Fire chief to stay independent of CAO

first_imgSome have said the county’s structure of five supervisors with equal authority could be complicating the process. The board has offered the job to two candidates; neither has accepted. But Antonovich has opposed the plan and questioned how much it would cost taxpayers and whether many decisions currently made by the board at its weekly public meetings would be made by a CAO behind closed doors. “What you are advocating now is a step toward closed government,” he said. “If you begin placing barriers and shutting out the public, it will become a very insensitive agency.” Janssen said the changes would improve county services. “The assumption is that by having direct accountability from department heads to a single individual, rather than five supervisors, who can only act in public on Tuesdays, that you will have more accountability and better results,” Janssen said. When he was hired a decade ago, Janssen said the county was in disarray. “We have made great progress in the last 10 years, but it’s an organization based on personalities. This will institutionalize a different organization that should produce better results,” he said. Janssen is expected to submit a plan in May outlining how much it would cost to add deputy CAOs and other staffers to his 512-employee office. But even Supervisor Gloria Molina, who has supported the proposal, said it’s important the board retain executive powers so the position does not become a dictatorship. “We have to be careful not to oversell this,” Molina said. “Dictatorships are very easy. One person is in charge. It’s their way or the highway. Under our form of government, we have these various checks and balances that go on all the time.” [email protected] (213) 974-8985160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! The supervisors moved to broaden the position’s authority in an effort to attract more candidates as well as hold one person accountable for county problems ranging from a juvenile-justice system on the verge of a federal takeover to a health system on the brink of financial collapse. Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich proposed the fire-chief exemption, arguing that in emergencies the supervisors often need to call department heads directly to save lives. “Putting a barrier between the supervisors and the Fire Department is dangerous when you consider the immediate needs required when we have emergencies,” Antonovich said. While the supervisors had been expected to give final approval to the ordinance Tuesday, the change exempting the fire chief requires the ordinance to be reconsidered for final approval next week. Advocates say the change in the power structure of the nation’s largest county will improve government and help the county recruit a new CAO. Amid concerns that it would consolidate too much power in a single position, Los Angeles County supervisors voted Tuesday to keep the fire chief independent of the county’s top administrative officer who would oversee most other department heads. The supervisors voted 4-1 to exempt the fire chief from the officer’s oversight, but backed giving the top administrative position authority to directly oversee, hire and fire dozens of other department heads. Only the sheriff, district attorney, assessor, auditor-controller, county counsel, executive office and Fire Department heads are exempt. The move comes as the county has struggled in recent weeks to lure a replacement for retiring CAO David Janssen. last_img read more