Merced County CEO still on job

MERCED -- A performance evaluation of Merced County Chief Executive Officer Larry Combs last week led to no disciplinary action against the leader who took office four months ago.

Combs described the closed-session meeting as a "discussion," but Supervisor Deidre Kelsey considered it a formal evaluation required under his contract. Board Chairman Jerry O'Banion said the formal review is still to come.

Kelsey called for the evaluation at a board meeting two weeks ago.

County officials reached after the meeting said they couldn't elaborate on the issue, which is considered a private personnel matter.

State law requires the board to provide a detailed report after the closed session if an employee is dismissed, demoted or resigns.

After the closed session Tuesday, O'Banion said the staff was given "direction" on all closed-session agenda items.

Under Section 4.02 of Combs' contract, he was required to undergo one performance review before May 31, and once a year after that.

According to the contract, a formal evaluation would have to follow "specific criteria developed jointly by the Board of Supervisors and the CEO and shall include a discussion of the CEO's overall compensation package and salary."

"I felt very positive about the conversation," Combs said.

Kelsey said she felt her concerns from earlier this month were "absolutely" being considered. "I believe there will be some follow-up," she added.

Kelsey publicly admonished Combs at the end of a board meeting March 16 for poor communication, not preparing budget updates for the supervisors and for creating policies outside of negotiations with the county's union, she said.

At the tail end of Tuesday's meeting, Kelsey requested that two items, a public budget update and a contract for local flood control projects,be placed on the next agenda. Both items were included in her list of earlier grievances.