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Job search narrows for county’s chief financial officer

Donna Dunk

By BRETT WILKISON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The closely watched process to fill Sonoma County’s open chief financial officer position has settled on three top candidates to be interviewed by the Board of Supervisors next week in a special public meeting.

The candidates include Donna Dunk, a 26-year employee in the county auditor’s office who has served as the interim financial chief since the May retirement of Rod Dole, the county’s long-time auditor-controller-treasurer-tax collector.

The other two candidates are David Sundstrom, Orange County’s auditor-controller, and Terri Velasquez, a former chief financial officer, financial and administrative services director for the City of Colorado Springs, Colo.

Supervisors are set to interview the candidates and possibly make their selection in a public meeting at 8:30 a.m. next Monday. They are set to approve the special session at their regular meeting Tuesday.

Sonoma County officials said they received applications from 19 qualified candidates for the position.

The top 10 candidates were interviewed Nov. 16 by two panels made up of four county financial chiefs from Northern California and four Sonoma County department heads.

The panels recommended board interviews for the top three candidates.

Four applicants who did not make that list but who have not withdrawn their names include Santa Rosa City Councilman Gary Wysocky, a certified public accountant, and Richard Arrow, a former Marin County auditor-controller who served most recently as interim assistant auditor-controller in Yuba County.

Supervisors could agree to add any of those four outlying candidates to the trio to be interviewed next week.

The job has an annual salary of $208,644 and with an elected term that expires at the end of 2014. It came open after Dole, who served as the county’s top financial official since the mid-1980s, announced his retirement in February, a month after being sworn in for his seventh term.

Local financial watchdogs have been closely monitoring the appointment process.

Some have voiced concern that the selection of Dunk would represent a continuation of county policies they have criticized, including three rounds of county borrowing approved under Dole’s tenure to pay off $617 million in unfunded pension obligations. The county’s per capita pension debt, critics note, is now among the highest, if not the highest in the state, according to the latestfigures from the state Controller’s office.

Dunk, 53, who served seven years as assistant auditor-controller under Dole, and who was recommended for the post by her predecessor, could not be reached Monday for comment.

Sundstrom, 59, who was elected Orange County’s auditor-controller in 1999, said his interest in the post was personal and professional. A Sonoma State University alumnus, he said most of his relatives live in the area.

He described Orange County’s financial overhaul since its 1994 bankruptcy as a completed “mission,” saying that he was looking for a new opportunity to steer another government — Sonoma County — through tough fiscal times.

Sundstrom has been in the middle of a scrap this year between the Orange County Board of Supervisors and local school officials over $73.5 million in tax dollars. The money is destined for schools and community colleges but county leaders want to use it to balance the county’s budget and pay its bills.

In exchange, the county would provide short-term loans to K-12 schools to help with cash flow, Sundstrom said. The funding grab, which school officials blasted last week, could prompt a legal challenge from the state.

“I applied for this (the Sonoma County financial post) long before that ever came up,” Sundstrom said Monday of the tax battle.

The third candidate, Velasquez, has filed a $1 million claim against her former employer, the City of Colorado Springs, alleging she was terminated in July for standing up to what she said were financial wrongdoings.

The claim, which seeks lost wages and benefits stemming from her termination, was not part of the background used by the two panels that recommended Velasquez to the Board of Supervisors, said Christina Cramer, interim assistant human resources director for Sonoma County.

“This was a screening panel based on qualifications,” Cramer said.

“The Board of Supervisors will consider candidates’ full backgrounds,” she said.

The public will have an opportunity to comment at Monday’s meeting, which is required because the appointment concerns an elected position.

The county also continues to study a switch that would permanently make the financial post an appointed one. That change would have to be approved by voters.





26 Responses to “Job search narrows for county’s chief financial officer”

  1. Lets be Reasonable says:

    The BOS actually voted 5-0 in favor of David Sundstrom – I’m shocked! Obviously no love lost between the BOS and Rod Dole, and apparently the same goes for his former assistant as well. It will be interesting to see what skeletons are unearthed after the new guy gets to town…

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  2. Jack Ryan says:

    Wondering if anyone will show up on Monday to ask a question at the public meeting.

