MENDOCINO Co., 9/5/21 — The early retirement of Mendocino County Auditor-Controller Lloyd Weer led to a row over the appointment of his successor Tuesday afternoon when his recommendation to the Board of Supervisors was vehemently opposed by District Attorney David Eyster due to past disagreements on travel expense reimbursements and use of asset forfeiture funds. The board declined to appoint Assistant Auditor-Controller Chamise Cubbison to Weer’s position, which is an elected office with a term that runs another 16 months, so she will be asked to function as acting auditor-controller until a permanent replacement can be selected.
Weer’s correspondence to the board, dated Aug. 4, offered the retiring official’s wholehearted endorsement of Cubbison, who has had that position since Jan. 2018 and has worked for the county roughly 13 years. He described Cubbison as an active participant of the county’s Leadership Initiative and a “founding member of the Mendocino County Executive Leadership Team.” The board received five pieces of written correspondence from the public — all of which supported Cubbison’s appointment.
The recommendation from county staff was that the board adopt a resolution appointing Cubbison to Weer’s role effective Sept. 5, according to the meeting agenda, but Eyster filed two 14-page documents consisting mostly of emails between District Attorney’s Office personnel and the office of the auditor-controller dealing largely with difficult technical aspects of expense reimbursement with regard to regulations on government spending.
“The role in the Auditor-Controller’s Office is not always popular, ” Cubbison said during the meeting, when given an opportunity to address Eyster’s critique directly. Cubbison said the job is to ensure that county departments and department heads comply with legislation governing government spending. She said she’s passionate about the job more than once, and made it clear that she would not “be intimidated” into authorizing improper payments. “That isn’t always a popular position to be in.”
In addition to dozens of pages of emails documenting his office’s difficulty getting expenses approved, Eyster voiced his opposition to Cubbison’s appointment by calling for a “more high powered” individual to do the job and lobbying for the dissolution of the auditor-controller’s position entirely in favor of a Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
“I think what we’re seeing is an early retirement to try to get this appointment,” Eyster said. “It’s not the right person. It’s not the right time.”
The board ultimately declined to appoint Cubbison during their Tuesday meeting. Ironically, that means Assistant Auditor-Controller Cubbison will be known as Acting Auditor-Controller Cubbison for the foreseeable future. Cubbison will not be promoted, but she will be asked to fulfill the responsibilities of her former boss, according to County Counsel Christian Curtis.
“While performing this function, an assistant is sometimes referred to as ‘acting auditor.’ … This title, however, is merely descriptive. Absent formal appointment by the Board, the assistant auditor does not actually assume a higher office, they merely discharge the duties of that office. … Therefore, she retains the position of assistant once a new auditor is appointed or elected. … Consequently, if the Board does not appoint an auditor, the assistant will perform the duties of auditor until such time as the Board makes an appointment or a successor is elected to the next term of office,” Curtis wrote in a statement to the board.
“If you choose to take no action, I’d like to know what your direction is to staff for how this office is supposed to function,” Cubbison replied. “The auditor is a full time — more than full time — role in this office, and we [are?] already short-staffed.”
Fourth District Supervisor Gjerde directed her to consult with county CEO Carmel Angelo’s office to ensure that staffing needs get met in the interim. He added that appointing individuals to elected offices has generated controversy and negative feedback from the public, using the recently appointed Sheriff Matt Kendall as an example. Plans for finding a permanent replacement will be discussed in a future special meeting.
“I think the important part is that the BOS is going to be able to review options before moving forward,” Second District Supervisor Maureen Mulheren said in an email after the meeting. “The last auditors and treasurers have been selected by their predecessor.”