A woman speaks into a microphone at a podium
Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez is considering legal action against San Diego County. File photo.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez may pursue legal action against San Diego County after being snubbed twice for one of the region’s top jobs.

Chavez’s lawyer, B.J. Chisholm of San Francisco-based law firm Altshuler Berzon LLP, submitted a letter to San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Nora Vargas on Tuesday — indicating Chavez is considering “potential litigation” for how the county handled her applications for chief administrative officer. The position implements board policies and oversees roughly 18,000 employees. Interim Chief Administrative Officer Helen Robbins-Meyer received a salary of more than $375,000 in 2022, according to Transparent California.

Chavez, who applied for the job last year and again this year, was unavailable for comment. She was not selected as a final candidate, and terms out of office next year. Chisholm did not respond to requests for comment.

The letter also asks officials to “preserve all official records relating to the search and hiring process,” and alleges county supervisors, who select the candidate, discussed Chavez’s race and ethnicity and shared private information about the hiring process with outside sources.

“As a woman of color, Ms. Chavez is familiar with harmful stereotypes that undermine and disparage the qualifications of women of color in leadership roles, and she takes extremely seriously any attempt to undermine her experience, to question her race or ethnicity, or to judge her qualifications on anything other than their merits,” the letter reads.

A spokesperson for Vargas said the board has remained transparent throughout the hiring process and will continue to be.

“We remain committed to following the board-approved recruitment process,” the spokesperson told San José Spotlight. “As the nation’s fifth largest county, the board of supervisors is dedicated to adhering strictly to best practices, including upholding confidentiality laws and policies, throughout the search for our next chief administrative officer.”

Chavez first applied for the position last year after an unsuccessful mayoral bid in San Jose and received a conditional offer, according to the letter. She had the support of local unions, including SEIU Local 221 — which represents more than 13,000 workers in the county. The unions rallied for Chavez on April 30 outside the county administration building in San Diego, calling for more transparency in the selection process.

The county rescinded the offer in order to deal with a scandal that broke out against former Supervisor Nathan Fletcher over sexual harassment and assault allegations. His wife, Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, heads the California Labor Federation and is a political ally of Chavez.

Fletcher resigned last May and Monica Montgomery Steppe filled the position after a special election last November.

San Diego County officials will announce the new chief administrative officer by June 4.

Chavez letter lawsuit

Contact Annalise Freimarck at [email protected] or follow @annalise_ellen on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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