Vaccine on the way to county; Mitchoff calls for tougher COVID fines
By Daniel Borsuk
Against protests from labor organization leaders, Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to appoint San Joaquin County Administrator Monica Nino to become the new county administrator, replacing David Twa, who is retiring after holding the powerful position since 2007.
Nino, who topped 47 other candidates for the post, will start her new position on Jan. 4. She was given a five-year contract and will be paid $372,000 a year.
Before supervisors put their stamp of approval on an executive search firm’s selection, they got an earful of complaints from labor leaders that Ms. Nino’s labor track record in San Joaquin County, where she has overseen 7,500 employees in 26 departments and an annual budget of $1.9 billion, since 2013, had them concerned.
When she takes over the reins in Contra Costa County, Nino will oversee a $3.6 billion operating budget for 7,500 employees and 28 departments and a regional hospital.
“Ms. Nino is a known union buster in San Joaquin County,” said labor representative John Rowe, who was one of more than 10 labor representatives blasting the supervisors for their selection of Nino. “This person has opposed the union movement.”
“You’ll get inaccurate information from Ms. Nino,” warned Lisa Harlow of the Contra Costa County Service Employees International Union (SEIU) clerks union, whose members, she said, earn 20 percent less than most other Bay Area county unionized clerks.
Even with the poor reviews from labor representatives, Nino received favorable endorsements from the five Contra Costa County supervisors and San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors Chair Kathy Miller, who said, “She has really set a very high standard for bringing in folks with experience and new ideas and she worked “very hard alongside the Board injecting the 21st century into the county as an organization. She is leaving the county in a very good position.”
County Administrator Twa recommended Nino based on his work with her on state association projects. “She is very professional and very engaged,” he said of Nino, who would be the first woman and Hispanic to hold the county’s post in its 177-year history.
“She’ll do an excellent job,” Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors Chair Candace Andersen said. “We need to be held accountable. You cannot compare us to San Joaquin County. There’s going to be some significant changes.”
“I am very dissatisfied in our labor partners. Nothing was done in secrecy,” said Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill. “There’s no rush to judgement.”
In a related matter, supervisors approved a three-month contract extension with Twa during the January through March transition period to assist Nino settle into her new job. The board approved a contract extension with him, as well as a Position Adjustment Resolution creating a second county administrator position, to provide for the transition during the three months, at a cost of $95,000.
“I always had a goal to be either in the Bay Area or Southern California with a bigger urban county,” said Nino after the supervisors’ vote. “It was a goal from the time I was in Stanislaus, so I am very complimented that the Board considered me.”
Prior to her position in San Joaquin County, Nino was employed in Stanislaus County in various leadership positions from 1988 to 2013, and appointed to Chief Executive Officer in 2011. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting and a Master’s degree in Public Administration. According to her bio, Nino values “making a difference in the community, offering greater transparency within and outside the organization by ensuring local government, community, and public services are delivered efficiently and effectively.”
“I thank the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors and look forward to working with them, the employees and the residents of the county,” Nino said. “I look forward to working to address the opportunities and challenges for the next, several years.”
“I’m very excited,” she added.
Mitchoff Wants Tougher COVID Fines
An adamant Supervisor Mitchoff proposed the county look into raising code enforcement fines because there are an increasing number of businesses defying the public health shut down orders over concerns that the orders will financially shutter their businesses.
“Code enforcement and the police will have to do something different If these business owners want to illegally stay open and spread COVID. They will have to pay higher fines,” said Mitchoff.
Mitchoff’s request should be calendared for public hearing at next week’s board meeting, the final meeting of 2020.
Currently, businesses violating county public health ordinances are subject to a first fine of $250. A second fine costs $500 and a third fine costs $1,000.
“I’d like to see $10,000, $15,000 and $20,000 fines,” Mitchoff said. “We have to do something different. If these businesses want to stay open and to spread COVID, they have to pay the price.”
No one from the business community spoke out either in favor or in opposition to Mitchoff’s proposal, but there are an increasing number of businesses, especially restaurants and personal care – gyms and hair salons and barbershops – that are defying health code orders willing to pay the low fines in order to stay in business.
COVID-19 Vaccine on the Way
With more than 2,000 COVID-19 deaths a day nationwide, Contra Costa Health Director Dr. Chris Farnitano informed supervisors said that the countywide COVID-19 positivity rate will soon be at 11 percent to 12 percent, but hope is around the corner with the delivery of a vaccine as early as next week.
Dr. Farnitano said the county could receive less than 10,000 doses of the vaccine next week. High risk health care workers will receive the vaccine, he said. “Our health department has a vaccine branch working with local hospitals.”
It will be late winter or early spring before the vaccine will become widely available for the general public, he said.
“In the meantime, hunker down and get through this winter. Stay home. Stay safe. Wear a mask,” Farnitano added.
Saranap Area General Plan Approved
Supervisors approved, with no public comment, the Saranap Area General Plan. With the proposed Saranap Village mixed used project near downtown Walnut Creek that consists of 235 multifamily residential units, 30,000 square feet of street level restaurant, retail, and off space parking located in four buildings. The plan also calls for revised, improved on-road bicycle lanes, trails, and signage along Boulevard Way.