County might rehire Janssen as chief

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, twice scorned by candidates to replace retiring Chief Administrative Officer David E. Janssen, will today consider hiring him back for a year and dramatically increasing his authority, according to documents obtained by The Times.

A two-page “CAO Search and Los Angeles County Governance Reform Proposal” calls for halting efforts to replace Janssen, reappointing him for “a period not to exceed one year” and directing county lawyers to draft a law and subsequent County Charter Amendment that would give the chief administrator power to hire and fire department heads.

Many administrators around the country already enjoy that authority, including Orange County Chief Executive Thomas G. Mauk, who last week initially accepted and then rejected an offer to fill Janssen’s job even though it would have garnered him a hefty pay raise and the reins of the nation’s largest county government.


Before Mauk’s turnabout, the supervisors were disappointed when Minneapolis-area county administrator Sandra Vargas also turned down the job. The county had conducted a six-month nationwide search to determine a pool of five finalists. Besides Vargas, two other finalists dropped out.

The reform proposal -- faxed to The Times anonymously -- was accompanied by what appears to be an e-mail sent Friday from Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky to the four other supervisors and Janssen.

The e-mail reminds the group that Yaroslavsky had previously discussed giving such authority to the administrator and urges them to be ready to discuss the proposal today when they meet in closed session.

When reached late Monday, Janssen declined to confirm or deny the authenticity or contents of the e-mail and reform proposal. “No comment,” Janssen said, adding that those inquiring about the proposal would have to talk to Yaroslavsky.

Neither Yaroslavsky nor the other supervisors returned repeated messages seeking comment.

The reform proposal also contains a “noninterference clause” that says supervisors or their aides shall not “give orders, instruct or interfere with any officer or employee appointed by or under the chief administrative officer.”

The proposal calls for placing a charter amendment on the Spring 2008 ballot to firm up the suggested reforms and to renew the search for Janssen’s replacement in July.

The apparent e-mail to board members and Janssen describes the proposal as “a discussion draft” of ideas Janssen and Yaroslavsky had been contemplating last week. The proposal consists of “largely David’s input with my drafting,” the e-mail reads. It is “designed to focus” the supervisors’ talks.

Janssen officially retired Jan. 16, but the board approved hiring him for an additional 120 days while a replacement was sought. He is being paid $20,176 a month. His previous salary was about $242,000 a year.

The e-mail also addressed Janssen’s future earnings if the board reappoints him: “David will also bring all of us up to date on the mechanics on how he needs to be compensated in light of his already being retired. He has worked it out, but I don’t completely understand how.”

The e-mail concludes by telling the supervisors to “have a nice weekend” and then adds a remark that would be typical of Yaroslavsky, a UCLA alumnus and fan -- “Go Bruins!”