Citing “the uncertainty of her health” in an internal memo to office staff and a public press release Monday, acting District Attorney Joshua Lynn said DA Christie Stanley will be retiring from her position within two weeks.
Stanley has been battling lung cancer since practically the beginning of her term in 2007 and recently took a leave of absence, naming Lynn as the acting DA. Not long before that, she announced she would not be seeking reelection and endorsed Lynn to face off against Senior Deputy DA Joyce Dudley, who had announced weeks early her candidacy for the office.
Stanley, who graduated from the Ventura College of Law, has been with the district attorney’s office since 1980, after two years of practicing civil law. She is well-regarded by her colleagues, many of whom say she never really got a chance to lead the office because of her illness. She was one of the first women to work in the Santa Barbara DA’s office and the first woman elected District Attorney in Santa Barbara County, having received almost 70 percent of the vote as one of three candidates in 2006. Her most recent public appearance was last March, when she was honored by State Sen. Tony Strickland as his district’s Woman of the Year.
It appears the decision on what to do about a replacement for Stanley will be up to the board of supervisors, though the specifics on their potential decision remain unclear. According to the Government Code, the board of supervisors “shall fill by appointment all vacancies” that occur in elected offices, except for the supervisors and judges. “The appointee shall hold office for the unexpired term or until the first Monday after January 1 succeeding the next general election,” the code reads.
County Counsel Dennis Marshall said his office has not completed a legal review of the situation. Lynn said his interpretation of the code gives the option for the board to either appoint someone immediately, or wait until the voters have spoken at the June primary and then appoint the winner to the DA position until officially sworn-in at the beginning of 2011.
Dudley, however, said that because no time frame is given in the code, an appointment should be made right away or in a time frame “reasonable under the circumstances.” Her greatest concern, she said, is that the best and most-qualified person should be sitting in that seat, citing a “lack of leadership” in the office over the last several months.
Lynn responded bluntly stating that “there is no lack of leadership in this office,” and that it was important to keep continuity in the administrative part of the office as the county heads toward budget sessions this summer. Lynn took up the duties of acting District Attorney after Stanley had to have surgery on her hip in October, though he indicated at the time he expected her to return. Stanley’s selection of Lynn was allowed by the Government Code, which indicates she had the power to name him acting DA. Lynn was at the time the chief trial deputy in the DA’s South Coast office, a position he had held since 2008. He was chosen as acting DA, he said, because of the recent retirement of North County assistant DA Gene Martinez, and the upcoming (and now passed) retirement of South County assistant DA Eric Hanson.
While at least a couple of supervisors were waiting for legal advice on how to proceed from County Counsel, the item hasn’t been placed on the supervisor’s closed session agenda — where the board generally discusses personnel issues and most likely will take up this issue — for tomorrow’s meeting, and 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal is out of town right now as well. Dudley has secured the endorsement of 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr and Carbajal, while the other three supervisors have not publicly endorsed either candidate, leaving it up to anyone’s guess what may happen in the weeks ahead.