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Santa Barbara Superior Court Appoints New Interim Probation Chief

Veteran employee Tanja Heitman has been named interim chief probation officer. Click to view larger
Veteran employee Tanja Heitman has been named interim chief probation officer.  (Courtesy photo)

The county’s probation chief has been on administrative leave so long the Santa Barbara County Superior Court has had to tap in another interim leader.

Guadalupe Rabago, the county’s chief probation officer, was placed on paid administrative leave in January for undisclosed reasons after two years on the job.

Retired chief probation officer Beverly Taylor has filled in as acting head of the department since then, and Superior Court officials announced Tuesday that deputy chief probation officer Tanja Heitman is taking over as the interim chief.

“We still haven’t resolved everything to a final conclusion with the past chief, who is out on administrative leave,” said Darrel Parker, executive officer of Superior Court.

“There is a limited number of hours a retired employee can work, and we were approaching that number, so we wanted to make a shift so there was no gap in leadership.”

Parker said he cannot provide details about why Rabago was placed on leave, and did not know how long the review process will take. It hasn’t happened before in Santa Barbara, as far as he knows.

The chief probation officer position is unique since it’s a county employee (paid by the county, and personnel functions conducted by the county), but Superior Court has authority to appoint and remove people.

The county and Superior Court are working together in the review process, Parker noted.  

After the review, Rabago will either come back and be reinstated, or not come back, and the Superior Court would start the process of appointing a new permanent chief probation officer, Parker said.

Guadalupe Rabago has been on paid leave since January. Click to view larger
Guadalupe Rabago has been on paid leave since January. (Courtesy photo)

“We are very grateful” for Taylor coming back for nine months, he said.

Heitman has worked at the Probation Department for 27 years and as a deputy chief probation officer for the Adult Division for more than four years.

Heitman will serve as acting chief probation officer until a permanent chief is appointed.

“I am thrilled to be able to serve our department and the citizens of Santa Barbara in this new capacity,” Heitman said in an email. “Not only has our department been a leader throughout California in implementing evidence-based practices, our staff are innovative, passionate and are making a difference in our community every single day. I am so fortunate for this opportunity and excited for the challenge.”

Two other deputy chiefs, Steve DeLira and Lee Bethal, retired this year, Parker said.

“That’s a big void in leadership, and we needed some stability at the top to address it,” Parker said.

In a statement, Presiding Judge Patricia Kelly said Heitman “been instrumental in the planning and implementation of realignment in Santa Barbara County, working collaboratively with representatives from the court, the Sheriff’s Department, the offices of the District Attorney and Public Defender, and local community-based groups. 

“The court recognizes the breadth of experience Ms. Heitman possesses and is looking forward to working with her in this new role.”

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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