SACRAMENTO COUNTY – Stating they no longer have confidence in him, two County Supervisors are calling for the resignation this week of the Board’s Chief Executive Officer.
A letter from the Board Chair Phil Serna and District 2 Supervisor Patrick Kennedy was addressed to Navdeep “Nav” Gill on Tuesday. The missive comes after a County employee tested positive for COVID-19, following an in-person meeting led by Gill a week ago where attendees did not wear masks or face coverings. The County heavily touted the measure among the best ways to prevent spreading the virus. Other staffers have been told to quarantine.
“As you are well aware, we have had as a board and individually, several difficult conversations of late calling into question your patterned behavior and questionable leadership and decision making,” the letter reads.
“The events of the past few days, as well as hearing from county staff, have elevated our concerns,” it continues.
Gill has been on the hot seat since August when the public learned that he had given the bulk of the federal money the County received to respond to the coronavirus pandemic for Corrections expenses. The fact that the Board of Supervisors seemed unaware of the move did not sit well.
Serna may have been hinting at a possible shakeup during Tuesday’s public meeting, referencing an August 19 hearing in which the Board was raked over the coals for its use of the CARES funds, particularly the Sheriff’s Department expenditure.
“I was pretty clear and I think I saw some other nodding heads on the dais that day that from that point forward that the Board of Supervisors should be directly involved in any of the intermediate discussion and decision-making related to the appropriation of resources to address the pandemic so I fully expect that not only are we going to prioritize public health, which I think we can all agree is what needs to happen, but in terms of process, I’m going to expect that it’s going to be a very different one,” Serna said during the remote meeting.
“It’s not going to be one where the CEO and department heads go away for a couple of months and then after repeated attempts to try to acquire a status report, we get what we got last time. So we have to think very carefully about how that process is going to change and how it’s going to be very deliberate on behalf of the Board, not the executive,” he added.
Serna said Gill’s actions in having a meeting without following COVID-19 safety precautions cast a bad light on the County.
“We are the second largest employer in the county. We are the agency that is issuing these health orders; we are the level of local government that is setting an expectation of the public to comply with these orders. It is absolutely incumbent upon us to set that example if nothing else,” he said.
When Serna asked public health officials Dr. Olivia Kasirye and Dr. Peter Beilenson what they planned to do after a positive case amongst County staff, they responded that they’d continue to drive home the message of masks and social distancing. Serna said that was “too soft.”
A public commenter, who did not provide his name, said blame should be placed solely on Gill, calling him blatantly disrespectful to the Board.
“He should be held accountable, if not fired,” the caller said.
Local activist Kula Koenig says taking steps to oust Gill is long overdue.
“I’m glad that a few supervisors are finally seeing what many activists and County employees have known for years: Navdeep Gill is a liability to the County of Sacramento,” said activist Kula Koenig.
Ms. Koenig is the founder of Social Justice PolitiCorps, which often chronicles Gill’s actions.
“He has mismanaged funds, instilled a culture of fear and maltreatment of employees, created a system that is not transparent where the community can’t even meaningfully participate in their government, and simply the supervisors have allowed him to run amuck. It took us beating down walls over and over for some supervisors to finally wake up. Let’s hope that other supervisors will step up because we need four votes for him to be gone,” she continued There are five supervisors. District 3’s Susan Peters and District 4’s Sue Frost praised Gill’s leadership during the August 19 hearing.
Ms. Koenig says “the system” has to change.
“If you replace someone and you haven’t changed the system, you get the same results,” she said.
By GENOA BARROW | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer