MOORLACH UPDATE — Another Impasse — April 21, 2014

There is a financial recipe that the Board of Supervisors has to work with. Some 92 percent of general fund (also known as net county costs) revenues come from property taxes, which means that revenues are impacted by the real estate market, which has been flat. We’ve seen a recent uptick, but the volume of transactions has not been large enough to make an appreciable dent. And, benefiting from real estate market appreciation lags by a year when collecting the taxes. From a spending perspective, public safety now represents one-half of the County’s net county costs budget. Then there is the vehicle license fee take by the Governor and State Legislature, which I’ve been continually harping on; including my last UPDATE (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Daily Pilot — April 19, 2014). The ever increasing cost of the employer contributions into the defined benefit pension plan adds to the squeeze on available resources. Consequently, the Board has been negotiating with its bargaining units as best as can be done with an expectation of an increase in total compensation within our revenue increase projections. With defined benefit pension costs growing, it does not leave much, if any, room for increases in net wages. This gives you the flavor for the first article below from the Voice of OC.

Negotiations are done in closed session, which means that we are not to divulge the details. But, allow me the risk of providing a couple of clarifications to the story, as I was not interviewed for this piece. First, I asked the Chair to call a special closed session meeting, which occurred a week ago Friday, in order to clarify one of the components of the counter that was agreed to the previous Tuesday. Everything was clearly spelled out in writing and agreed to by the conclusion of the Friday afternoon session. I thought that the Board had made some significant concessions. Second, the following week Supervisor Spitzer decided that he did not agree with one of the components that he had previously agreed to and requested yet another special closed session. This request was declined by the Chair, as the proposal was thoroughly discussed in the special closed session and other Supervisors had notes reflecting and concurring with the results. The negotiations now move to the impasse phase, which has resulted in agreed to terms and closure in the majority of recent mediations.

The second piece is from Sunday’s OC Register and is their coverage of the County’s potential implementation of Laura’s Law. The resolution is expected to be on the May 13th Board agenda (see MOORLACH UPDATE — ALS/CCW/CCP/AOT — March 5, 2014).

The third piece is from the Long Beach Press Telegram. Blake Christian, C.P.A. served on my Treasurer’s Advisory Committee for most of my twelve years as the County Treasurer. His firm, Holthouse, Carlin & Van Trigt, co-hosts an annual Sunday brunch with Keesal, Young and Logan during the Long Beach Grand Prix. For the first time, I had a chance to attend the brunch and to observe the race activities. My wife and I enjoyed visiting with Blake and his wife and many other long-time friends that were present and then watched the beginning of the race from the vantage point of a parking lot structure nearby. This qualified me to make it to the Society Page, along with a long list of other guests.

BONUS: Speaking of Long Beach, the California State University Long Beach Alumni Awards Banquet will be held on May 8th (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Distinguished Alumni — April 5, 2014). The dinner will be held at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach, 200 South Pine Avenue. For additional information, please call 562-985-7536 or e-mail to Noemi.Guevara@csulb.edu.

OC Sheriff’s Deputies Reach Impasse in County Labor Talks

By NORBERTO SANTANA JR.

Negotiators representing more than 1,800 Orange County sheriff’s deputies have apparently reached an impasse in salary talks with county supervisors as the two sides have been unable to come to terms on employee pension contributions and pay raises.

Supervisors have remained steadfast in their demands that deputies pay significantly more toward their pensions to help alleviate the county’s $5-billion unfunded liability. Deputies, meanwhile, say they are ready to agree to increased pension contributions but want a pay raise to help cushion the blow.

Adding pressure to the negotiations is the reality that the county must balance its budget with $73 million less than it had previously, because supervisors lost a legal fight with Gov. Jerry Brown last year over property tax revenue.

The supervisors’ largest bargaining chip is the fact that the county now pays the equivalent of more than 60 percent of a deputy’s paycheck to the pension system each year.

While deputies were required to pay a small portion of their employee share of monthly pension payments in the last county contract negotiation, the amount was small and was slowly phased in over several years to the current 6 percent. Prior to 2009, deputies paid nothing into their retirement benefits.

County supervisors argue that’s unsustainable, not only for the solvency of the pension system but for the prospects of any pay raises in the near future.

They are demanding that deputies immediately step up to pay the full 16-percent employee share of their monthly pension contribution.

Deputy union officials counter with the argument that other jurisdictions are in hiring mode, and if county officials force such a hard deal on the union, they will lose their best deputies to other places and have to spend large amounts to recruit and retain.

