District 1 County Supervisor Mark Medina has applied for a long-vacant administration position with the county, prompting questions and an accusation from a fellow supervisor that his pursuit is a conflict of interest.
Medina, elected to his first term in 2016, submitted an application for the assistant county administrative officer role directly under top county manager CAO Ray Espinosa. That led to consideration of an outside search firm on the hiring.
It’s an extraordinary circumstance for a sitting county supervisor to pursue a full-time management position in the same government he helps to oversee. It has left some fellow supervisors wondering aloud about the prospective dynamic of having a supervisor interview for a job under his current subordinate. District 3 Supervisor Robert Rivas said he believes it’s a conflict for a sitting supervisor to apply for a high-level administrative position.
“In my opinion, it’s a conflict of interest,” Rivas said. “It’s a conflict of interest on so many different levels.”
Medina denied the perception that his pursuit of the job is a conflict.
“Why would there be a conflict of interest?” he said. “I’m applying for a position.”
As for qualifications, Medina said he has “a lot of finance and budget experience.”
“I have a lot of leadership and people experience,” he said. “That’s kind of what I’m looking at, being able to build teams.”
Medina spoke about his decision to apply for the role and confirmed he submitted an application. He said the job interested him because he feels he can potentially make a bigger impact as a staff member rather than “as a supervisor where we’re limited because we’re not involved in the day-to-day interactions.”
“Right now, I’d rather just say I’m interested in it,” Medina said.
Aside from his role as supervisor, Medina works as the financial business manager for a local company. He studied accounting and business at Sonoma State University.
The job post for the opening says it’s considered a department head job. The education and experience requirements include a bachelor’s degree and five years of related experience.
As a supervisor, Medina’s total pay and benefits are listed at just over $60,000 for 2017, according to state records. The assistant CAO position is advertised at paying $139,502 to $185,191 annually for salary depending on experience.
“The individual hired in this role would be my second in command,” Espinosa said.
Espinosa said the position is meant to increase productivity in CAO management.
“I’ve got so many meetings going on, I can’t replicate them all,” Espinosa.
He said the county has been advertising for an assistant CAO position — on and off — for the past six years.
Espinosa said the county has had difficulty finding the right person partly due to pay levels here. He said the county “had some good applicants” with “quite a bit of experience” who wanted more money than offered.
Espinosa said the county did briefly hire former Assistant County Counsel Barbara Thompson as assistant CAO. But then former County Counsel Matthew Granger became ill with cancer before passing away, and she eventually stepped into the county counsel role in January of this year.
Espinosa said he would have more information available on a proposal to hire an executive search firm in the days before the next county board meeting Aug. 7.
“Executive positions such as this, there is definitely, at times, a need to hire an executive firm for these types of positions,” Espinosa said.
He did counter, however, that officials in a small county like San Benito try to avoid a search firm if they feel it’s unnecessary due to additional costs.
Aside from cost, some supervisors expect a level of awkwardness on the consideration.
“He mentioned it to me in the past, that he might be interested,” District 2 Supervisor Anthony Botelho said. “I kind of passed it off as, it does probably put everybody in somewhat of an awkward position. I don’t know what his qualifications are.”
Botelho then also questioned the prospect altogether.
“I don’t know if it’s quite the right thing for a sitting supervisor to be applying for a position,” Botelho said.
He asserted Medina would have to step down from his supervisor role at some point in the hiring process.
“I don’t know if he should step down prior to applying for the job or if he steps down after he gets the job, but you can’t be assistant CAO and be supervisor at the same time,” Botelho said.
District 5 Supervisor Jaime De La Cruz, who recently pursued the full-time, elected treasurer’s position, was more understanding of the consideration.
“I wish him well just like any applicants,” De La Cruz said. “Anyone has the right ot apply for any position.”
De La Cruz said he did not know of Medina’s qualifications.
“I just know as a supervisor, I think he’s done a good job as a county supervisor,” De La Cruz said.
Rivas called it “uncharacteristic” and “unprecedented.” He said he had never heard of such a career transition.
“It’s really unprecedented, in my opinion, for a sitting supervisor to apply for such a big administrative job with the county,” Rivas said. “I think that it’s really complicated and I think it could get messy, obviously.”
Rivas was concerned about the additional cost of hiring the outside firm. He said it also puts the CAO in a “tough position” on hiring for the role.
“It’s really his or her responsibility to hire this position,” Rivas said of the CAO post.
Supervisor Jerry Muenzer could not be reached immediately.