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End of an Era: Fleming Out as Madera County CAO

MADERA — Madera County’s chief administrative officer resigned Friday amid escalating accusations by County employees of a hostile work environment at the County Government Center.

Eric Fleming

Fleming’s resignation was announced Friday afternoon following a closed session of Madera County’s board of supervisors, which Fleming did not attend.

“The board has approved Eric Fleming’s resignation agreement and release,” said Board Chair Brett Frazier. “The resignation is effective immediately.”

Frazier said Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Darin McCandless would temporarily assume the CAO position while the County begins a search for a permanent replacement for Fleming.

Fleming has overseen day-to-day operations at the County Government Center for nearly a decade,

But it’s been a stormy few months for Fleming, capped off by a series of fiery public comments directed at the CAO earlier this week.

At Tuesday’s (Dec. 10) regular board session, a number of people used the public comment period to demand Fleming’s immediate resignation or firing. Those comments included a call for Fleming’s departure from Rebecca Martinez, Madera County clerk and recorder, the longest-serving elected official in the county.

Martinez, who is also registrar of voters and has worked for Madera County for 40 years, said she chose to address the board during Tuesday’s public comment “for myself and anyone who fears repercussions for speaking out.”

The culture at the County Government Center under Fleming’s leadership was the subject of a 2013 grand jury investigation, which looked into a number of complaints from female county employees.

Citing the 2013 grand jury report, Martinez said “discordant exchanges” and a culture of “bullying, intimidation and threatening subordinates” continues to persist at the Government Center.

“Today we find ourselves in familiar territory,” Martinez told supervisors at the Dec. 10 board meeting. “At some point, you knew there were issues [with Fleming] and elected to turn a blind eye. You as a board own this.”

Martinez told supervisors they have “an obligation to protect women. By letting [Fleming] continue through 2020, you will be sending a message to all female [County] employees that they will not be supported or protected.”

At Tuesday’s board meeting, four individuals, including Martinez, came to the podium to blast Fleming, setting the stage for Friday’s special board meeting.

The only agenda items listed on today’s closed session meeting: “ANTICIPATED LITIGATION” and “PUBLIC EMPLOYEE DISCIPLINE/DISMISSAL/RELEASE/COMPLAINT.”

Fleming, 50, a resident of Fresno, has been with Madera County since 2005 and has served as CAO, the county’s top manager, since 2010.

Earlier this year, he was arrested by Fresno police and charged with DUI after being pulled over on the night of July 3.

Fleming is awaiting trial on that case and issued a statement several months after the incident, stating, in part: “I am human, and I make mistakes. Last July, I made a huge mistake, and chose to drive home after celebrating with friends.”

About a month after the news of Fleming’s DUI surfaced, he submitted a letter to the board (dated Dec. 6) in which he notified supervisors of his intention to “step down” as Madera County CAO sometime in 2020.

“This decision was a difficult one and something I’ve been contemplating for the last year or so,” Fleming wrote. “Quite frankly, I am not sure I have the energy or the ability to effectively lead this organization any further.”

In the letter, Fleming cited his accomplishments over the past decade, including leading the County out of the last recession, eliminating the budget deficit and implementing the 311 Customer Services Center and MadCoServices app.

Supervisor Frazier said Friday that supervisors plan to talk more about the process of replacing Fleming at next Tuesday’s (Dec. 17) regular board session.

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