LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County’s chief executive officer, Sachi Hamai, was set to retire Tuesday, March 31, but 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 Hamai’s chief deputy as acting CEO effective March 31 at a salary of $450,000.
However, a county spokeswoman told City News Service 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.
Hamai’s decision comes as the board is expected to grant her additional power in coordinating the county’s emergency operations — a job currently held by Sheriff Alex Villanueva — and in cutting through red tape.
A motion by Supervisor Kathryn Barger — who chairs the board and has led many of the county’s daily briefings on the coronavirus — seeks to delegate much of the board’s wide-ranging authority to the CEO. If approved, Hamai will be able to procure emergency services and supplies and move forward with other “critical” transactions that would otherwise need a board vote.
She would also be authorized to sign construction agreements related to the threat of COVID-19 without any competitive bidding process. The motion also would exempt such projects from provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act.
Staying on board until May will also mean 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 has led Barger and Supervisor Hilda Solis to co-author a separate motion calling for a “hard- hiring freeze” excluding health and safety positions determined by the CEO.
They also propose restricting the purchase of non-essential services, supplies and equipment and giving 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 a new CEO.
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, she was the chief deputy director for the Department of Children and Family Services. Davenport also previously worked as a lawyer for District Attorney’s Office.