"He was doing his job and he was doing it effectively, and he wasn't letting schlock operations slide," said state Sen. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough). She said she hoped that Dorais was not removed because of his treatment of Caliber. Speier said that "if in fact this is an effort to accommodate Caliber Collision ... who has been under great scrutiny by both [the Bureau of Automotive Repair] and the attorney general's office ... then I would be very disappointed."
Caliber's chairman and chief executive, Matthew Ohrnstein, said in an interview that the company will not make known its views on who should lead the bureau. In any case, he said, "Nobody's asked."As to the bureau's treatment of Caliber, Ohrnstein said, "I don't really have an issue with the people. You need to separate the people from the regulations. The regulations need to be more current for the 2004 business world."
He also said that the company is "disappointed" that Dorais left. Coming at a time when the company hopes to resolve its dispute with the state, Dorais' departure creates a vacuum at the bureau, he said.
"We intend to be a player in the collision repair business for many years to come, and we certainly have an interest in the direction that our regulator goes -- and the leader of this regulator -- and we endeavor to be compliant with the regulations," Ohrnstein said. "We would certainly like to have a very positive working relationship with whatever direction the [bureau] leadership goes."
The bureau has drawn complaints from industry groups and some lawmakers who contend that its approach is unfairly punitive. Within this camp, opinions differ about what should be done. Some call for transforming the bureau into a board that would include industry representatives, thus diluting what critics see as its zealous consumer focus. Others want the governor to consider appointing as the new chief someone from the industry.
"I wouldn't be opposed to someone who has actual technical experience and who maybe owned a couple of smog shops," Figueroa said. "I know there might be some criticism that it's not someone who necessarily sees it from the customer's perspective, but I think you can have a balance. You can do both."
Assemblyman Rudy Bermudez [D-Norwalk] said, "They (the bureau) haven't addressed certain complaints and they're too aggressive."
Of Dorais' reassignment, Bermudez said, "It's a positive step forward. The governor now has the ability to bring in a new person with a fresh attitude toward consumer protection."
Before the Schwarzenegger administration replaces Dorais, it wants to hire a new consumer affairs director -- an appointment that may come in the next few weeks, said Fred Aguiar, a cabinet secretary who heads the State and Consumer Services Agency. Then, the administration will look for an auto repair bureau chief who is "able to communicate with the industry," Aguiar said. He added that "there's got to be a balance here."