L.A. County’s top lawyer re­signs

County Coun­sel Mark Sal­adino abruptly quits to re­turn to the Dept. of Trea­surer and Tax Col­lec­tor.

Los Angeles Times - - LOS ANGELES - By Abby Sewell abby.sewell@la­times.com

Los An­ge­les County’s top at­tor­ney an­nounced abruptly this week that he is step­ping down af­ter less than a year on the job.

In an email to em­ploy­ees in his of­fice, Mark Sal­adino wrote, “This is to ad­vise you that I am step­ping down as County Coun­sel ef­fec­tive to­day. Over the next few days I will be mov­ing to the Depart­ment of Trea­surer and Tax Col­lec­tor, where I will serve in a se­nior man­age­ment ca­pac­ity.”

“It has been a dis­tinct honor and priv­i­lege to have had the op­por­tu­nity to lead this Depart­ment for the last eight months,” he added. “I wish you all well in your con­tin­ued ser­vice to the County and its res­i­dents.”

Sal­adino could not be reached for com­ment Fri­day. He was ap­pointed to the po­si­tion by the Board of Su­per­vi­sors in Septem­ber af­ter pre­vi­ously serv­ing as the county’s trea­surer and tax col­lec­tor, and re­ceived an an­nual salary of $294,693.

Cur­rent Trea­surer and Tax Col­lec­tor Joseph Kelly, who took over Sal­adino’s old po­si­tion when he be­came county coun­sel, said Sal­adino will now serve un­der him as as­sis­tant trea­surer and tax col­lec­tor.

County of­fi­cials would not com­ment on the rea­son for Sal­adino’s de­par­ture. But the su­per­vi­sors had been di­vided 4 to 1 on his ap­point­ment to the top at­tor­ney post. Two of those who voted in fa­vor of the ap­point­ment, Zev Yaroslavsky and Glo­ria Molina, were about to be forced out by term lim­its. For­mer county Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Wil­liam T Fu­jioka, who rec­om­mended Sal­adino, has re­tired, and the new board has made a se­ries of changes in top man­age­ment posts since then.

Su­per­vi­sor Mark Ri­d­ley-Thomas, who cast the dis­sent­ing vote on Sal­adino’s ap­point­ment, said at the time that he wanted to wait for two newly elected board mem­bers to take of­fice in De­cem­ber. Ri­d­ley-Thomas de­clined to com­ment Fri­day via a spokes­woman. The other board mem­bers de­clined or could not be reached for com­ment.

The county coun­sel’s of­fice is one of the largest mu­nic­i­pal law of­fices in the na­tion, with a roughly $91-mil­lion bud­get and about 550 em­ploy­ees. It pro­vides legal ad­vice to the su­per­vi­sors, all elected county of­fi­cials and agen­cies.

Sal­adino’s ten­ure was un­usu­ally short, but the county coun­sel post has had high turnover and some dif­fi­culty at­tract­ing can­di­dates be­fore. Sal­adino’s pre­de­ces­sor, John Krat­tli, re­tired af­ter less than three years in the po­si­tion. The top lawyer be­fore him, An­drea Ordin, re­signed af­ter about two years on the job.

In­sid­ers and ob­servers said the com­plex­ity of the legal is­sues fac­ing the county, com­bined with the some­times con­flict­ing de­mands of the five su­per­vi­sors — and the oc­ca­sion­ally ques­tion­able le­gal­ity of those de­mands — makes the job a dif­fi­cult one.

“You’ve got five mem­bers, very pow­er­ful, with strong agen­das,” said Raphael So­nen­shein, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Pat Brown In- sti­tute for Public Af­fairs at Cal State L.A. “It’s not al­ways easy to count to three to hold your ma­jor­ity.”

But So­nen­shein added that in the case of Sal­adino, “the cir­cum­stances of the ap­point­ment of this county coun­sel pretty much fore­told the out­come,” be­cause it hap­pened in the face of an im­pend­ing shift in the board’s makeup.

For­mer County Coun­sel Lloyd W. “Bill” Pell­man, who re­tired in 2004 af­ter six years on the job, agreed.

“I think Mark may be some­what a vic­tim of the per­cep­tion re­gard­ing process,” he said. The next time around, he said, “I hope that they agree on a process and that hope­fully leads them to a can­di­date that they can all agree on.”


MARK SAL­ADINO has served as County Coun­sel since last Septem­ber.

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