Board Questions Mayors Pick for Public Defender
By Neela Banerjee
Mayor Willie Browns powers continue to be clipped by the new supervisors as more and more attention is drawn to his political appointments.
News spread Monday that Brown has chosen Kimiko Burton-Cruz, head of the mayors criminal justice office, to replace Jeff Brown as the citys top public defender. Brown will be leaving his longtime position as public defender to take a spot on the state Public Utilities Commission.
Thirty-six-year-old Burton-Cruz, a former public defender, is also the daughter of state Senate President and Pro Tem John Burton and the mayors goddaughter.
Critics are saying that the mayors appointment of Burton-Cruz has a lot to do with his friendship with her father, who is one of Californias major political players.
Jeff Brown, who has served six consecutive terms as head public defender, was planning to retire next year and had asked current Cheif Public Defender Jeffery Adachi to run as his succesor. Adachi has been a San Francisco public defender for the past 15 years. Since becoming Chief in 1998, Adachi has been running internal management in the office and recived a Managerial Excellence Award last October from the mayors fiscal committee.
I was dissapointed, Adachi said. The mayor was aware of my interest in the position.
At Mondays Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Matt Gonzalez urged Brown to name Adachi as head Public Defender. Gonzalez, who was an attorney in the public defenders office for 10 years, listed Adachis accomplishments and qualifications before accusing Brown of political favoritism.
I hope that Mayor Brown will be compelled not to make an apolitical appointment, but rather to appoint the person most qualified to hold the office, Gonzalez said.
Adachi has already started work on his campaign for next years election. So far he has the endorsement of both the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area and Sacramento, which is made up of well over a thousand attorneys.
Meanwhile, Adachi is not sure that he will stay in the office. Burton-Cruz reportedly has plans to make immediate personale changes, the first of which is to appoint a new chief.
Supervisors McGoldrick and Gonzalez made proposals at Mondays meeting that would halt the mayors political appointments on both the planning commission and the Board of Supervisors. Both propsals would change the city charter and require voter approval.