County moves forward with sheriff appointment process

When Lassen County Sheriff Dean Growdon decided to retire at the beginning of the year, his decision launched a political controversy in its wake.

Former Lassen County Sheriff Dean Growdon.

Despite concerns and recommendations that county voters should elect his replacement, the Lassen County Board of Supervisors must appoint a sheriff to fill the remainder of Dean Growdon’s term — spanning almost five years. Due to the language in the law that extended Growdon’s term of office from four years to six years, the vacant seat can only be filled by appointment by the supervisors. Leaving it up to the people to decide at the ballot box simply is not a legal option.

The supervisors discussed how to proceed at the board’s Tuesday, Jan. 23 meeting. Now the contention centers on what parts of the selection process should be conducted in private and what parts should be public.

Arguments arose on both sides after Richard Egan, Lassen County administrative officer, announced the application period ended Monday, Jan. 22 and three unidentified applicants had applied for the job.

He said there were several options the board could consider.

County Counsel suggested the best way to get the most information out of the applicants is to hold their interviews in closed session. She noted salary could not be discussed in closed session. She said open session interviews could give an advantage to candidates who appear later because they had an opportunity to hear the earlier discussions with applicants.

She also said the group setting presents other difficulties and it is often hard on the applicants to meet with each other face to face during interviews,, She said it’s also hard to ask the tough questions in open session.

“It’s important to be able to dig deep,” she said.

Egan suggested the interviews should be conducted as quickly as possible, and he thought each candidate interview would take about 30 to 45 minutes.

District 2 Supervisor Gary Bridges said the former sheriff could help with the questions to ask the applications.

The board decided to hold the interviews in closed session and then make the appointment in open session.

Given the availability of the supervisors and the applicants, Egan suggested a special, closed session meeting Tuesday, Feb. 6 and an appointment to be made that day or at Tuesday, Feb. 13 meeting.