UKIAH, 10/31/23 — Defense attorney Chris Andrian addressed the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors Tuesday afternoon on behalf of his client, Auditor-Controller/Treasurer-Tax Collector Chamise Cubbison. Cubbison was suspended without pay Oct. 17 after District Attorney David Eyster charged her with a felony on allegations that she misappropriated public funds between 2019 and 2022.
Andrian called the case against Cubbison “very weak,” and argued that Cubbison’s suspension violated her right to due process. He also pointed out that Cubbison did not become auditor-controller/treasurer-tax collector until after her election in June 2022. (She took the position on July 12, 2022.) During the years in question, she was either working under former Auditor-Controller Lloyd Weer or as the acting auditor-controller after his retirement.
“You’re removing her as treasurer for something that happened before she was treasurer, and California law is very clear you can’t do that,” he said.
“There’s also the fact that Ms. Cubbison has had an ongoing dispute with the district attorney that filed this case,” Andrian said. “I’ve talked to Mr. Eyster about whether he should even be involved in this case… I think he understands there may be a legitimate issue here, because of the fact that they have this kind of fiscal relationship where she may call him to task and he may object.”
Today’s meeting started off with a public comment period. Deputy CEO Sara Pierce, who has been appointed acting auditor-controller/treasurer-tax collector for the duration of Cubbison’s suspension, addressed the board by reading a prepared statement claiming that a number of county bank accounts not previously disclosed to outside auditors have been found. Pierce stated the accounts appear to be legitimate, but need to be investigated.
4th District Supervisor Dan Gjerde asked how much money had cycled through those accounts, and for what purpose. Pierce said the answer to that question was not immediately clear, but the county has requested banking associated with the accounts in question in order to obtain more information.
Andrian objected to that framing.
“These accounts that apparently were made reference to this morning have been known by Ms Cubbison. She’s been the one that’s brought it to attention,” Andrian said. “The new person saying ‘Oh, I discovered it,’ that’s false.”
Assistant Auditor-Controller Megan Hunter said during public comment she was “appalled” at the way in which Cubbison has been treated, and that Cubbison was being held accountable for things that were outside her control.
“I don’t understand why the auditor-controller at the time is not being called into question,” Hunter said. “He was in charge of the office, not Chamise.”
Andrian has asked the board to consider rescinding Cubbison’s suspension until she has an opportunity to defend herself in administrative proceedings, but the supervisors declined to take action on that request.
Cubbison and her codefendant, former county payroll manager Paula June Kennedy, appeared in the courtroom of Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Keith Faulder this morning for a plea hearing, but no plea was entered. The matter has been pushed back to Nov. 29.
(PHOTO: Chamise Cubbison and supporter Estelle Clifton stand together outside the Mendocino County Superior Court on Tues., Oct. 31, 2023.)