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Cronyism in County government

Updated: Jan 21, 2022

On September 28th, 2021, CEO Ann Edwards asked, and the Board of Supervisors approved, the appointment of Ethan Dye as the Director of Human Assistance (DHA). Ethan is a long-time employee of DHA and serves as its current interim Director. There was no public process leading up to this appointment: no job posting, no interview process, and no public assessment of what our community needs out of a Human Assistance Department leader. Remember, this is a department that provides basic needs like welfare and food stamps. Services our community needs now more than ever, and that the county decreased aid funding to in June.

(Ann Edwards, pictured below)

In her new role replacing Nav Gill as Chief Executive of Sacramento County, Ann Edwards is making county department executive changes that could last for generations. Our community united to speak out against an entire county’s system of sexist, racist, business-as-usual decision-making under the leadership of CEO Nav Gill to stop building new jails and shift to community care. And we refused to back down a second time. We’ve called out the county for abuses of power with regard to law enforcement, inequity culture, and lack of budget transparency. Now is the time to call for an inclusive, transparent hiring practice for equity and cultural change.

Edwards has a pattern of hand picking and pre-deciding her hires. Her proposal to appoint Ethan Dye as the director of DHA with no consideration of an equitable, community engaged hiring process is not only irresponsible, but it also shows CEO Edwards' true leadership values.

Why would you (sarcasm here) open the hiring process to an outside candidate if she already knows who she’s going to hire?

By selecting a director of the Department of Human Assistance—which serves 1 in 4 county residents per year—without a transparent, public, community-engaged hiring process, Edwards is showing us that she does not value community input and equity in county staffing. She is making a clear and conscious choice to hire someone she already knows well, who is already established in the institution of Sacramento County, who has no track record of racial equity.

Rather than leading a public process to hire the best fit for the job, and someone who aligns with the values that the county has outlined in their resolutions and public conversations—Edwards proposed to hire someone who has contributed to the department's history of surveilling low-income communities to further criminalize them. Ann Edwards led the Department during this time while Dye worked under her. In a Sac Bee article from 2018, Edwards said that the surveillance technology was “really used to help us locate folks that are being investigated for welfare fraud,” she said, “[s]ometimes they’re not at their stated address.” To this, a Director at the Western Center on Law and Poverty responded; “I think we’re only picking on a group of people who are extremely poor and they want to create a perception with the public that there is a real big fraud problem with welfare programs.”

Edwards’ justification of the use of this surveillance technology for law enforcement against our county’s most cash-poor communities shows her priorities and values—which we can assume that Ethan Dye reinforces, especially since Dye previously worked as a deputy Sheriff. We need a DHA Director who prioritizes providing assistance to the most underserved communities in Sacramento County, not one that prioritizes criminalization and surveillance.

With the decision by the Board to appoint Dye, they demonstrated their inability to hold their newly hired CEO accountable to the promises she made to them, and to the public. The Board of Supervisors allowed Edwards to practice cronyism, rather than demanding integrity, equity, transparency, and public engagement for a position that will have significant impacts on communities of color in Sacramento County.

CEO Edwards’ hiring strategy also raises red flags for the upcoming decision on the new Deputy Director of the Public Safety & Justice Agency, and head Public Defender—how are her pre-existing relationships influencing who is moving forward in the county’s current hiring process?

We need the most qualified candidates to advance racial equity in our county, not hand-selected friends of the CEO.

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