Editorials

Why is this still an elective office?

Jeremy Meyers resigned Monday as school chief of El Dorado County.
Jeremy Meyers resigned Monday as school chief of El Dorado County. Photo courtesy of El Dorado County Office of Education

Jeremy Meyers was right to resign on Monday as the El Dorado County schools chief. Two drunken-driving arrests in less than six months would raise red flags for any elected official, but they’re especially worrisome for a $200,000-a-year executive overseeing a county’s public schools.

Meyers, 45, was picked up by the California Highway Patrol on Nov. 5 after crashing his truck into a utility box in the middle of a workday. Just a couple of hours before, a board trustee told The Sacramento Bee’s Diana Lambert, he had been at a meeting of county superintendents; his blood alcohol content was reportedly more than twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

The incident followed a June 9 DUI. The CHP officer who stopped him then said Meyers had been in a line of vehicles stopped for a Highway 49 paving project, and when he was waved forward, he simply sat, immobile, at the wheel. His 0.15 percent blood alcohol reading got him five days house arrest. He publicly apologized for what he termed a “personal mistake.”

Meyers is known in the county and respected in his professional circle. His children attended school in the county. Many who know him say privately that they feel compassion for him and wish him well in addressing whatever issues may lie behind the DUIs.

But the fact that the Board of Education had to wait for him to voluntarily step down, 10 days after a second arrest, raises its own set of red flags. Had he not resigned as superintendent of the county Office of Education, the only way the county could have replaced him would have been via a felony conviction, a finding that he was mentally or physically unable to carry out his duties, a move by him into another jurisdiction or a recall.

County school superintendents aren’t mere figureheads. Their offices perform a wide range of specialized functions, including fiscal oversight of school districts, monitoring local control accountability plans, and special classes for adult students, probationers, disabled students and preschool kids.

Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Diego and Sacramento counties appoint their superintendents, but the other 53 counties still elect them. Perhaps that’s something Californians should reconsider for a job that, in a growing number of places, has become exponentially more technical and complex.

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