The Board of Supervisors has appointed an interim public defender while a new search to fill that position permanently is under way, according to Napa County officials.
Kenneth Clayman, a retired public defender from Ventura County, started to work on Feb. 11 as Napa County’s interim public defender. The Thousand Oaks resident will oversee the department’s 13 lawyers while the county launches a new search to replace Terry Davis, who retired in November after 26 years in office.
While the county’s district attorney is an elected official, the public defender is appointed by the Board of Supervisors.
The county’s began recruitment efforts before the holidays, resulting in 15 applicants but no one was selected, according to Napa County officials.
“Since that time, we determined that a more thorough evaluation of the needs of the Public Defender's Office, and the county was in order prior to filling the position,” Elizabeth Habkirk, a senior management analyst for the county, said in an email. “The county has had only one public defender since the office was created 26 years ago,” she noted.
“Mr. Clayman will be conducting a needs assessment and providing recommendations to the county executive officer. He will also provide recommendations on the public defender recruitment and selection process,” Habkirk said.
Supervisor Mark Luce said in an email, “The appointment of a new public defender is a significant decision. An interim will allow us time to assess our internal needs and give us a better chance of ultimately hiring the right person for the job.”
Suzanne Mason, director of Human Resources for Napa County, said the first notice for the job was on Oct. 29. The position, which pays $162,260 to more than $195,800 a year, will be posted again next week, she said Wednesday.
The 15 original applicants remain under consideration, and will not have to file a new applications, she added.
Clayman, who retired as Ventura County’s public defender in 2008 after 24 years of service, served in 2010 as interim public defender in Solano County. He has also worked as a trial lawyer in the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office. He graduated from UCLA School of Law. His contract, which is for up to $57,960, expires May 10.
As he settles in his office on First Street, Clayman praised the lawyers who work in the office. The Public Defender’s Office is “efficient” and “compact,” he said.
The office remains committed to providing quality criminal defense for all, Clayman said. “Why should a person who has money be better defended than a person who doesn’t?”