Chavez Threatens to Sue San Diego County, Citing Possible Discrimination

Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez this week notified San Diego County’s Board of Supervisors that she is considering “potential litigation” against her Southern California counterparts because of the way she was treated as an applicant for that county’s chief administrative officer.

A letter sent via email Thursday on behalf of Chavez by a prominent San Francisco pro-labor law firm, obtained by San Jose Inside, cited “numerous irregularities” in the CAO search process, including possibly unfair and discriminatory practices.

The letter asked San Diego supervisors board Chair Nora Vargas to preserve all records related to the CAO job search from January 2023 through the present.

The letter confirmed that San Diego County had made a “conditional offer of employment” to Chavez a year ago but then rescinded it last September. Chavez reapplied for the position in January when the county began a new search process in January, but the county told her last month she was “no longer being considered” for the CAO position, according to the May 14 letter, signed by lawyer B. J. Chisholm of the law firm Altshuler Berzon LLP.

“In light of these apparent irregularities, Ms. Chavez is currently considering her next steps, including potential litigation,” law firm letter said.

Throughout the 16-month hiring process, Chavez has kept a low profile and ignored  all requests for public comment. Her San Diego County supporters, including the county’s Democratic Party central committee, the San Diego and Imperial Counties AFL-CIO Labor Council and individual unions, including the SEIU Local 221, which represents more than half of all county employees, have become increasingly public and aggressive, mounting a vigorous campaign for her appointment, including outdoor rallies, attack mailers, disruption of public meetings and personal attacks on supervisors.

The county concluded an initial round of interviews with at least two finalists last Friday, and was expected to conclude its private interviews next Wednesday, May 22.

“We have received information indicating that Ms. Chavez’s race and ethnicity were subjects of discussion and question by at least one supervisor during the search process,” Chisholm wrote.

The letter requests that Vargas ensure that San Diego County preserve:

  • “All official records relating to the search and hiring process for the CAO, from January 2023 to the present,” and
  • “For each of the county’s individual supervisors and the supervisors’ staff, all official and personal records relating to the search and hiring process for the CAO for the same time period of January 2023 to the present.”

Chavez’ lawyer said the request should include “all printed material, printed or electronic calendars, meeting notes, electronic messages, recordings of phone calls and meetings (public and non-public, including any supervisors’ meetings with their staff), and phone and text message records (including on personal cell phones of Supervisors and their staff), to the extent they relate to the search and hiring process for the CAO.”

The Voice of San Diego, an independent online news outlet, today wrote:

“For three decades, the county has proudly touted its tradition of hiring professional managers with a focus on operational excellence for the top job.”

“Progressives have pushed for an overhaul of county leadership,” wrote Voice editor Scott Lewis. “Now they’re suggesting not hiring Chavez was not only a bad choice but potentially done illegally.”

Chavez’ threat of a lawsuit “is yet another unprecedented step in an increasingly hostile standoff between Vargas and Chavez, and the supporters of Chavez, including the most prominent labor leaders in the county,” wrote Lewis.

Altshuler Berzon is an influential public interest, pro-union San Francisco law firm that is a prominent member of the AFL-CIO Union Lawyers Alliance. The alliance is a national membership organization of over 2,100 “union-side” lawyers in more than 500 firms and union legal departments around the country.

According to its website, the alliance “facilitates the exchange of information and strategies, mobilizes union-side lawyers in labor movement programs, provides legal education and networking opportunities, and assists ULA members in recruiting and retaining new lawyers and lawyers of color.”

“As a woman of color, Ms. Chavez is familiar with harmful stereotypes that undermine and disparage the qualifications of women of color in leadership roles, and she takes extremely seriously any attempt to = undermine her experience, to question her race or ethnicity, or to judge her qualifications on anything other than their merits,” the Altshuler Berzon lawyer wrote in the letter sent to San Diego supervisors.

“We are extremely concerned that information regarding the search and hiring process, including confidential information about the candidates and about the anticipated timing of board action, appears to have been shared by a supervisor or others privy to the information with individuals external to the official process,” Chisholm wrote. “It has also been reported that one Supervisor, who had previously voted to offer Ms. Chavez the CAO position, stated to an individual external to the official process the view that Ms. Chavez was not qualified for the position.”

