UPDATE, 4:10 p.m.:
The county issued the following press release, with a link to the separation agreement:
The County of Humboldt today executed a separation agreement with current Auditor-Controller Karen Paz Dominguez stating Ms. Paz Dominguez is resigning effective July 1. Per the Board of Supervisors action on Tuesday, the Board has appointed Auditor-Controller-elect Cheryl Dillingham to serve as interim Auditor-Controller effective upon resignation.
Notable terms of the separation agreement include:
- Agreement of Ms. Paz Dominguez to facilitate a smooth transition and cooperate with any appointed Auditor-Controller who succeeds her through Jan. 2, 2023.
- Compensation paid to Ms. Paz Dominguez in the amount of $92,368.32, comprised of her salary through Jan. 2, 2023, payments in lieu of insurance benefits, and a flat amount of $15,000.
- The county will pay for reasonable attorney fees she incurred related to the State of California’s case (CV 2200584) against Ms. Paz Dominguez and fees of $13,254.85 she incurred with respect to Humboldt Superior Court Case CV 2001430.
- The county will dismiss its cross complaint against Ms. Paz Dominguez in the above-referenced State of California case, and will defend and indemnify her in the case.
- Should the City of Eureka sue the county and Ms. Paz Dominguez for failure to distribute when due property taxes for Fiscal Year 2021-22, the county will defend and indemnify her in that suit, and any other suit against her arising in the course and scope of her service. As it relates to this matter, the county is poised to execute a tolling agreement with the anticipation of avoiding litigation.
Per the Board’s action, the separation agreement and appointment will return to the Board at its next available meeting, likely July 12, for final approval.
Going forward, Ms. Dillingham is scheduled to begin serving next week. The county appreciates Ms. Paz Dominguez’s cooperation with this transition.
A quick read-through of the agreement reveals one interesting tidbit not mentioned in the county’s press release: While Paz Dominguez and the county agreed to a limited release of liability, Paz Dominguez “retains her claims against the County for defamation, discrimination, and other wrongs.”
The county does not admit to any of those claims, but litigation between the two sides sounds likely.
After three and a half tumultuous years in office, Humboldt County Auditor-Controller Karen Paz Dominguez officially resigned from her elected position today, a full six months shy of completing her inaugural term.
At precisely 2 p.m., County Administrative Officer Elishia Hayes, who on Tuesday was given authority to execute a separation agreement with Paz Dominguez, emailed county supervisors and department heads to tell them it was done: The agreement had been executed and the auditor-controller’s resignation was now official.
In a text, Paz Dominguez said the county reached out to her lawyer “almost immediately after election day.” She added that she spoke with the employees in her office and with Dillingham before agreeing to updated terms in the separation agreement. Her resignation is effective as of tomorrow.
As planned, the Board of Supervisors has appointed Cheryl Dillingham as interim auditor-controller. Dillingham, who currently works as finance manager for the City of Rio Dell, defeated the incumbent in a landslide last month, though the election results have yet to be certified.
But according to Hayes’ email, Dillingham “is still working on her transition” away from Rio Dell and won’t be able to work full-time until “probably September.”
In the meantime, Hayes says, Assistant County Administrative Officer/Chief Financial Officer Tabatha Miller will step in to serve as the interim assistant auditor-controller “so that someone may always be available to make decisions.”
Hayes, whose office frequently clashed with Paz Dominguez, expresses unqualified elation at this latest development, calling it “a really great day for the county.”
The Outpost has requested a copy of the separation agreement and will follow up with details.
Here’s the email from Hayes:
Hello Board (bcc’d) and Department Heads,
This week the Board provided me with authorization to execute a final separation agreement with Ms Paz Dominguez to allow for her resignation before the end of the year. That agreement has been executed and her resignation is official.
In addition, the Board has appointed Cheryl Dillingham as Interim Auditor-Controller effective upon resignation. Cheryl and I have been in close communication and she is ready to step into her position. Since Karen’s resignation has occurred a little sooner than expected, Cheryl is still working on her transition with Rio Dell and will be working part time until probably September.
In the meantime, she has asked Tabatha Miller to serve as the Interim Assistant Auditor-Controller so that someone may always be available to make decisions.
Please be patient over the next few weeks as Cheryl assumes her role with the organization and please let either of us know if you have any questions or feedback to offer. This is a really great day for the county and I look forward to this next stage of recovery.
I hope you all have a safe and happy 4th of July!
Note: This post has been updated to include a response from Paz Dominguez.