Los Angeles County supervisors vote to overhaul management structure

Los Angeles County supervisors vote to overhaul county's top management structure

Los Angeles County supervisors voted Tuesday to reconfigure the governance structure of the county’s top layer of management, a first step toward rolling back a 2007 decision that gave more power to the county’s chief executive.

The details of the new structure remain to be hashed out, but at least two of the five supervisors -- Mark Ridley-Thomas and Michael D. Antonovich -- want to return to a system in which most of the 37 department heads report directly to the elected board instead of to the county's chief executive.

The proposed overhaul had failed to find support among the other board members until two of the seats turned over in December, with Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis replacing Zev Yaroslavsky and Gloria Molina.

The plan proposed Tuesday by Antonovich and Kuehl, which the board approved unanimously, will repeal a 2007 reorganization that strengthened the top administrative position, giving the chief executive direct oversight over most departments.

The action comes in the wake of the retirement last November of long-time county Chief Executive William T Fujioka.

The board asked the county's interim chief executive, Sachi Hamai, to recommend a new structure that "facilitates increased communication and collaboration, streamlines governance and eliminates unnecessary layers of management, and allows the Board of Supervisors to concentrate on establishing policy and ensuring effective service delivery."

The new structure will also make permanent recent changes in the CEO office, including the elimination of five deputy CEO positions that oversaw "clusters" of agencies and issues, such as public safety, children and family well-being, municipal services and public health.

The move means that the selection of a new permanent chief executive will be delayed for at least another two months as the board hashes out the new structure of the office.

Ridley-Thomas, who had pushed hard to roll back the chief executive's power, said in a statement that the board's vote was a "vindication" of his and Antonovich's efforts.

"There have been several examples where the CEO structure has failed the Board and the county residents that we serve," he said. "While it was established to promote accountability, the CEO structure actually created bottlenecks and blocked information from flowing more freely to the Board of Supervisors."

Fujioka could not immediately be reached for comment. On his way out of office, he had cautioned the board against moving quickly to change the structure of his office.

Although all of the supervisors voted in favor of the restructuring, some of them offered cautions. Supervisor Don Knabe said he wanted to ensure that all five supervisorial offices have input and "not one office is driving the structure."

Solis voiced concerns about the prospect of going back to the old system in which board members divided up oversight of the different departments. She said she thought there "could be conflicts" with that system.

Follow Abby Sewell on Twitter at @sewella for more county news.

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