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  3. Mighty Mouse says:

    @Hope – $200,000 to lead this large a group of employees is not unreasonable. You’ll find salaries for these kinds of positions paying MUCH more in the private sector. Sure, you could find someone that would do the job for less, but you generally get what you pay for. If you feel that this position is not important, then why don’t we just eliminate it. On the other hand, if you are concerned with how the County is planning to get out of the financial mess it is in, then you should be concerned about who gets this job. Do you want someone who holds employees in contempt, or do you want someone who can work collaboratively? Do you want someone who has experience turning a county around, or do you want someone who plays second fiddle? Do you want someone who has done pension reform, or do you want someone who is just trying to pad their own pension? The person appointed to this job will be the incumbent in the next election three years from now and will likely therefore win. This person will play the financial lead for the County for the foreseeable future, and is important for all of us who live here.

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  4. I hope someone is watching says:

    @ Mighty

    Stop drinking the cool aid! Again what do they do that is worth sooooooo much cash!

    Your thinking is what they want you to think. THEY are the most important person in town! No one else could possibily do the jos they do…….Bull! We have plenty of new minds that are coming out of school that may offer a fresh approch to the job.

    The goverment makes it sound that it is a do or die deal. Yes we need a tax collector, but only one that we can afford.

    I was told in the private sector job I had with the same company for 26 years……”your job pay is at the ceiling of what we can afford”. I think we have the same problem here! We don’t have the cash! Period! Its only the tax collector in a small county in California. Period!

    Thumb up 7 Thumb down 7

  5. Mighty Mouse says:

    @Hope – “How can this job be worth so much money!” – this is probably the second most powerful position in the County. This person will be the one who maps out a strategy to right the fiscal ship. Pensions will be looked at for savings. Ms. Dunk was unable to successfully deliver a glorified time card system on time or on budget, how do you expect her to be able to steer the County in the right direction?

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  6. Jack Ryan says:

    @I hopr someone is watching

    You are right…nothing happened. But, we need something to happen. The County needs leadership to steer us through the current economic instability. We need creative, fresh ideas…not more of the same. If not, I predict, we’ll be just another bankrupt County in no time.

    Thumb up 16 Thumb down 2

  7. Jack Ryan says:

    @Canthisbe

    I don’t believe in coincidences.

    Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  8. Jack Ryan says:

    @PJ

    I completely agree with your comment. We need someone with the intestinal fortitude to get the job done, someone who doesn’t bend to political pressures and does what is right for the taxpayers.

    Thumb up 17 Thumb down 1

  9. Canthisbe says:

    Posted by PD staff on June 8th, 2011:

    The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday appointed Donna Dunk to an interim post as the county’s Auditor-Controller-Treasurer-Tax Collector.

    A county employee since 1985, Dunk has served 23 years in the auditor-controller’s office and as the county’s assistant auditor-controller for the past seven years. Her appointment follows the retirement May 31 of Rod Dole, who was re-elected to the county’s top financial post last year. Dole held that position for more than 25 years.

    Dunk will be in her new role until the board of supervisors appoints a permanent replacement for Dole. The county’s personnel department is set to manage the application process for the position and will be recommending candidates for interview and selection by the board later this year.

    Dunk is set to receive a 10 percent increase in her current salary of $138,516. After the change it would become approximately $152,376. She also receives approximately $70,000 annually in county-paid benefits.
    __________

    So, if Dunk is well qualified for the job and is doing the job now for a meger $152,376 plus $70,000 in benefits (which, Bear with me, is more than minimum wage), then it would appear that the County can get an experienced, well qualifed person for $152,376 salary with no need to throw in another $56,000 which could go to fix some streets, keep a park open, or reduce some debt, etc. and save the County probably a million $$ plus in pension payments when she retires in a couple of years.

