect to the selection process for the position.

Supervisor Horne questioned how many candidates would be forwarded on to the Board of Supervisors for interviews in Option 1. Ms. Satchwell responded that decision would be up to the Board, but she would recommend between 4 and 6 candidates. Supervisor Horne recommended Option 1.

Supervisor Van Zant supported Option 1 with the caveat that the external committee includes people who were knowledgeable in the technical parts of the job.

MOTION: Motion made by Supervisor Horne, seconded by Supervisor Van Zant, and passed unanimously, to select Option 1, both internal and external panel members who formally interview candidates and recommend the top candidates to proceed on to interviews with the Board of Supervisors.

Mr. Haffey let the Board know that he would work with the Clerk of the Board’s office to coordinate the calendars for the interviews and will keep the Board informed of the process. Ms. Cathy Thompson, Clerk of the Board, stated that they were at this point looking at some time after May 22, 2004, for Board interviews.

The external panel was composed of:
Bill Schultz, El Dorado Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters
Joan Bechtel, Sutter County Elections Office
John Lentz, Loan Officer Citizens Bank

The internal panel was composed of:
Laura Matteson, Assistant CEO
Dale Flippin, County Assessor
Marcia Salter, Assistant Auditor-Comptroller

The panels selected the following six candidates:
Louise Jones
Pamela Lee
Joy Massey
Blaine Oborn
Mary Ross
Kathleen Smith

On May 14th, Human Resources Director Gayle Satchwell sent the following memo to the supervisors:

The current Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters is resigning effective June 30, 2004. The Board approved a recruitment process at its meeting of April 13, 2004, which called for both an internal and external panel to formally interview candidates and recommend top candidates for interview with the Board of Supervisors. Two panels, one comprised of professionals from outside County employment, and one comprised of County of Nevada representatives, met and interviewed candidates on Thursday, May 6th and Friday, May 7th. As a result of these interviews and Board of Supervisors’ input (emphasis added), a list of seven finalists is recommended for interview at today’s session (see attached).

Supervisors’ choice

On Monday, supervisors conducted the final interviews with the 6 candidates recommended by the panels and Fran Grattan-Freedle. KVMR and asked Supervisor Drew Bedwell before Tuesday’s BOS meeting who added Freedle’s name to the list and he stated that he was the one who added her name.

The decision of the BOS to select Fran Freedle was a 3-2 majority decision, with Bedwell, Horne and Sutherland nominating Freedle as their top choice and Kathleen Smith as their second pick. Green and Van Zant both picked Joy Massey and Mary Ross.

Freedle has no experience in elections, but a letter received on May 24 by the BOS from Representative John Doolittle strongly supported her candidacy: “Fran has vast experience in both the private and public sector. She has been committed to numerous issues that affect the residents in the County, including emergency respite care for children and environmental issues … Fran served on the County Board of Supervisors and has first-hand knowledge of the political process and its impact on County residents.”

District 1 Supervisor Van Zant was appalled by the majority decision: “I’m very concerned that the BOS has turned over our critical Elections and Clerk-Recorder job over to a person with absolutely no applicable experience. This is further disturbing in that six candidates, screened through two interview panels, all had direct experience in the required job functions. One has to question the waste of taxpayer money when a professional recruiting process is hijacked at the last minute in favor of a political appointment.”

Van Zant agendizes recision of BOS decision

Van Zant has requested that an item be placed on the June 1 agenda to discuss the recision of the Board’s decision. In his letter to the Board, Van Zant recommends: Reestablish the Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters selection procedure approved by the Board of Supervisers on April 13, 2004 and appoint a Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters from the six candidates selected by the two interview panels for interview by the Board of Supervisors.

Pointing out violations in the rules of procedure, Van Zant documents his request with several memos issued by county staff and supervisors alike.

The agenda item is slated to be discussed on Tuesday, June 1st after 9:30 a.m. in the Board Chambers.