District Attorney Art Maillet will be returning to civilian life this weekend after 10-and-a-half years as Inyo County’s lead prosecutor.
Maillet will be leaving his office in the hands of Assistant D.A. Joel Samuels, albeit for a much shorter amount of time than he hoped.
On Tuesday, the Inyo County Board of Supervisors declined to appoint Samuels to the post of D.A. for the remainder of Maillet’s current term. Instead, the board directed staff to conduct an expedited recruitment for the position and also scheduled open, public interviews with top prospects on Tuesday, Sept. 3. The board may or may not appoint someone at that time.
In the meantime, Samuels will serve as acting D.A.
Maillet announced July 11 he would be retiring before the end of his term due to health-related issues. According to Maillet, he has undergone two knee surgeries in the last seven months and at least one more is required, along with extensive physical therapy and rehabilitation.
When announcing his resignation, Maillet officially recommended Samuels as his replacement, citing Samuels’ track record in the court room and his supervisory/managerial experience resulting from the past two years in the assistant D.A. post.
“He drives a hard bargain, looks out for the victims and has the best success rate of any attorney in the Eastern Sierra,” Maillet told the board Tuesday.
The outgoing D.A. also reminded the board that his office is in the midst of prosecuting or preparing to prosecute several high-profile cases, including the Health and Human Services embezzlement scandal, another case of embezzlement still being investigated by the Bishop Police Department and the recent attempted murder in Pearsonville.
“I think it’s important stability remains in the office with the appointment of Mr. Samuels,” Maillet said.
Instead, the board opted to follow the same route it chose when another elected official, Auditor-Controller Leslie Chapman, resigned to become Mono County’s finance director in May.
Chapman’s term, like Maillet’s, wasn’t set to expire until Jan. 12, 2015. The supervisors could have held a special election or appointed someone to fill out Chapman’s term until the next election. With the budget process looming, the board ultimately decided to have staff seek letters of interest from locally qualified individuals over a three-week period.
Only one letter of interest was received, from Assistant Auditor-Controller Amy Shepherd. Following the process established from the outset, the board still interviewed Shepherd during an open, public meeting that included two opportunities for public comment. After her appointment, Shepherd was sworn in June 4 as auditor-controller, a post she will hold until the victor of the next election – either the June 2014 Primary or the November General Election in the case of a runoff – takes office in mid-January 2015. Of course, Shepherd, if she runs for the post, could be that victor.
The same scenario has been set in motion with the D.A. vacancy.
Supervisor Matt Kingsley said Tuesday while he understands every vacancy should be looked at individually, there should also be “consistency” with the board’s approach. Otherwise, he said, “it could look like we’re being deferential to one department.”
Board Chair Linda Arcularius said, as an elected official herself, that filling the D.A. post was a decision she didn’t want to be making at all, and “if it were closer to election time, I would be inclined to not make an appointment” and let the electorate decide. That said, she noted that the public is not being put at any risk by postponing an appointment for 2-3 weeks in favor of an open recruitment.
“I’m sure there are people who have thought of this already and will put in a letter” if they are interested in serving as D.A., Arcularius said.
Qualifications include being a registered voter in Inyo County at the time of appointment and being admitted to the practice of law in California.
The current D.A. salary is $121,212, and the board will discuss at its meeting next Tuesday whether to adjust that figure before the next D.A. takes office.