Santa Barbara County finally has a new chief probation officer, after paying its former chief over $200,000 while he was on administrative leave for the last 10 months.
Tanja Heitman was sworn in Friday afternoon as the new chief probation officer, marking her official replacement of outgoing chief Lupe Rabago.
The appointment comes after a nearly 10-month search to replace Rabago, who was placed on paid administrative leave in January. Rabago turned in his resignation, and his separation with the Probation Department became effective Friday.
Rabago was placed on leave Jan. 30 because of a "personnel matter," which was part of the court review process into his performance, according to county officials.
From Jan. 30 through Nov. 19, which was the end of the most recently completed pay period, Rabago was paid a total of $206,915 in salary and benefits during his administrative leave, according to the Santa Barbara County Human Resources Department.
In addition, he will be paid for another pay period that ended Friday, which will add approximately $10,020 for a total of $216,935.
Both court and county officials said they could not comment further on what led to Rabago's leave, saying only it was a personnel matter.
The new chief, Heitman, was initially appointed to an interim assignment Oct. 31. Her appointment was made official Friday.
"We're excited about Tanja's leadership and strength in rebuilding the Probation Department and filling critical vacancies," said Darrel Parker, county Superior Court executive.
Judge Patricia Kelly administered the oath of office Friday and swore in Heitman at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse.
Prior to her appointment as chief probation officer, Heitman served as deputy chief probation officer in the Santa Barbara County Probation Department's Adult Division since May 2013.
After earning her bachelor's degree from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, in 1988, Heitman began her career with the county's Probation Department in 1990 as a juvenile institutions officer at Santa Barbara's juvenile hall.
During her 27-year tenure with the department, Heitman has served within the juvenile institutions, as well as in adult and administrative divisions in a variety of capacities.
Heitman also has been instrumental in the planning and implementation of realignment in the county, working collaboratively with representatives from the court, Sheriff's Office, offices of the District Attorney and Public Defender and local community-based groups.
Heitman has been recognized with several awards, including the Santa Barbara County Probation Peace Officers Association President's Award and the Santa Barbara County Chief's Award.