Hoops caught the county off guard when he abruptly announced on Nov. 7 he was retiring to take a job with a Washington D.C.-based think tank, Police Foundation, headed by former Redlands Police Chief Jim Bueermann.
Intent on appointing someone within the Sheriff's Department to fill Hoops' shoes, the board chose McMahon, whose supporters described as the hardest working person in the department - ethical and a man who leads by example.
"The right man for the job at this time is none other than our Assistant Sheriff John McMahon," said Supervisor Gary Ovitt, who served on an ad hoc committee with board Chairwoman Josie Gonzales that oversaw the selection process.
McMahon said he was honored and humbled by the opportunity to lead the organization he has been a part of for 27 years and said he plans on running for election in 2014 to hopefully continue as the county's top cop.
"There are some great men and women in this department who come to work to serve the citizens of this county, and it's my honor to lead them," McMahon said.
The board's appointment wasn't without controversy.
The board formed the ad hoc committee on Dec. 4 but Ovitt was not present at the meeting because he was on vacation. He didn't return until last week, leaving some questioning his overall involvement in the selection process.
In addition, candidate Paul Schrader, a Rancho Cucamonga resident and Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy who unsuccessfully ran against Hoops in 2010 and was vying for the appointment, thought he would at least get a chance to be interviewed for the job.
"You should have at least talked to us," Schrader said Tuesday, addressing the board during its regularly scheduled meeting. "You don't know anything about me, but you based a decision on people from the inside."
The board encouraged candidates McMahon, Schrader and retired San Bernardino County sheriff's Deputy Chief Keith Bushey to submit their resumes and other documentation, but decided against one-on-one contact with the candidates due to concern over violating the Brown Act.
County Counsel Jean Rene-Basle said that the law precludes the board from interviewing candidates for an elected office other than county supervisor in closed session. That, he said, has to be done in an open forum.
So Gonzales cut off any direct contact with the candidates.
But that decision caught some off guard and prompted complaints of being left out of the loop.
Supervisor Janice Rutherford said she was frustrated that she didn't learn of the potential Brown Act violations until Monday night.
"I wish we could have a special election. I wish we could have it today," Rutherford said, adding that she will continue to push for an amendment to the county charter that gives the board the option of holding a special election when an elected official leaves office midterm.
But given that the charter currently prohibits that, Rutherford said the board's hands are tied.
"Given how the charter sits now, it is our responsibility to make this appointment," she said. "We need a sheriff who has come up through the ranks and has command experience."
Tuesday's board decision, reached unanimously, also directed county counsel and the CEO's office to begin drafting an ordinance for such a charter amendment.
Gonzales cited other pertinent factors leading to her recommendation to appoint McMahon, including experience in managing the county jail system, knowledge of the state's prison realignment program and a good working relationship with the District Attorney's and Public Defender's offices, all of which neither Bushey nor Schrader possessed.
Schrader's wife, Judy Schrader, challenged Gonzales' rationale, calling her a "pontiff" and alleging she engaged in something nefarious.
"Cheap-talking politicians are a dime a dozen," Schrader said, addressing Gonzales. "I'm so disappointed in seeing the lack of integrity. The more you speak, the more lies I hear and your words contradicting each other."
Gonzales defended her position and even went so far as to criticize Hoops, saying she was frustrated by his abrupt resignation announcement, which left the board scrambling to find a successor.
She said she was even more frustrated with Hoops for recommending McMahon as his successor, which left Gonzales and her colleagues on the board having to assure the public that Hoops recommending McMahon for sheriff had no influence over the board's decision.
"Mr. McMahon deserves this, and not because the sheriff said so," Gonzales said. "Mr. McMahon needed to stand on his own, and he has done that."
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