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Big transition in county leadership raises question: should appointments wait for new board members?

U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis speaks during a news conference to announce a partnership between Facebook, the National Association of Colleges and Employers, DirectEmployers Association and the National Association of State Workforce Agencies aimed at connecting Americans with jobs October 20, 2011 in Washington, DC. 'By leveraging the power of the social Web, this initiative will provide immediate, meaningful and ready-to-use information for job seekers and employers,' Solis said.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Former U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis will assume Gloria Molina's seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors

This story has been updated.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is in the midst of a hiring boom: it appointed John Naimo to auditor-controller this week, Mark Saladino to county counsel last month and is in the process of looking at candidates for CEO and several other high-ranking positions.

But these decisions are coming at an awkward time. With Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslavsky leaving due to term limits on Dec. 1, one incoming supervisor and a candidate for the other seat said these kinds of hiring decisions should be put off.

“I would just hope that they would allow for the newly-seated board members to make that decision during the appropriate time when we are seated as fully-vested members of the board," said Hilda Solis, who has been elected to replace Molina. "It’s not that far off. You know, December the first is not that far off."

Bobby Shriver, who is running to replace Yaroslavsky, said he agrees with Solis.

"I would be very disappointed if the board hired [a new CEO] before the new supervisors come into office," he said.

Shriver's competitor, Sheila Kuehl said Friday she supports the board's decision to appoint Saladino and Naimo. Kuehl said she doesn't expect the board to appoint a new CEO in the next six weeks because the recruitment process would likely take much longer than that.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said he has tried unsuccessfully to halt hiring appointments until the new board is put in place. He abstained from the vote on Naimo and was opposed to Saladino's appointment. 

He said the county is looking for a director of public health, director of the Office of Child Protection, and executive director of the Natural History Museum, in addition to a new chief executive officer.

Ridley-Thomas said none of these appointments are urgent because the duties are being performed by competent employees.

“There’s a desire on the part of the majority of the board as currently is constituted to make these decisions, because they can," he said, "and arguably it preserves this board’s ability to govern beyond their term.”

Supervisor Don Knabe disagrees. He said the hiring process and the current rate of hiring at the county is no different than previous months. Ultimately, he said, the board needs to keep moving forward.

“We are losing a lot of institutional knowledge between Zev and Gloria,” said Knabe, who voted with supervisors Mike Antonovich, Molina and Yaroslavsky in Tuesday’s Auditor-Controller appointment. “They know what it takes to operate a county of this size, to keep it on the right financial course and legal course."

Supervisors Antonovich, Molina and Yaroslavsky did not return calls for comment.

Even if the current board fills some or all of the current vacancies, the new board will have some power. It can overturn them.

With a majority vote, the new board would have the legislative power to rescind any appointments approved by the current board.