The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a five-year contract for Monica Nino to become the next county administrator despite a barrage of complaints about the choice being a “union buster” whose selection process did not have labor’s buy-in or involvement.

Supervisors on Tuesday praised Nino’s skills as the current San Joaquin County administrator at handling COVID-19 pandemic-related issues and with working in a county with a highly diverse population similar to Contra Costa’s in voting to approve her contract with a base annual pay of $381,766.98.

Monica Nino (Photo courtesy of Monica Nino)

In hiring Nino, supervisors cited her financial expertise in dealing with the economic pressures of COVID-19 treatment and care, and specifically relating to that county’s San Joaquin General Hospital outside Stockton, were key reasons she was hired. Contra Costa County has a larger health system, with the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center in Martinez its flagship.

Nino’s selection was first announced on Dec. 1. She had been one of three finalists for the county administrator’s post.

More than 20 people, most of them either county employee union representatives or county workers represented by unions, implored the supervisors not to hire Nino, and to reopen their search for a successor to David Twa, who is retiring this month after 12 years as Contra Costa government’s top executive.

“She is a known union buster in San Joaquin County,” John Roe with Service Employees Union Local 2015 said of Nino. As for Nino’s selection, Roe said, “There was no union input in this process.”

A couple of callers told the supervisors Nino called for Sheriff’s deputies to be stationed at one supervisors’ meeting where union contracts were being discussed.

Mike Parker of the Richmond Progressive Alliance told the supervisors that hiring Nino “is tantamount to declaring war on county employees.”

“There was nothing done in secrecy, nothing done behind the scenes. I thought we had gotten to a place of partnership. Instead, we’ve been told we’re stupid. … We did our due diligence.”

Supervisor Karen Mitchoff

He said he knows going through the head-hunting and interview processes again is difficult, and that changing directions at this late stage brings complications. “But it will be harder to fix the mess you make if you continue on this path,” Parker said.

Supervisors had varying reactions to the callers’ accusations. Karen Mitchoff was furious, and said she was “disappointed with our labor partners.”

“There was nothing done in secrecy, nothing done behind the scenes,” Mitchoff said. “I thought we had gotten to a place of partnership. Instead, we’ve been told we’re stupid, that we never asked (Nino) about what happened there (in San Joaquin County). We did our due diligence.”

Supervisor John Gioia said Contra Costa County officials have worked hard to develop good relationships with its labor unions, and that Nino “has committed to following that tone that we’ve set.”

Whoever is hired for this job, Gioia said, must adhere to this board of supervisors’ culture. The culture in San Joaquin, he said, is likely different.

“And she committed to doing that,” Gioia said.

Twa said he has made mistakes in labor negotiations over the years, including one to cut some employees’ pay several years ago “that has come back to bite us over the years.” Nino may well have made some mistakes, too, he said.

But Twa said it is the Board of Supervisors that ultimately guides the county administrator’s overall actions. And the supervisors agreed.