They point to the myriad problems faced by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which recently confronted allegations that softening recruiting standards has attracted deputies with less than stellar backgrounds.

In many ways, an impasse is hardly surprising given this is the last of a group of grinding contract negotiations in the county’s so-called "Super Bowl of Labor Talks,” with the contracts of a half-dozen county unions expiring in recent years.

Nearly every group — executives, managers, attorneys and general employees — has reached impasse, and most have had hard pension payments imposed on them. General workers already pay the full employee share of their pension payment.

Yet while the overall message from the supervisors has been consistent, they seem to have recently split over tactics with the deputies.

Supervisors Chairman Shawn Nelson and Supervisor John Moorlach have reportedly drawn a hard line on pensions, arguing full employee share must be paid. They argue after paying for deputy pensions, there’s nothing left for raises in the public safety budget.

Two other supervisors — Pat Bates and Janet Nguyen, who both face State Senate elections this year — have been willing to consider alternatives but haven’t jumped out in front of their colleagues, according to sources.

Not so for Supervisor Todd Spitzer, a potential future contender for district attorney, who considers himself close to law enforcement. Spitzer was the force behind a special closed-door meeting late last week that reportedly held a deal.

“I wanted a counter,” said Spitzer on Friday. “I asked the chairman [Nelson] to hold a special meeting. I thought we were close and we needed to go back into closed session,” Spitzer said.

It’s rare to see county supervisors publicly disagreeing on terms in the midst of labor talks, but Spitzer said he is deeply troubled by the confrontational nature of the relationship between the board and deputies.

“I thought it was really close,” he said. “I really don’t want to go to impasse.”

Spitzer said he’s concerned about department morale, saying it ranks 16th out of 22 law enforcement agencies in Orange County when it comes to pay and benefits.

“I’m concerned, and I know the sheriff [Sandra Hutchens] is concerned about recruitment and retention,” Spitzer said. “I don’t want to turn Orange County into Los Angeles.”

Spitzer said he’s "not happy about impasse, because it sends the wrong message to the rank and file that our board is not concerned about our public safety personnel,” he said.

Reportedly, supervisors are trying to find a way to offer some sort of pay raise immediately — as much as 4.5 percent. That could be followed next year by a hike for senior deputies, those with more than 15 years, engineered through a quiet step increase. Salary for entry-level deputies would likely be the hardest hit pay rate.

Yet on Friday, the formal deadline for the union to respond to the county’s "last, best and final offer," no one was willing to talk publicly about that kind of deal.

Earlier Friday, county Human Resources Director Steve Danley said supervisors’ direction was to declare impasse at 4 p.m. if the deputies did not accept the county offer.

Then two hours after the deadline had passed, Danley said deputy union officials had sent a letter seeking a delay.

Danley then said he would consult attorneys and other county officials before declaring impasse, saying, “I’ll hold off on any pronouncements until Monday.”

However, a spokeswoman for the deputy sheriffs on Friday night said a decision had already been made.

“Our understanding is we are at impasse,” said Kimberly Edds, spokeswoman for the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs.

That was followed by a formal letter sent to members that night.

“We have been advised that the Board of Supervisors will not extend the Last, Best and Final offer date,” wrote association President Tom Dominguez. “The Board of Supervisors declared impasse as of 1600 hours today. Their action will now begin the process of mediation.”

Dominguez advised members that mediation could turn out a deal.

“As the Board of Supervisors and AOCDS have seen progress toward reaching an agreement, there are still differences that need to be resolved,” he wrote.

Spitzer also was confident a deal could be reached, despite the ominous tone of the word “impasse.”

“Impasse is a term of art,” Spitzer said. “It means you will continue discussions but generally involves a mediator. I’m hopeful we’ll be able to continue the discussion.”

Please contact Norberto Santana Jr. directly at nsantana and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/norbertosanana.

‘Laura’s Law’ in Thomas scenario

BY TERI SFORZA and MIKE REICHER

Kelly Thomas attacked his 73-year-old grandfather with a fireplace poker on June 8, 1995, smashing the elderly man repeatedly in the head. “THOMAS told investigators that his grandfather made him uncomfortable because he looked at his crotch and it made him feel ‘weird,’” said a 2011 district attorney’s investigation.

