Interim county manager named

Interim county manager named

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By Richard Coltharp and Mike Cook

The Doña Ana County Commission has named Assistant County Manager for Operations Chuck McMahon as interim county manager following the termination of Julia Brown.
Brown’s contract was terminated on April 25 by a vote of 4-1, with Chairman Isabella Solis, Vice Chair John L. Vasquez, Ramon S. Gonzalez and Ben Rawson in favor, and Billy Garrett against.
Brown had been county manager since Dec. 1, 2013.
Solis, Vasquez and Gonzalez were first elected to the commission in November and began their terms in January.
County Public Information Officer Jess Williams said the commission has called a special meeting for Tuesday, May 2, “to map out the strategy for filling the position permanently.”
“The Commission, as a body, has only one employee, the county manager,” Solis said. “The manager’s employment is at-will, meaning he or she can be terminated at any time per the terms of the contract. A majority of the board, myself included, are of the opinion that we can do better for our constituents under a manager with different priorities and a different skill set,” she said. “As Ms. Brown has threatened litigation, I can’t say much more than that at this time.”
“Julia Brown was a very good County Manager,” Garrett said. “She made sure that daily operations ran well, improved the County as a desirable work place, and did her best to address the many competing interests of various Commissioners and other elected officials. In a time of turmoil she brought stability to the County. The newly constituted Commission should have reached an agreement with her about work priorities and then given her the opportunity to carry out her job,” he said. “Since this was not done, I can understand why reasonable people might think that discrimination and political payback influenced the decision to fire her.”
Rawson was frustrated by the termination and with last October’s vote to extend Brown’s contract. Three former commissioners were part of that vote, including two who were defeated in last June’s Democratic primary.
Rawson said he had attempted to put on the commission agenda in January a closed session to review and evaluate Brown’s performance. It did not make the agenda, so he requested again three weeks later, and it again was not put on the agenda.
“You had a chairman and a vice chair who lost in the primaries,” he said, referring to Wayne Hancock and David Garcia. “Four months after they’d lost an election, they make that vote. And for three years.”
Rawson said he had attempted to put on the commission agenda in January a closed session to review and evaluate Brown’s performance. It did not make the agenda, so he requested again three weeks later, and it again was not put on the agenda.
Rawson said such an evaluation should have been done before a vote. He didn’t see an issue so urgent that the vote couldn’t wait until an evaluation was done.
When the April 25 motion to terminate was made and seconded, however, there was no way to stop the vote, Rawson said. “I think it’s good we’re changing direction, but that’s not the way to go about it.”

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