Inter-Departmental Correspondence

District Attorney
Health System



April 14, 2011


May 10, 2011







Honorable Board of Supervisors



Stephen M. Wagstaffe, District Attorney
Jean S. Fraser, Chief, Health System



Transfer of Duties of the Public Administrator



Adopt an Ordinance deleting Section 2.42.020 of Title 2 of Chapter 2.42 amending the name of Chapter 2.42 and adding Section 2.20.035 to Chapter 2.20 of Title 2 of the San Mateo County Ordinance Code transferring the duties of the Public Administrator from the District Attorney to the Chief of the Health System.



From 1927 to 1984, the Coroner performed the duties of the Public Administrator and the Public Guardian. In 1984, by ordinance, the duties of the office of the Public Guardian were moved to the Director of the Health Department. The Public Administrator duties remained with the Coroner until January 1, 1995, the effective date of an ordinance transferring the Public Administrator duties from the Coroner to the District Attorney.


County Counsel has determined that the office of the Public Administrator is an appointed office that is consolidated with the elected office of the District Attorney and, as such, it can be transferred from the District Attorney to the Chief of the Health System. County Counsel has further determined that because the two offices were consolidated by ordinance, not by the Charter, no Charter amendment is necessary. Because the Public Administrator duties were properly assignable in the first instance to an appointee, a Board ordinance transferring these duties from the District Attorney may take effect during an elective term.



The District Attorney’s Office and the Health System propose the consolidation of the Public Guardian and Public Administration programs within Aging and Adult Services (AAS). The programs are similar in function, as they share a fiduciary responsibility for marshalling and protecting assets of conserved/deceased residents of the County. Each program operates a warehouse in which clients’ personal property is stored pending proper disposition. Each program has deputies who facilitate determination of the distribution and allocation of estate assets. Both programs perform accounting functions and reporting as required by the Superior Court. Each program works with outside vendors for services such as selling real property and filing taxes on behalf of conserved/deceased residents.


Consolidation of the management and oversight of the programs will allow better coordination of cases requiring services from both programs and will increase efficiency. In addition, the potential for delay in services will be reduced as the teams of staff consolidate. Examples of efficiency are: a single consolidated warehouse, and all accounting functions performed by the current Public Guardian Trust Accounting unit. Specifically, AAS has a Trust Accounting unit which solely focuses on the estate function within the Public Guardian program and will be able to absorb the accounting functions of the Public Administrator program.


The benefit of the consolidation of the Public Guardian and Public Administrator programs will be demonstrated as services become more efficient and consistent. This consolidation effort is in alignment with County values relative to efficiencies through program consolidation and efforts to reduce County costs. If adopted, the proposed amendment to the ordinance code would transfer the duties Public Administrator effective July 1, 2011.


County Counsel has reviewed and approved the proposed ordinance.


This Ordinance contributes to the Shared Vision 2025 outcome of a Collaborative Community by consolidating the management and oversight of the programs which will allow better coordination of cases and will increase efficiency and fiscal responsibility.



By consolidating the Public Guardian and Public Administrator programs, we estimate a reduction of $68,967 in Net County Cost in FY 2011-12 with anticipated reductions in following fiscal years.