Supervisors hire from within, choose Deborah Cooper as County Clerk-Recorder-Registrar of Voters

Soon to be appointed Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder-Registrar of Voters Deborah Cooper at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. Photo by Daniel Borsuk.

Long-time Clerk/Recorder Administrator gets nod for $350,000 a year post; Mitchoff withdrew application

By Daniel Borsuk

By leveraging 24 years of experience in the Contra Costa County Clerk/Recorder-Registrar of Voters Office, Deborah Cooper unanimously earned the nod of approval from the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to become the next Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters.

But it wasn’t a smooth ride to convince the five supervisors in selecting the longtime Clerk/Recorder Administrator to the top Clerk/Recorder-Registrar of Voters’ position.

Supervisors instructed County Administrator David Twa to have criminal and personal background checks conducted on the career Clerk/Recorder Office Administrator so that supervisors can put their final stamp of approval on their selection at a meeting on February 4.

Cooper, a Danville resident, outlasted four other candidates for the elected post that became vacant October 30 when former office holder Joseph Canciamilla of Pittsburg, resigned when a California Fair Practices Commission audit uncovered that the former state assemblymember had illegally spent $130,529 in campaign funds for personal expenses. Canciamilla has paid a $150,000 CFPC fine, but still faces potential criminal charges and forfeiture of his state pension.

Bisa French, the interim Richmond Police Chief delivered a speech at the 42nd Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration in the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors chambers in Martinez on Tuesday. Photo by Daniel Borsuk.

Cooper said she is willing to run for the elected office in three years, unless the supervisors change the office from an elected to an appointed post during the interim. The longtime department administrator remarked that expanding voter outreach and relying on current department IT personnel to ensure election security and safety will be among her priorities if she is permanent Clerk/Recorder and Registrar of Voters.

“You currently have someone who has held an important position in the office for 24 years and knows how to maintain control,” said former County Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of voters Steve Weir, who endorsed Cooper for the full-time top post.

Competition for the $350,000 a year post was intense, especially from former California Assemblymember Catharine Baker of Dublin, who, even though she resides in Alameda County, said she “held the keys” to a residence in Contra Costa County that would help her meet the residency requirement by the February 4th date when Supervisors are expected to officially approve the finalist.

“I’d bring a sense of transparency to the office,” said Baker, who ran into a rough patch of questions from District 1 Supervisor John Gioia concerning her interpretation of the State Voter Identification Law. “I support the policy that requires voter ID,” Baker said. But Gioia responded “There is nothing in the voter ID law that discourages people from voting.”

Also in the competition for the top post were former El Cerrito Mayor Mark Friedman, who pledged to use his philanthropic fundraising skills to bolster the Clerk/Recorder Office’s functions; Deputy Registrar of Voters Scott Kopanaseke, who leveraged his extensive elections IT and cybersecurity expertise; and Lafayette resident Kristin Connelly, President and CEO of the East Bay Leadership Council, who said she has the leadership skills to bring changes to the department where voting at polls is on the decline while voting by mail is on the rise.

On the initial vote, District 4 Supervisor Karen Mitchoff, herself a candidate for the position until she withdrew her application on January 16, citing “personal reasons” for pulling out, sided with District 5 Supervisor Federal Glover to appoint Cooper to the post for the next three years. Both Glover and Mitchoff liked Cooper’s experience and knowledge of the department and what needs to be done immediately.

Supervisors Gioia and District 3 Supervisor Diane Burgis initially voted for Friedman and Board Chair Candace Andersen called former assemblymember Baker “my first choice,” and described Koponaseke for “doing amazing things,” wound up voting for Cooper’s appointment as did Gioia and Burgis on a second vote.

Supervisors recognized the 400 county eligibility workers on Tuesday by designating January as Eligibility Workers Month in Contra Costa County. Eligibility workers assist receipients and prospective recipients eligible for a myriad of public assistance programs. Those programs include Medi-Cal, Welfare-to-Work, CalWorks, FosterCare, KinGap, and CalFresh. Photo by Daniel Borsuk.

Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Bisa French, the interim Richmond Police Chief delivered a speech at the 42nd Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration in the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors chambers in Martinez on Tuesday.  French, a Richmond native, spoke about her experiences growing up in Richmond, her ordeal while undergoing police cadet training, and how she rose through the ranks to where she is today.  Also honored at the ceremony were Tamisha Walker, who is co-founder and executive director of the Safe Return Project, a Richmond organization invested in securing the freedom of formerly incarcerated individuals. Concord High School student Christina Mazzi, a 17-year-old Ugandan-American, founded ProjectWOC, an Instagram based community organization working to inspire the younger generation of girls of color. Christina has a 4.1 grade point average at Concord High School.

Make It Easier to Build Granny Units

In other business, supervisors adopted an overhauled ordinance to create regulations permitting procedures for accessory dwelling units and junior accessory dwelling units. The new ordinance puts the county ordinance in compliance with the state ordinance, Stanley Muraoka of the Contra Costa County Department of Conservation and Development said. The updated ADU ordinance aims to encourage residential property owners in unincorporated Contra Costa County to build ADU’s as the state undergoes an affordable housing crisis.

Among some of the changes are the elimination of requirements setting minimum lot size and maximum lot coverage. For the first time, junior ADU’s are permitted of up to 500 feet within an existing single-family dwelling and can be combined with or in addition to a regular detached ADU on the same lot.

Accept Grant for Sheriff-Coroner Forensic Unit

Supervisors also approved a Sheriff-Coroner Office’s consent item to accept a grant of $408,854 for the Sheriff’s Forensic Services Unit to buy a Liquid-Chromatography-Tandem Mass Spectrometry Instrument starting October 1. The LC-MS/MS will allow the Sheriff’s Office crime laboratory to provide more information on driving under the influence of drugs and drug facilitated sexual assault cases without the need of outside testing.

The Sheriff’s Office has seen an increase in the number of newer or “emerging drugs” inclusive of fentanyl analogs, designer benzodiazepines, synthetic cannabinoids and “bath salts.” A LC-MS/MS would aid the crime lab to increase the variety of drugs that can be tested and eventually provided the law enforcement and the District Attorney’s Office for prosecution purposes.

Allocate $1.2 Million for Walnut Creek Area Park Landscaping

Supervisors also approved allocations of $1.2 million in total Park Dedication Funds for landscaping projects at two public parks in the Walnut Creek area. The Public Works Department plans to spend $800,000 to install and maintain landscaping at Walden Green along a half-mile stretch of the Iron Horse Trail Corridor. The Public Works Department plans to spend $400,000 at Fox Creek Park, 118 Anthony Way, in Walnut Creek to upgrade the park by replacing some of the landscaping with more sustainable landscaping and increasing American with Disability Act accessibility.

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BOS Eligibility Workers honored


Bisa French MLK Jr. Celebration


Deborah Cooper BOS 01-21-20


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