Tim Covello returning to SLO as a Superior Court commissioner

Tim Covello will be San Luis Obispo Superior Court’s newest commissioner.
Tim Covello will be San Luis Obispo Superior Court’s newest commissioner. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Tim Covello, the former San Luis Obispo County prosecutor who narrowly lost the race for district attorney to Dan Dow in 2014, was appointed Thursday as San Luis Obispo Superior Court’s newest commissioner.

Covello, 54, will officially move behind the bench Feb. 22 and fill the vacancy created by the death of former Commissioner Stephen Sefton earlier this month.

Superior Court commissioners are responsible for presiding over traffic and small claims proceedings, as well as habeas corpus petitions, juvenile drug court, family treatment court and truancy cases.

A Bakersfield native, Covello graduated in 1984 from the UC Berkeley, and from the University of Wisconsin Law School in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1990. He began his legal career as a civil litigator representing large corporations and banks in state and federal courts before becoming a prosecutor in San Luis Obispo in 1993.

While in San Luis Obispo, Covello worked as lead prosecutor in several of the county’s most high-profile cases, such as the 2013 prosecution of five South County residents for the torture and murder of 15-year-old Dystiny Myers and alongside now-judge John Trice in the death penalty case against the county’s most notorious serial killer, Rex Krebs.

In 2013, after longtime District Attorney Gerry Shea announced he would not seek another term as the county’s top prosecutor, Covello threw his hat into election to succeed him, as did then-Deputy District Attorney Dan Dow. Shea endorsed Covello, while the majority of the office’s deputy district attorneys endorsed Dow.

Following the heated and sometimes contentious race, which played out like a “a good soap opera” as one local political analyst described it, Dow beat Covello with 53 percent of the vote to Covello’s 45 percent.

Covello resigned from the San Luis Obispo District Attorney’s Office six months later and accepted a job as a deputy district attorney with the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office.

Covello’s appointment comes at a time of change at the San Luis Obispo Superior Courthouse. Prior to Sefton’s death, former Commissioner Gayle Peron was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown as the court’s 12th judge, filling the vacancy left by the retirement of Judge Earl J. Burke in 2014.

The court is now awaiting the appointment of its last commissioner vacancy, which is expected in the coming months.