The Alameda County Board of Supervisors appointed Nancy O’Malley as interim district attorney to replace retiring DA Tom Orloff, after hearing several hours of impassioned testimony this afternoon.
“If the highest court in the nation can appoint the first Latina woman, then why can’t we appoint a woman to district attorney of Alameda County?” said Supervisor Scott Haggerty.
Supervisors Nate Miley and Keith Carson abstained from the vote on O’Malley but had vehemently opposed making the decision today. “To the public it stinks,” Miley said, eliciting some applause. “It looks like the fix is in.”
Thoughts from some lawyers in the DA's office, and from a potential opponent in next year's election, after the jump ...
Miley suggested Orloff could wait another nine months to retire, or the supervisors could leave the office vacant, or they could appoint a caretaker who doesn’t plan to run for the position.
A parade of prosecutors and investigators from the district attorney’s office emphatically supported O’Malley, along with a number of victims’ rights group. Meanwhile local citizens, including Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks, stressed the importance of process and questioned the fairness of appointing someone who is interested in running for the top cop job.
“The district attorney’s position is an extremely important position,” Brooks said. “To make an appointment absent of process doesn’t seem right.”
Speaking on her own behalf, O’Malley spoke about her credentials and said she and Orloff are both “hard-working, committed professionals,” and “exactly what you need in a district attorney.” She added that the two other living former district attorneys besides Orloff – Lowell Jensen and Jack Meehan – supported her appointment, as well as every chief of police in the county and the sheriff.
Supervisor Carson, who like Miley is African-American, said he’d heard from many constituents who were concerned about the idea of appointing Orloff’s recommended successor to fill the position for nine months before the election. “I think that the way that public protection and law enforcement may be viewed by some people of color may be viewed differently than by others in society,” he said.
At least 10 lawyers and investigators from the DA’s office lined up to tell the supervisors about the importance of a seamless transition as well as their personal respect and admiration for O’Malley and her statewide leadership on issues such as domestic violence. “She is the hardest-working person I know,” said Kim Hunter, who added that she’s worked in the office 23 years. Christopher Lamiero, the prosecutor on high-profile cases such as the murder of journalist Chauncey Bailey, spoke about the value of continuity on such cases.
People from the office also stressed the supervisors’ historic opportunity to appoint the county’s first female DA, and the tradition in the department of successors coming from the inside.
Miley upbraided the lawyers for saying their support for O’Malley was apolitical. “One week notice is not necessarily fair or due process,” he said. “For all you attorneys to be here and say it’s fair, I think you’re grossly mistaken.”
Reached by phone shortly after the meeting, San Francisco Chief Assistant DA Russell Giuntini, another possible contender for the elected spot, echoed that sentiment: "As a lifelong resident of Alameda County and a taxpayer, I think this decision is backdoor government." He added that the position "shouldn't be bequeathed to anybody like a piece of personal property." As for his own plans, he said he was going to reflect on what the board did, talk to his closest friends and advisers, and then decide.
— Kate Moser