An expanded version of an earlier story.
The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors had a 30-day window to choose a successor to former sheriff Greg Munks, who resigned Saturday, July 16. A board majority chose not to use that window and instead made an appointment before the window opened, a move anticipated and criticized from a branch of government not usually involved in county affairs.
"This wasn't government by the people, for the people and of the people," Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Menlo Park, said in an interview. "It doesn't reflect that. It's deeply disappointing to me. San Mateo County is a very special place. The people deserved better."
Ms. Eshoo and Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, both congresswomen whose districts are in the county, and both of whom are former San Mateo County supervisors delivered the Board of Supervisors a letter, read aloud by aides at the July 12 board meeting. They urged the supervisors to open up the process to more candidates, and referred to rumors that the way had been paved for Mr. Munks' second in command to get the job.
"Whether these rumors are true or not, this has been a perception," the letter said. "We believe that our mutual constituents support a decision-making process that is absent a perception of a pre-ordained outcome."
As it turned out, Mr. Munks' second in command did get the job. By a 3-2 vote on July 12, the board appointed Undersheriff Carlos Bolanos to serve the two-plus years remaining in Mr. Munks' term. The appointment was effective July 16.
Voting with the majority were supervisors Don Horsley, Warren Slocum and Adrienne Tissier. Dissenting were supervisors Carole Groom and Dave Pine.
Mr. Bolanos, the undersheriff for nine years, has been acting sheriff recently while Mr. Munks was on medical leave for a "not life threatening" heart condition. Mr. Munks, 61, had announced his intention in November 2015 to step down in 2018. Mr. Bolanos has been campaigning for the 2018 election for sheriff.
"The board gave the rest of the term to the undersheriff and essentially named him the sheriff as a candidate running for sheriff without any discussion or giving the public an opportunity to weigh in," Ms. Eshoo said in the Almanac interview. "The sheriff doesn't belong to the board. The sheriff belongs to the people of the county."
Mr. Bolanos had been chief of the Redwood City Police Department for 12 years. He also worked in the Salinas Police Department and the Palo Alto Police Department in his 37-year law enforcement career.
In a memo to the board, County Manager John Maltbie presented the board's options during its 30-day window: a special election or an appointment, with deliberations allowed to begin before the effective date of the vacancy.
The supervisors began their deliberations at the end of a two-hour-plus meeting, using just over 20 minutes to state their preferences on addressing the vacancy.
The board heard from one member of the public, Michael Stogner. "On behalf of all the deputies of San Mateo County and on behalf of all the residents of San Mateo County, I urge you to just place this on the ballot and let's see what shakes out," Mr. Stogner said.
In the deliberations, Supervisor Horsley, a former county sheriff, said: "As you know, I love the department. I think it runs really well. ... If I thought that there was something wrong with the department, I would agree, 'Let's look for some other leadership.' I do not see that being necessary. I think Carlos has done an outstanding job.
"Why would I look outside when I have somebody already that I have confidence in?" he continued. "Why would I look someplace else for somebody who maybe looks good in an interview, but I have no idea how he or she is going to function in a department?"
Mr. Slocum made a similar argument. "Pretty much, I think we know what we're getting and that is a professional law enforcement officer who has demonstrated, through the years, his commitment to the county," he said, adding that had he might have had a different take had there been other "active candidates."
Ms. Groom said that an election "creates a sense of legitimacy" something an appointment may not do, she said.
Given Mr. Bolanos' head start on campaigning and the close proximity of the November election, the congresswomen said in their letter they did not support an election. An appointment process would allow candidates to openly apply and be considered, they said, adding: "We do know that there are members of law enforcement who would be willing to compete for an appointment but who feel severely disadvantaged to compete in an election under the present circumstances."
Mr. Pine also spoke in favor of a slower process. In an interview, he said he had not been aware of the congresswomen's views. "I thought really hard about what would be the best process of going about sharing (the news) of the vacancy," he said. Candidate interviews would have served the public well, he said.
The 3-2 decision to appoint Mr. Bolanos was a surprise, Mr. Pine said, adding that it was "certainly true" that there was speculation that Mr. Bolanos had the votes. "The process proves that he did," he said. "It became very clear at the meeting. They dispensed with involving the public in any way in the process. ... The public was completely removed from this process."