Rocky hearing ahead for proposed DA appointee?

As reported here earlier, Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff announced his resignation this week, urging the Board of Supervisors to appoint Chief Assistant District Attorney Nancy O’Malley as his replacement as soon as this coming week. This, of course, would let O’Malley have more than nine months as in incumbent before she must win an election to keep the post next year.

But at least one local official isn’t comfortable with what some have called an “appoint-and-annoint” succession. I just received a note said to have been forwarded from Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks, urging people to come out and be heard on this.

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors will appoint a new District Attorney Tuesday, September 15, 2009, at 9:00 am. The item is #8A on their agenda. They appear set to appoint Nancy O’Malley at the request of Tom Orloff.

This is an elected position. While the Board has the authority to appoint; it should only do so pursuant to a public process. In the instant case they are making an appointment with less than a week’s public notice and without a public process.

We need to pack the Board chambers on Tuesday and demand a public process for the selection process. Please help turn out as many people as you can. This position is too important for them to make this appointment in secret.

Let me know what you can do to help.

Thanks so much.


Brooks was among a few local officials who have rallied with those protesting the New Year’s Day slaying of Oscar Grant III by then-BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle; Orloff took heat from those protestors for waiting two weeks after the shooting to charge Mehserle with murder, and is still under fire from some for not also charging Officer Tony Pirone, who also was involved the fracas that led up to the shooting. I see Brooks attended at least one meeting at which an effort to recall Orloff was discussed; it’s not surprising she wants to slow down his hand-picked successor’s appointment.

UPDATE @ 9:17 P.M. FRIDAY: Oakland City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan concurs, according to an e-mail I received from her about an hour ago.

I also agree, that it is essential that there be a rational and fair process to fill the position of Alameda County District Attorney. Particularly given that the D.A. is an elected position, and also how important the role of the DA is, for our ability to improve public safety and restore public trust of police and prosecutors here in our city, and ensure protection from crime.

My view, in support of a fair process, is NOT based on supporting, or opposing, any particular potential candidate for the job — but rather, given the extreme importance of this job, it seems essential to at least have a selection procedure that is fair and coherent.

We are talking about giving someone a job in which they literally hold the power of life and death over people — surely choosing someone for such a role should require NO LESS of a process than is required to get a job — any job. To just appoint someone on Tuesday, with no process, and without allowing anyone to apply, would mean someone is chosen for a role of incredible importance and responsibility without even as much process as it takes to get a job at Burger King — and without even as much process as it takes to get an endorsement from a political club when running for office.

In terms of Solutions to this problem, I could envision two options:

1) Like with Senator Kennedy’s seat, appoint a “caretaker” for the interim, on the basis of it being a person who WILL NOT RUN for the seat, and therefore, this would allow an open and fair election next year.

2) If option 1 doesn’t seam viable, then AT LEAST if the Board of Supervisors is going to take their Power to Select someone for this incredibly important position, there should at least be a reasonable application and selection process. People must be allowed to apply, be interviewed, etc, and then a selection made on a fair basis.

FOR EXAMPLE: When AC Transit Board fills a mid-term vacancy (as recently happened when I left AC Transit to join the Oakland City Council) there is a process which includes an application period and application packet and interviews, etc. This should be the least we should expect in the process of selecting a D.A.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Astraea

    The election is a fair, open, transparent and democratic process. In the meantime, someone has to manage the District Attorney’s Office. The longtime second in command is the natural choice. And, why is no one talking about how wonderful it is to see that Alameda County may get its first female District Attorney? I would think that is a big deal.

  • Arne Simonsen

    Astraea, since the DA is an elected position, the most important thing is to have very open and public hearings, including applications for those seeking the appointment until an election can be held.

    The elected DA is beholding to the voters, not the Board of Supervisors. Rebecca Kaplan is correct in asking that the supervisors have a very open and public process.

    In the meantime, the Assistant District Attorney can handle things in the office. And what is important is to appoint the most qualified person; whether they be male or female! We don’t need a quota system.

  • RichW

    Nancy O’Malley is super-qualified for this job, she’s been the number 2 person in this office for some time. She had to work her way up from an entry level DA position to get this job. That took a lot of hard work, you don’t get handed the number 2 position in the DA’s office without gaining the respect of people in the office. Brooks here wants to “open up the process” so she and other politicians can appoint some political hack to this job. No way, the DA’s job is not
    one where you park politicians. This is a job that should go to somebody who has worked their way up and paid thier dues. O’Malley is the right person for this job, in my view.

  • John W

    Is is correct, as reported in today’s SF Chronicle, that Nancy O’Malley is the sister of Dan O’Malley, a candidate for the Contra Costa DA spot?

  • Josh Richman

    Yep, and her sister-in-law is a CoCoCo judge, as Lisa noted here last week.

  • John W

    Thanks. Sorry I missed Lisa’s mention. I’m fairly new to the Bay Area, but seems like there are quite a few examples of “family business” in public life in the East Bay.