    Thumb up 14 Thumb down 3

  10. I hopr someone is watching says:

    How can this job be worth so much money! I want the supes to tell us why they can not get someone to do this job for 100k per year. Is 8k per month plus all the bennies enough? We need to pay this person 4k per week to get proformance! What a rip off!Reduce the pay and see if they still want the job? there are plenty of unemployed people that would love to have that job! Stop the madness NOW!

    Stop and ask yourself what do they do that is worth so much? If you say they collect our taxes…..I would say great they are just doing there job. If they don’t do ther job the city mgr shoulf fire them!Do they save lives? Stop crime? Create world peace? Lets stop acting like these folks are really important and we can not go on with out them.

    Did anyone notice that nothing special happen without Mr Dole there. Its just a job with many layers of mangmt that does not need a figure head.

    Thumb up 8 Thumb down 9

  11. bear says:

    OK, which of you smart people is going to take this job for minimum wage?

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 12

  12. Jim says:

    No mention of this….”The job has an annual salary of $208,644 and with an elected term that expires at the end of 2014. It came open after Dole announced his retirement in February”

    So, we taxpayers are most likely paying Mr. Dole a couple hundred thousand dollars to NOT do this job, AND will pay the new unnecessary government worker $208,644 to do the job. So this job costs the taxpayers nearly $420,000 in salary and another hundred thousand in benefits. Boy are the people STUPID.

    Yet, this is viewed as normal. What would happen if a private company paid 2-3 people a salary for one position? The company would go broke. Oh wait, that’s exactly what is happening at every level of government. Bankruptcy. There will be a point when there just isn’t any more money that can be stolen from the economy for bloated government salaries. The whole system has started to implode…I’m glad I’m not feeding it.

    Thumb up 20 Thumb down 6

  13. Canthisbe says:

    Supervisors are set to interview the candidates and possibly make their selection in a public meeting at 8:30 a.m. next Monday

    The candidates include Donna Dunk, a 26-year employee in the county auditor’s office who has served as the interim financial chief since the May retirement of Rod Dole, the county’s long-time auditor-controller-treasurer-tax collector.

    The job has an annual salary of $208,644 and with an elected term that expires at the end of 2014. It came open after Dole, who served as the county’s top financial official since the mid-1980s, announced his retirement in February, a month after being sworn in for his seventh term.

    Dunk, 53, who served seven years as assistant auditor-controller under Dole, and who was recommended for the post by her predecessor, could not be reached Monday for comment.

    Coincidences?

    Thumb up 20 Thumb down 2

  14. Juvenal says:

    So now posters not only blame the mortgage meltdown and consequent recession on Rod Dole, but we also blame Ms. Dunk–guilt by association.

    The Auditor-Controller is responsible for a host of county functions in the area of finance, but because a few posters with no finance or actuarial experience–but, apparently, with a lot of time on their hands–disagree with Mr. Dole’s issuing of pension obligation bonds, Mr. Dunks hand-on experience in Sonoma County is assigned no value whatsoever.

    Hire from within.

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 25

  15. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @Mockingbird – while I agree in principle to hiring local, in this situation there is too much at stake to require that. The local (Ms Dunk) has spent most of her career at the County, where the environment is one of fear and CYA. She has been part of the regime that caused the County’s current financial problems. We need someone that has had experience fixing (not causing) a financial mess.

    Thumb up 24 Thumb down 3

  16. Truth and Justice says:

    Based on experience, knowledge and ability, it is Sundstrom in a walk over.

    New blood, new professionalism and compentency is needed in a county facing huge financial issues.

    Will the county do the right thing, based on the track record, probably not.

    Thumb up 26 Thumb down 2

  17. PJ says:

    In good faith the Supervisors should have a web page that displays the profiles of the final candidates, so we the citizens can review.

    Now of course there will be many people that favor one candidate over another and some folks may trash candidates, but that is the price you pay for holding such an office. This ‘trashing’ can be prevented to some degree by having a verifiable address tied to your voter registration :-)

    Thumb up 16 Thumb down 1

  18. PJ says:

    The real challenge is the Board assigns the appointment.

    Given the economic situation the Country needs a Financial officer that has a mandate to cut costs and reduce taxes !

