Los Angeles County’s chief executive, who was scheduled to retire Tuesday, has postponed her plans to assure continuity of operations as the county deals with the coronavirus pandemic on multiple fronts.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted March 10 to appoint CEO Sachi Hamai’s chief deputy as acting CEO effective March 31 at a salary of $450,000.
However, a county spokeswoman told City News Service on Monday that Hamai reconsidered in light of the COVID-19 crisis.
“She will be reevaluating and providing a new date toward the end of May,” said Lennie LaGuire, director of countywide communications.
During its meeting Tuesday, the board granted Hamai additional power in acting on behalf of the board and coordinating the county’s emergency operations — a job Sheriff Alex Villanueva wanted and believed he once controlled.
The board approved a motion by Supervisor Kathryn Barger that delegates much of the board’s wide-ranging authority to the CEO as needed. Hamai can now procure emergency services and supplies and move forward with other “critical” transactions that would otherwise need a board vote.
The CEO is also now authorized to sign construction agreements related to the threat of COVID-19 without any competitive bidding process. The motion also exempts such projects from provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act.
Staying on board until May also means that Hamai will remain in charge as her office develops a proposed budget for next year. The county is dependent on both federal and state funding as well as local property and sales taxes to fund its budget, which totaled $36.1 billion for the fiscal year set to end June 30.
The economic crisis resulting from the coronavirus led the board to institute a “hard-hiring freeze” on all but health and safety positions or other critical needs determined by the CEO. Supervisors also restricted the purchase of non-essential services, supplies and equipment and gave Hamai the authority to create exemptions to that rule as needed.
The county instituted a similar freeze in 2008 during the economic recession. The county’s budget at that time was less than two-thirds the size it is now, William Fujioka was CEO, and only one of the five current members was serving on the board. It was Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ first term. All of the other board members have operated in a period of economic prosperity.
Unless Hamai makes a much longer commitment to the county, she is likely to be leaving at a time that will still provide a tough test for any new CEO.
Fesia Davenport has been part of Hamai’s executive management team for five years and worked with the county for 21 years. Prior to joining the CEO’s office, she was the chief deputy director for the Department of Children and Family Services. Davenport also previously worked as a lawyer for the District Attorney’s Office.