As soon as Therese Hankel’s remarks appeared in the paper last week regarding why she endorsed Gephart for Judge, it was hinted to me that there must be a quid pro quo between Hankel and Gephart.
The theory goes that Hankel’s backing Gephart because if Gephart wins, then she’ll be tapped to take on his public defender’s contract.
As Greg Newbry writes in his letter to the editor this week, “One can’t help but wonder if Hankel isn’t angling for Randy’s job as public defender if he gets elected.”
So I called around to figure out what might occur if Gephart were elected.
County Counsel Marshall Rudolph confirmed that any replacement for Gephart would ultimately be a decision of the Mono County Board of Supervisors.
What would complicate the matter is that Gephart is one of three public defenders (the others are David Hammon and Gerald Mohun). These three bid the public defender contract as a group, although once they won the contract, each signed a separate, individual contract with the County.
However, Rudolph says the contracts are interrelated and cross-reference each other.
The idea being that if one has a conflict in a particular case, another could assume the case and thus spare the County from having to hire expensive outside counsel. Contracting with a trio of lawyers thus gives the County “full coverage at a fixed price,” said Rudolph.
“We, as a County, can’t unilaterally select a third person [to assume a contract],’ said Rudolph. Perhaps, he added, Hammon and Mohun would bring someone forward.
Presiding Judge Stan Eller said filling any position would be between the County and the existing public defense attorneys. The Court, he said, “has little or no say in the selection.”
Eller said he assumes Hankel would be interested in the post, as she submitted a competing bid to that of Messrs. Gephart, Mohun and Hammon when the public defender contract last came up for renewal. “But I can think of several local attorneys off the top of my head who could compete [for the job],” he said.
Eller also said the County could choose to advertise the position statewide. It was just such an advertisement for an Assistant District Attorney’s position which lured Eller to Mono County in the first place.
Hankel is out of town, but emailed a comment this morning. “There is no quid pro quo here. Of course, there will be a vacant position if either Mark [Assistant County Counsel Magit] or Randy is elected. Randy would not be the person responsible for filling the public defender contract position. The County Board of Supervisors would be responsible. I would apply for the position as I did last year.”
Gephart said, “Questioning Therese’s integrity as well as my own is neither fair nor correct.”
Critics point to the attendee list at the Hankel/Gephart campaign event held at Shady Rest on Sept. 11 as evidence she’d have the inside track for the public defender job should it become open. Eller, District Attorney George Booth and Public Defender Hammon were all present. Critics contend the Courts and the D.A. would have big sway over any decision the Board of Supervisors might ultimately make.
A few additional remnants from Wednesday’s Council meeting …
1.) Leigh Gaasch presented recently downsized Town employees with a $550 gift certificate to Giovanni’s. There is a certain irony to having a self-described “voice of the people” and hard-working member of the proletariat giving such a large sum of money to rich bureaucrats. We do agree with Leigh, however, in that the Town could have done a better job thanking these employees for their years of service.
2. So why have we had all those recent power outages? Squirrels, says Dan Brady, spokesman for Southern California Edison. “Squirrels get onto the cross-arms and chew a cable and get electrocuted,” he said. “This causes the equipment to malfunction.”
But remember, one squirrel’s loss is Jed Clampett’s gain.
3.) Council adopted an ordinance to enforce a ban on bikes in the skatepark which they had already enacted last year.
We did speak to Town Manager Rob Clark last week on several topics. Clark acknowleged that employee morale “has been very low for quite some time” and that everyone is insecure for their jobs.
A consultant has been hired to determine what Town services could be contracted out to the private sector or to another agency.
Law enforcement, FYI, is one of the services being analyzed.
In regard to the cover story last week on Edison Hall being transformed into an education and cultural center, effectively eliminating the Beekley Art Collection and Mammoth Ski Museum, we received swift replies from Mammoth Lakes Foundation President Evan Russell and Director of the Eastern Sierra College Center Deanna Campbell.
From Russell: “A point of clarification in the Edison Hall/Museum story. Rusty connected MLF with the Beekley family. The Museum was created by MLF not Rusty or MMSA. Higher education and cultural enrichment is and always will be the priority of MLF. Performing arts is one of the programs we support and does not take priority over higher education. We hope it will be part of the college curriculum some day in the future.”
From Campbell: “I would just like to confirm Evan’s statement that supporting higher education (including Cerro Coso College) is one of the priorities for the MLF. In fact, performing arts education also falls under our mission and to that extent, the MLF has been extremely supportive in finding ways to develop and support college programs in that discipline.”