    Now tell me what board appoints such a fiscally responsible person, what board actually makes this a mandate for the role ? Seriously, we the citizens need Supervisors that change the system for the better and hire someone who is not going to simply balance the books and raise taxes.

    Perhaps it is simply my jaded viewpoint but once elected officials get into office, all that they have said to citizens to get elected is ignore as now they are part of the system we want them to change.

    Thumb up 19 Thumb down 2

  19. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    HIRE THE LOCAL. The county needs to stop hiring management from out of the county when there are talented, qualified people here. We need to fill vacant Sonoma County jobs with Sonoma County residents who need jobs.

    Thumb up 7 Thumb down 20

  20. Lets be Reasonable says:

    David Sundstrom has an amazing record – the County would be lucky to get someone of his caliber.
    .
    Something that many here might not know – the County is still using an ancient main frame financial system. They’ve been trying for years to implement a simple HR system, and it still doesn’t work right and is already over budget. Mr Sundstrom lead efforts to implement a much larger (ERP) system, and it came in on time and on budget – that is HUGE for a public agency to pull something like this off.
    .
    He is a member of the Governmental Accounting Standards Board – the bible for public accountants – where he helped draft the new Pension Accounting Standards that go in effect next year.
    .
    He turned Orange County around – we need this guy!

    Thumb up 24 Thumb down 4

  21. Jack Ryan says:

    @social: Look at the actual resumes and accomplishments of each one. It is an attachment on item #20 of the link I posted.

    It is also very telling who supports the candidates. Donna Dunk lists as references: Rod Dole, Mike Chrystal, Simona Padilla, Susan Klassen.

    We all know who Rod and Mike are. Simona is the auditor-controller for Solano Co. Susan Klassen is the Public Works Director.

    David Sundstrom lists among his references James V. Godsey, Audit Partner at a large CPA firm. This is the same firm who audits their county and ours. To me this is a sign that Mr. Sundstrom has earned the respect of their auditors. Not so easy to do… Also, Mr. Attmore, the Chair of the Governmental Standards Board. This Board dictates accounting policy for government, and has transparency as its mission. A good sign.

    Terri Velasquez lists as references the former finance director and former city manager of Colorado Springs,the administrator of the Colorado Springs Firefighters Retirement System and an Investment Advisor. At face value these references tell that she earned the respect of her colleagues.

    Of the three, by looking at what they have done and who supports them, it seems to me David Sundstrom is the most qualified candidate.

    However, as a voter who believes I should have been the one to choose the Auditor Controller in a special election, I hope there is an opportunity for the public to ask questions of the candidates at the public meeting on December 12th.

    Thumb up 27 Thumb down 3

  22. Social Dis-Ease says:

    Velasquez gets my vote.
    Someone who will speak out about a wrong doing.
    What a concept, well, Terri won’t get the job…a trouble maker.
    THAT’S WHAT WE NEED!

    You don’t suppose Gary Wysocky would come on here under an assumed name, and bad mouth other applica…
    never mind.

    Thumb up 13 Thumb down 6

  23. Jack Ryan says:

    County taxpayers deserve a change from the failed policies of the past. Of the candidates presented, it appears Mr. Sundstrom has a proven record of saving a sinking County.

    Thumb up 23 Thumb down 6

  24. Lets be Reasonable says:

    Let’s compare their resumes…
    .
    Donna Dunk – 20 years as part of the problem
    .
    Terri Velasquez – $1,000,000 suit against former boss
    .
    David Sundstrom – Turned Orange County from bankrupt to AA rating
    .
    Seems simple enough.

    Thumb up 30 Thumb down 7

  25. Randy says:

    Wait, Wysocky is seeking a management position in a public agency, which would pay him over $200K a year, plus a public pension!?!?

    I don’t know which is funnier, that or the fact that he is apparently not qualified to manage public finance or else he’d be a finalist.

    Maybe he’d win a spelling contest. Here’s a word, Gary:

    H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-T-E

    Or another:

    R-E-C-A-L-L

    I could come up with a couple more, but this is a family website.

    Thumb up 31 Thumb down 10

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