County Sheds Interim Title, Names Emily Harrison CFO

Santa Clara County’s beleaguered finance agency finally got a little certainty Monday, when Emily Harrison walked into her office as the permanent chief financial officer (CFO). For the last seven months, Harrison has served as interim CFO after County Executive Jeff Smith booted Vinod Sharma out of the job and over to a demoted role keeping accounts for Valley Medical Center’s Health and Hospitals System. Sharma was in control of the finance agency—at least in theory—while ex-county Supervisor George Shirakawa Jr. was swiping a county charge card for casino vacations, steak dinners and road trips. With Sharma out and Shirakawa now in jail, the county has focused on addressing “personnel and cultural issues” within the finance agency, Smith told Fly, adding that Harrison has done an excellent job. But Harrison’s rise to the third most powerful unelected position in the county was undoubtedly aided by outside circumstances. Namely: No one else merited an interview. Keeping the application period open for just three weeks, both Smith and Gary Graves, the county’s chief operating officer (COO), admitted that the applicant pond was not well stocked. “We’ve had a lot of strong pools for different positions,” Graves said. “This one was not a strong pool.” Patty Carrillo, the county’s administrator for executive recruitment services, told Fly that the minimum period of time for a top-flight job with the county to be advertised is three weeks, which is exactly how long the CFO job was posted online (Feb. 7-28). Smith could have kept open the application period and hoped for someone other than some mid-level bean counters, he said, but Harrison has “been doing a good job keeping the Board (of Supervisors) and me informed.”

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