Countywide : Board Challenged Over Naming D.A.

Thomas Avdeef, a candidate for district attorney, Monday questioned whether the County Board of Supervisors has the power to appoint a replacement should incumbent Dist. Atty. Cecil Hicks decide to retire before his term ends next year.

Specifically, Avdeef said, Proposition 59 passed by California voters in 1986 would prohibit the supervisors from appointing Hicks' chief assistant, Michael R. Capizzi, to the position if the district attorney retires early. Capizzi and Avdeef, a deputy district attorney in Orange County, have both said they will run for the post next June.

"It appears that since January, 1987 (when the proposition took effect), a county board of supervisors lacks the power of authority to appoint anyone to fill a vacancy created by the retirement, disability, death or any other reason the district attorney's position is available," he said in a prepared statement released Monday.

But Supervisor Don R. Roth said Monday that he had asked county lawyers to look into Avdeef's question and that they told him the measure does not prohibit the board from appointing an interim district attorney.

Avdeef said he has seen numerous newspaper articles state that Capizzi is "expected to replace Mr. Hicks when the district attorney retires next year."

Hicks has made an announcement that he would not run for reelection next year after 22 years in office and has publicly endorsed Capizzi. But he has said nothing about whether he would retire before the end of his term. Hicks was not available for comment late Monday.

If Hicks did retire before his term officially ends and Capizzi were appointed to replace him, Capizzi would be able to run as an incumbent, giving him a significant edge in the race for district attorney.

Capizzi said Monday that he did not believe that Proposition 59 took away a county board of supervisors' power to appoint an interim district attorney. He added that Hicks' early retirement and his replacement was all "extremely speculative."

Capizzi said the only thing for sure was his own intention to be a candidate for district attorney in the election in June, 1990. Beyond that, he said, he would not comment on speculation.

Avdeef pointed out that when Hicks was president of the California District Attorneys' Assn. he endorsed passage of Proposition 59.

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