Nancy O'Malley will become Alameda County's first woman district attorney on Friday after the Board of Supervisors voted at a lengthy and contentious hearing Tuesday to appoint her to fill the rest of the term of current top prosecutor Tom Orloff.
Orloff, 66, who has been in the district attorney's office for nearly 40 years and has headed it for the past 15 years, announced last week that he wouldn't seek re-election next June and would retire as soon as a replacement could be found.
Orloff, who grew up in Pleasanton and is the son of the late Ed and May Orloff, made his announcement at last Tuesday's county board meeting.
He recommended O'Malley, 55, who has been in the office for 25 years and has been his top assistant the last 10 years.
Three of the five board members voted in favor of O'Malley: Alice Lai-Bitker, Scott Haggerty and Gail Steele.
But supervisors Keith Carson and Nate Miley abstained, saying at the three-and-a-half-hour meeting that they thought the board should take more time and get more public input before making the appointment.
Miley said, "To the public, the process stinks and it looks like the fix is in."
Among the people and organizations who joined Carson and Miley in saying the Board of Supervisors should take more time before appointing a successor to Orloff were Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks, the Alameda County Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, the League of Women Voters of Oakland and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern
Steele admitted that the appointment of a successor to Orloff "is a political process" but said "it is not a given that as an incumbent you will be re-elected" and O'Malley could still face a tough battle in the election in June.
Steele and other supervisors said San Francisco Chief Assistant District Attorney Russ Giuntini, a former Alameda County prosecutor, contacted them seeking to be appointed as Orloff's successor and it won't surprise them if he runs against O'Malley.
A large contingent of prosecutors, investigators and other staff members in the district attorney's office came to the meeting to speak in favor of having O'Malley appointed. They said they took vacation time to come to the meeting.
Lai-Bitker said she was impressed that 148 of the 153 prosecutors in the office signed a petition supporting the appointment of O'Malley.
She said she thinks it's important to appoint a successor to Orloff as soon as possible so the office can continue to function smoothly while the county deals with its difficult fiscal situation.
Orloff said after the meeting that Friday will be his last day on the job and he expects that O'Malley will be sworn in then.
He said, "There's no one who compares to Nancy and I'm confident she will take the reins and keep the office galloping down the track."
Wiping tears from her eyes, O'Malley said "it's an unbelievable honor" to head the office and be the county's first woman district attorney.
"I'm thrilled and very thankful," she said.
O'Malley, who is known for her work prosecuting sex offenders and working with crime victims, said she will run in the election in June, saying she has received "a lot of encouragement" from the community to do so.
O'Malley comes from a prominent legal family. Her father, Bill O'Malley, served as Contra Costa County's district attorney for 15 years and later was a judge there.
Her brother, Bill O'Malley, a former prosecutor and judge, is running to be Contra Costa County's next district attorney in the election in June.
And Contra Costa County Presiding Judge Mary Ann O'Malley is Bill O'Malley's wife and Nancy O'Malley's sister in law.
Last week O'Malley was sworn in as president of the California Women Lawyers, which is the largest women's bar association in the U.S. and has 3,000 members.
The organization promotes the advancement of women in the legal profession and advocates for the concerns of women in society.