Monterey County Chief Administrator Retires Amid Growing Challenges – Voices of Monterey Bay


By Royal Calkins

Monterey County Administrator Charles McKee, a key figure in the county for 18 years, announced Tuesday that he would step down at the end of the year.

Charles McKee

Members of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors were unanimous in praising McKee’s performance, but sources close to the board said some frustrations had developed, largely related to problematic and costly litigation the county was facing. confronted with.

The announcement came at the end of Tuesday’s board of supervisors meeting, which began with a closed session regarding two problematic lawsuits involving the sheriff’s department and the county government.

McKee has held the county’s top job since September 2018, but he was county attorney, the county’s chief attorney, when the lawsuit was filed in 2017. He was hired as county attorney in 2003.

The county issued a press release shortly after Tuesday’s announcement.

The two cases on the closed-door agenda stem from Sheriff Steve Bernal’s 2018 re-election campaign against one of his deputies, Scott Davis. One such case, in the County Deputy Sheriffs Association and its former president, then sheriff’s sergeant. Dan Mitchell, allege sheriff’s officials engaged in unfair labor practices and harassment during the Davis-Bernal campaign. Monterey County Judge Marla Anderson asked the county a year ago to settle the case, but the county apparently made no effort to do so until it received an unfavorable ruling in the another closely related matter. Just three weeks ago, county attorney Les Girard said he was unaware of any settlement negotiations in the case.

According to sources close to the council, at least some of the supervisors believe they were not briefed on this matter and were not fully aware of the degree of danger the county faced in the action in defamation.

In the libel case, Deputy Davis, Mitchell and campaign consultant Christian Schneider sued the county along with three sheriff commanders – Joe Moses, Archie Warren and Mark Caldwell – alleging the commanders slandered them by publicly accusing them and falsely of embezzlement, money laundering and other crimes in a successful effort to derail Davis’ campaign.

That lawsuit was dismissed by Monterey County Judge Susan Matcham, but was revived last month when a state appeals court ruled the commanders’ claims were unfounded. The appeals court ruled that Davis and the other plaintiffs must be given the opportunity to prove that the commanders acted maliciously, which would pave the way for a judgment against the county and the commanders.

During the closed session, supervisors were expected to reverse their controversial 2018 decision to cover the legal costs of sheriff’s commanders, but it could not be determined whether they had taken action. If there is a settlement or jury verdict in this case, the county would apparently be required to cover the cost of damages.

The county declined to say how much it has spent so far defending the commanders.

Also demonstrating the degree of danger facing the county, the appeals court also ordered the defendants, Moses and the others, to cover the legal fees the Davis Group paid for the appeal, a figure expected to reach six figures. Appeal lawyers say it’s unusual for the court to order one party to pay the other’s appeal costs. It’s not yet clear if the county will be responsible for reimbursing the Davis portion.

Moses, who said he stands by the allegations regardless of the appeals court’s opinion, is one of four candidates seeking to replace Bernal in the June election. Bernal is not seeking re-election.

McKee said he doesn’t yet know what his future holds, but he mentioned his love of outdoor activities and his interest in volunteering.

During his years as county legal counsel, McKee carved out a particularly powerful role for himself, advising both the Board of Supervisors and other senior county officials on political and policy matters as well as matters legal. During the administration of Lew Bauman, his immediate predecessor, officials often remarked that McKee was essentially a ghost CAO.

Supervisor Luis Alejo praised McKee for helping everyone in the county, including the downtrodden. He also expressed the gratitude shared by county residents and county employees.

Supervisor Chris Lopez said losing McKee was almost like losing a real hand.

Supervisor John Phillips called McKee almost irreplaceable, and supervisor Wendy Root Askew said she learned a lot from McKee. She said the county is stronger because of the continuity of leadership he has provided.

Board Chair Mary Adams praised McKee for her leadership, service to statewide organizations and for being ‘so patient with me’ when she was a new member. from the administration board.

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