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Public Works Job Search Questioned


The head of the county's largest labor union is urging the Ventura County Board of Supervisors to expand its search for a new public works director.

Several sources close to the selection process said a top candidate for the post is Jeff Long, longtime director of public works in Lancaster. A second finalist is Simi Valley Public Works Director Ron Coons, according to those sources.

Barry Hammitt, executive director of the local Service Employees International Union, said Long's candidacy should be reconsidered because of a federal probe into allegations of illegal chemical dumping that have plagued the Lancaster Public Works Department since 1998.

Lancaster city officials said Friday that the U.S. attorney's office this week closed its investigation and notified the city that it would not bring any charges.

But Hammitt said union members in Los Angeles County also have complained of favoritism and employee dissatisfaction in that Lancaster department.

Hammitt also said that for Coons to move from the municipal job he holds to overseeing public works for all of Ventura County would be a "quantum leap."

Long could not be reached Friday.

Coons, who has held his post since 1986, said, "I'm sure the Board of Supervisors will hire the most-qualified candidate."

Supervisors declined to comment on the selection process, saying it was a personnel matter, and therefore confidential. Human Resources Director Barbara Journet could not be reached for comment.

The county's public works director oversees a staff of 360 people who are responsible for maintaining county roads, sewers and buildings.

The job vacancy occurred this spring with the retirement of Art Goulet, who headed the department for 22 years.

Deputy Director of Public Works John Crowley has been appointed to the top position until a new manager is selected.

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