Editor’s note: Public health officials join those calling for Nav Gill to be fired
Sacramento County’s public health officer and several other health officials are joining the call for supervisors to fire county CEO Nav Gill.
In a letter being sent Tuesday to the county Board of Supervisors, Olivia Kasirye and six other officials say that Gill has “created a toxic culture rife with sexism, intimidation, racism, and a blatant disregard for public health.” “We can no longer stand by and allow Nav Gill to operate with impunity,” they write.
They criticize him for a “history of underinvestment” in public health, which has become “even more apparent and dangerous during this public health crisis.”
They also accuse Gill of creating barriers for the public health team to respond to the COVID-19 emergency, including a refusal to pay overtime.
And they allege a pattern of abuse against women, especially women of color. They claim that he has made disparaging remarks and used racial slurs during a department head meeting. They also say he retaliated against county staff, including bullying those who wanted to wear masks during meetings.
“We understand that the culture Nav has created is embedded within County departments and will take time to change,” they write. “However, the first step in changing such a culture is to remove the person at the top who has set the standard.”
Gill has denied the allegations, without addressing specifics.
Besides Kasirye, those signed on to the letter include Meghan Marshall, COVID-19 homeless response division manager; Pamela Harris, the county’s nursing director; and Liz Gomez, chief of staff in the Department of Health Services.
On the county’s response to the pandemic in particular, the letter says that Gill slowed down the process for issuing the initial public health order when the pandemic started in March. It also cites the contentious debate over how the county was spending its federal coronavirus relief money—and how little was going to the public health effort against COVID-19. Under Gill’s leadership, the county used most of its $181 million share to pay the salaries of Sheriff’s Office and other employees and to avoid budget cuts.
Gill has also issued a letter on the funding issue.
Kasirye, who became the county’s health officer in 2012 and can only be removed by supervisors, publicly raised her concerns about funding during the Aug. 11 supervisors meeting, when she said that the county’s needs to fight the coronavirus pandemic were not all being approved.
Then, some complaints about Gill’s behavior surfaced publicly at the Aug. 19 meeting, when supervisors approved $45 million more for public health to address the pandemic.
This letter will increase the pressure on Gill, but also on the supervisors who are still standing by him.
On Oct. 20, Serna and Supervisor Patrick Kennedy called on Gill to resign, saying they no longer had confidence in him because of his “behavior and questionable leadership and decision making.”
The last straw, they said, was a meeting that Gill held on Oct. 15 that violated COVID-19 safety protocols. Some of the 40 department heads and other officials did not wear masks in the indoor conference room, one later tested positive and several had to go into quarantine.
Gill, however, refused to resign.
It would take votes from four of the five supervisors to dismiss Gill for cause. He was unanimously appointed county executive in January 2016 and was assistant county executive since 2007.
Supervisor Susan Peters is leaving office; Gregg Fishman, who has a slight lead in the race to replace her, has also called for Gill to resign or be fired. Some critics are calling into supervisors’ meetings, urging them to take action.
And now there is a community letter demanding Gill’s dismissal from a long list of advocacy groups and leaders, including the Sacramento Homeless Union, Decarcerate Sacramento and Sunrise Movement Sacramento.
The letter repeats some of what the public health officials say, but also makes a broader case—that he has deferred too much to Sheriff Scott Jones on the budget; that he has not prioritized economic development, particularly in older and lower-income neighborhoods; that the county is not leading on homelessness or climate change; and that he does not partner with community organizations.