SLO County’s top official to resign; two supervisors blame ‘toxic work environment’

Dan Buckshi
Dan Buckshi

After 15 years with San Luis Obispo County, Chief Administrative Officer Dan Buckshi is expected to resign and take a job with a Bay Area city, just months after a power shift on the county Board of Supervisors that some say contributed to his decision to leave.

The Walnut Creek City Council picked Buckshi as its city manager in a meeting Thursday night and is expected to vote Tuesday on a contract. He will begin the job Aug. 7.

Buckshi’s county salary for the 2016-17 fiscal year is $239,000. Under the proposed contract with Walnut Creek, he would be paid $254,000 a year plus benefits, reimbursed up to $10,000 for relocation expenses and be eligible for a $300,000 loan to buy a home in Walnut Creek.

The announcement came Friday morning and within minutes Supervisors Adam Hill and Bruce Gibson both issued statements calling Buckshi a respected and well-liked official and alleged that he is leaving, at least in part, because of poor treatment by other board members.

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“In particular, in public and private, supervisors (Lynn) Compton and (Debbie) Arnold have repeatedly made unfounded attacks on Dan’s integrity and the factual basis of his professional judgment and well-reasoned recommendations,” Gibson said.

Arnold denied the accusations, which she called politically motivated. She and Supervisor John Peschong both issued statements praising Buckshi’s work. Compton called Hill’s statement “a predictable rant.”

Buckshi has not responded to requests for comment on reasons for his departure.

Buckshi has overseen county operations as chief administrative officer for five years. He was first hired by the county as an administrative analyst in 2002. Before he was named chief administrative officer by a unanimous board vote in 2012, he worked as assistant chief administrative officer for about two years.

As assistant chief administrative officer, he dealt closely with the county budget as the county slowly crept out of a recession. More recently as chief administrative officer, he has overseen the county’s budget, homeless policies, drought response, groundwater management plans and construction of a new airport terminal. He was also instrumental in the county’s negotiations with PG&E, when the company announced the closure of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

In a statement released Friday morning, Buckshi said he developed many close working relationships and is going to sincerely miss those who have become friends. He called the county workforce “incredibly talented.”

“However, the current Board of Supervisors is very different than the Board that promoted me to the County Administrative Officer position five years ago,” Buckshi said in the statement.

The Board of Supervisors saw a shift this year with the election of conservative Peschong, who was awarded the chairmanship. Peschong replaced moderate Frank Mecham, who often served as a swing vote on the board.

In the past few months, Peschong, along with Compton and Arnold, have overturned a handful of previous board decisions. The board reversed its position on the creation of a national marine sanctuary off the Central Coast, and it made a significant shift in their own policy regarding how county staff should implement new laws regarding groundwater management.

Board meetings are often acrimonious, with disagreements over policy slipping into finger-pointing and name-calling.

Arnold, Hill, Gibson and Peschong all issued statements praising Buckshi’s performance Friday.

But Hill and Gibson — the two left-leaning supervisors — said Buckshi’s work has been subject to relentless and unwarranted assault by the new board majority. That, in addition, to the new majority’s “bad policy decisions” and “contempt for the role of government” resulted in his departure, Gibson said.

Hill said “Dan was subject to too many months of hostile, disrespectful treatment by supervisors Compton and Arnold, which was abetted by Supervisor Peschong.”

Arnold denied the accusations and said she has never questioned Buckshi’s integrity, adding that “he is a good, family man.”

“I have enjoyed working with Dan over the years and have always appreciated his expertise in producing a balanced budget. His work has earned him this great opportunity,” Arnold said.

In response to the announcement, Compton wished Buckshi “the best in his new endeavor.”

Regarding Hill’s accusations, she said, “Another predictable rant from Supervisor Hill, which is disappointing but not surprising.”

Peschong issued a statement of gratitude for Buckshi’s years of service to the county.

“During the short time I have worked with Dan, I have seen his leadership and professionalism and he has always strived to move our community forward and do what’s right for the citizens of San Luis Obispo County,” Peschong said.

Gibson and Hill both said they’re concerned about losing Buckshi’s leadership and worry that other county employees may want to jump ship.

“This is a tremendous blow to the county because Dan did his job with the utmost professionalism and great base of knowledge, and had developed constructive relationships with a number of members of the community,” Gibson said.

Monica Vaughan: 805-781-7930, @MonicaLVaughan