Supervisor Richard Valle last November
2012 in Union City. PHOTO/Matt Santos
ALCO BOARD OF SUPERVISORS | Being an Alameda County supervisor is a tough job. As the face of many county social services, their decisions often have direct consequences on their constituent’s livelihood. This clear link can be taxing on the soul. Apparently, it’s also hard on their chiefs of staff. Last week, Supervisor Richard Valle let go his chief of staff, Ruben Briones, and the third chief of staff among the five-member Board of Supervisors to be dismissed since June 2012.
Sources say the clear influence of labor unions within Valle’s rise from the Union City Council to the Board of Supervisors is the main reason for Briones’ fate, not any issues with performance. The Alameda County Labor Council was a strong presence in support of Valle during and after his appointment to replace Nadia Lockyer last year. Newark Councilmember Ana Apodaca was an earlier favorite for the appointment, until organized labor pressured Supervisors Nate Miley and Wilma Chan to switch support to Valle. Despite having already won a special election last November, Valle is again up for re-election next year to complete what would have been the conclusion of Lockyer’s first four-year term in office.
Briones’ tenure leading Valle’s office was already seen a tenuous before his dismissal because he was a holdover from Lockyer’s staff. Briones, himself, took over from a previous chief of staff who resigned in what is believed to be conflict resulting from Lockyer’s infamous extramarital affair and drug addiction during her short term as county supervisor.
Starting with the firing of Supervisor Scott Haggerty’s long-time chief of staff Chris Gray in the summer of 2012, Supervisor Nate Miley’s chief, Seth Kaplan was also dropped from his staff. Gray’s dismissal resulted in a still pending lawsuit alleging age discrimination. Earlier this year, Gray’s legal complaint made news when it alleged various tales of corruption against his former boss and claimed Haggerty made sexually inappropriate comments about fellow Supervisors Wilma Chan and Gail Steele.
A possible landing spot for Briones, by all accounts, a loyal and hardworking public servant, might be Haggerty’s office, according to some county observers. Briones originally worked for former Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker under Shawn Wilson, who is now Haggerty’s chief of staff. The move, they say, would be shrewd since Haggerty and Valle have routinely butted heads this year, primarily over law and order issues.
Valle’s strong progressive stances against the Alameda County sheriff’s plan to purchase two domestic drones and a call for an end of the county’s involvement with the controversial federal immigration program, Secure Communities, has repeatedly riled Haggerty; easily the board’s most conservative member. What could be better for Haggerty than hiring Briones and having access to his rival’s playbook?