The State Worker

Tax board’s executive director lost her job without a vote from elected leaders

BOE Executive Director David Gau
BOE Executive Director David Gau courtesy photo

Facing scrutiny over reports of misspending, California’s elected tax board earlier this year chose to replace its executive director with one of its longtime administrators.

But the Board of Equalization did not actually vote to dismiss Cynthia Bridges.

Instead, the board came to its agreement to replace her with David Gau in a closed-door meeting seven months ago, according to board chairwoman Fiona Ma.

State law requires elected boards to disclose roll call votes on personnel decisions that take place in closed meetings. The Sacramento Bee cited that law, the Bagley-Keene Act, last week in asking the tax board to reveal how its members voted when they removed Bridges.

This week, tax board attorneys concluded that the department had an obligation to disclose roll call votes regarding Bridges and Gau.

However, neither of the two roll call votes from that night revealed how board members determined to demote Bridges.

One unanimous vote elevated Gau to his current position.

The other unanimous vote gave Bridges a temporary assignment that kept her on staff through June 30.

Ma said the elected group until recently did not keep detailed minutes from its closed session meetings.

She said the board reached a consensus that it wanted to replace Bridges in late 2015, just after State Controller Betty Yee released an audit that showed the department had misallocated tens of millions of dollars in revenue. The board did not make an explicit vote on terminating Bridges, Ma said.

“After we got Controller Yee’s audit, the board met in closed session and decided we need to change our leadership and move in a new direction,” Ma said.

A month after promoting Gau, the board by a 4-1 vote extended Bridges’ contract to carry her through Oct. 3.

Yvette Stowers, a deputy state controller, was the “no” vote on Bridges’ extension. Stowers voted in place of Yee, who is a member of the board.

Board member Jerome Horton hired Bridges to his staff on Oct. 4. Horton’s staff did not return calls for comment.

At least two state departments are auditing board practices. The Department of General Services is looking at board procurement policies, an audit it launched after reports in The Bee showed that the board spent $130,000 renovating Horton’s office with designer furniture.

Separately, the Finance Department is reviewing tax collection policies and outreach activities sponsored by tax board members.

Adam Ashton: 916-321-1063, @Adam_Ashton