The lawyer’s letter said “Ms. Chavez is committed to making sure that the community’s interests in a fair and transparent process are protected, and that all candidates for public employment are treated fairly and with the dignity they deserve.”

Chavez has been a favorite of organized labor and its political action committees throughout her political career.

Organized labor PACs – the AFL-CIO South Bay Labor Council and city police and firefighters unions – had been the big spenders for Chavez in her unsuccessful San Jose mayoral campaign of 2022, using money from individual union members as well as bundled gifts from big individual and corporate donors to generate more than $3.8 million in funds for the Chavez campaign.

San Diego County politics had been dominated by conservative, pro-business Republicans for decades, until shifting demographics led to a first-ever Democrat 3-2 majority in 2020.

Chavez had reportedly been the favorite of the Democratic majority of the board last spring. Her appointment was scuttled at the last minute, when a sexual harassment scandal forced the resignation of Supervisor Nathan Fletcher – husband of Chavez friend and political ally, state labor leader Lorena Gonzales Fletcher – and the postponement of the CAO search until after the November election. When another Democrat was elected to fill Fletcher’s seat, supervisors re-advertised the position

Three decades of journalism experience, as a writer and editor with Gannett, Knight-Ridder and Lee newspapers, as a business journal editor and publisher and as a weekly newspaper editor in Scotts Valley and Gilroy; with the Weeklys group since 2017. Recipient of several first-place writing and editing awards, California News Publishers Association.


  1. Surprise, Surprise. Chavez and race surround Cindy Chavez. Her glasses are colored by either a perception that every interaction in the world revolves around racism and/or she pushes that narrative so that she, like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton always have an issue to revolve her actions around instead of working on issues without a race focus. San Diego is best to be without her, but I would glad if she left our County…..she has exhausted all her local political jobs here so she has to work somewhere!

  2. Maybe San Diego’s management was disappointed in her performance in Santa Clara County? I know I’ve been disappointed in her support of the SJPOA. She even wrote to my Councilmember, Omar Torres, and told him to block expansion of the TRUST alternative mental health crisis response program.

  3. A career politician that has destroyed everything she has touched in her career. Did she think that maybe they came to their senses when they realized what she has done to Santa Clara County and San Jose? When all else fails, pull out the race card. It is getting really old.

  4. Typical Cindy Chavez tantrum. It’s always ME! ME! ME! with her. Too bad the carpetbagging attempt in San Diego didn’t pan out. I was hoping we’d seen the last of her here in SJ.

  5. In what sense does being of European Spanish extraction with the last name Chavez make her part of a racial suspect class in California? The history of Hispanic subcultures is a history of European colonialism against darker indigenous people. That’s why in modern-day California, colorism is more interesting to inspect than racism per se. Still today in California, trying being a dark-skinned, cis-gender, heterosexual male. That’s when you will get territorial behavior from the still largely white male hegemony. For Cindy Chavez, gender discrimination — maybe. Race — can’t really see it.

  6. Chavez has a terrible track record in SCC. Chavez and her policies have caused the mental health crisis on our streets to increase; promoted the social justice reforms that have driven retail crime and the flight of some of our largest retailers; her stlye of polictics have driven more tension and conflict in our city; her political labor colition’s hit pieces on any canditate that Chavez’s coalition judges to be not in line with the labor “progressives” are shameful, devisive, and in some cases false. The city and county are fortunate to have term limits and this is her last local postition…for a while at least.

  7. A while back, we were able to get rid of an incompetent Fire Chief to San Diego. Now glad to see Cindy Chavez gone, also to San Diego. Lets see how she fairs with threatening suit.
    At some point San Diego may realize politicians from this area are losers. ..

  8. Holtzclaw buries the lead in the last paragraph. Chavez (who strategically maintains her maiden name rather than her anglo married name “Potter”) was championed by big labor lobbyist Lorena Gonzalez (who strategically sticks with her maiden name rather than her anglo married name Fletcher).

    The fix was in for Chavez because Gonzalez sock puppet husband Nathan Fletcher was on the San Diego Board of Sups. That is until Fletcher got caught up in some scandals and resigned.

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