The Orange County Board of Supervisors Tuesday appointed a 33-year veteran member of the auditor-controller’s office to lead the department.
Francis Davies, who has nearly 34 years of experience working in the office, will fill out the term of Eric Woolery, who died suddenly in early August.
Davies, who retired from the county in January 2018, pledged that he would not run for the office when the term expires Jan. 2, 2023.
Davies started working for the county in 1984 as an accountant auditor, and before that was a tax auditor for the Franchise Tax Board in Los Angeles. At the time of his retirement, he headed the tax division of the auditor-controller’s office.
The auditor-controller is the county’s chief accountant, responsible for issuing payments and monitoring spending.
The supervisors voted 3-2 to appoint Davies to the post, with Supervisors Don Wagner and Michelle Steel in opposition.
Wagner proposed seeking applicants from the public and then selecting a successor, which he noted the board did in picking a new sheriff and clerk-recorder in recent years.
“Let Mr. Davies or anyone else out there who thinks they can run this office step forward,” Wagner said. “And let’s see who is the best candidate. And then the voters get their say in 2022.”
Steel added, “I understand the desire to fill the position quickly, but I also believe in transparency and openness in government.”
Wagner’s motion failed on a 3-2 vote.
Supervisor Andrew Do said a recruitment process could take six months. Do said it was important to fill the position quickly, characterizing some of the leaders of the office as “Team Fluff,” who he said have no accounting experience or credentials and often show up to work between 11 a.m. and noon, with many often absent from the office.
Do said he did not want to “dig up dirt” on Woolery, but when Wagner kept pressing the point, Do told his colleagues that Woolery “showed up for work the last three months of his life just nine days: three days in May, four in June and two in July” and had apparently moved to Kansas.
“He put together Team Fluff, who are responsible for nothing more than PR,” Do said.
Do also accused Woolery of “leaking” audits to the media to embarrass some supervisors.
“When Mr. Woolery did not like certain members of this board in the past, what he would do is withhold expense (reimbursements),” Do said.
Board Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett said Davies was recommended to her.
“I found he has shown himself to be a consummate professional showing sound judgment,” Bartlett said.
Supervisor Doug Chaffee said Davies was an “outstanding candidate who wants to step in and take the office. I don’t think we’d find anyone better.”
Chaffee added, “I’m not so concerned with the past as I am having an outstanding person to take over the office and moving on from there.”