On April 27, 1996, Kelly Thomas vanished from a locked treatment facility for mental patients. “THOMAS was ‘AWOL,’ absent without leave, and was currently on Haldol, a medication for delusions, and he believed he was Jesus Christ,” according to a Santa Ana police account.

On April 24, 2000, Cypress police received a “suspicious person” complaint: “Male white, early 20s, red hair, no shoes, possibly transient, kneeling down and appearing to be despondent …. identified as THOMAS, who stated he was upset over the recent death of his mother. …”

Kelly Thomas’ mother is not dead. But after a gruesome altercation with Fullerton police, Thomas, a homeless schizophrenic, is.

On May 13, after nearly three years of gut-wrenching debate, the Orange County Board of Supervisors is slated to consider adopting “Laura’s Law,” a controversial tool that would empower officials to order severely mentally ill people into court-imposed outpatient treatment, even if that treatment is against a patient’s wishes.

If O.C. had Laura’s Law on the books in 2011, some activists argue, Kelly Thomas might be alive today.

Orange would be the first large county to adopt the law, and the proceedings are being closely watched by Los Angeles (which has a pilot program). San Francisco, San Diego and other counties are also weighing its merits.

Civil libertarians are vehemently opposed, saying the decision to enter or refuse treatment should always rest with the individual, not with the state.

The May 13 meeting promises to be long and passionate. As the debate intensifies, the ghost of Kelly Thomas haunts the proceedings: Would Laura’s Law have helped him?

DEVIL IN THE DETAILS

Thomas had dozens of run-ins with local law enforcement dating back to 1993 – some more tempestuous than others.

After the attack on his grandfather in 1995, he pleaded guilty to felony assault with a deadly weapon. There were altercations involving indecent exposure, trespassing, panhandling, disturbing the peace. Stints in rehab, disappearances from rehab. Drugs that were supposed to stabilize him, drugs that he eventually rejected.

“According to THOMAS, he took himself off his psychiatric medications three to four months ago because they made him feel worse,” said a police summary of a 2004 episode in Brea.

Ditching meds is a common problem for mentally ill patients, and one of the key things Laura’s Law tries to address. But before authorities can order someone to take meds under Laura’s Law, a rather dizzying list of conditions must be met, including:

• “A clinical determination that the person is unlikely to survive safely in the community without supervision.”

• Proof that the person “has a history of lack of compliance with treatment.”

• Proof that the person has either been hospitalized or treated in the mental health unit of a jail or prison twice over the past three years; or that the person’s mental illness has resulted in “one or more acts of serious and violent behavior toward himself or another” over the past four years. (The incident that sparked authorities to invoke Laura’s Law does not count as one of these.)

So would Thomas’ history have allowed authorities to order him into treatment? That could depend, in large part, on what one considers serious or violent behavior.

ROCKS AND KNIVES

In December 2007, Thomas threatened his mother with a butcher knife, according to an Anaheim PD report.

In September 2009, he lit matches, threw them on the ground, and told a Placentia police officer that he didn’t care.

In December 2009, he threw a watch at a cook trying to shoo him away from the trash at a Placentia restaurant.

In June 2010, he hurled rocks at a fruit stand worker in Anaheim.

On Dec. 13, 2010, someone matching his exact description threw a chair from the patio of a Fullerton Starbucks at a car driving through the parking lot, cracking its left taillight.

On Dec. 27, 2010, his mother filed for the restraining order after he “held her by her neck and would not let go.”

All of these incidents – and more – happened in the four years before Thomas’ fatal interaction with police in July 2011. But were they serious or violent enough to allow for forced treatment?

“Kelly would have qualified,” his father, Ron Thomas, said. “It would have helped him then. The meds he was on always brought him back to being a reasonable person.”

Others aren’t so sure.

“Laura’s Law would not have saved Kelly Thomas’ life,” wrote Charmaine Asher, a member of the California Network of Mental Health Clients, to the Register.

“Laura’s Law does not provide desperately needed training for law enforcement in how to care for those of us labeled with mental health conditions. … If I were to sit on a curb like Kelly Thomas did and six police officers proceeded to beat me to death, then it would not be my mental condition that caused my death.”

County Supervisor John Moorlach was at first deeply skeptical of Laura’s Law, but eventually prodded state legislators to allow counties to fund it, and is now a believer. “There’s a really good debate on whether or not Laura’s Law would have helped Kelly Thomas,” Moorlach said. “Both sides make good arguments.”

Those arguments can’t change the past. Laura’s Law could, however, change the future.

“Families that are dealing with children who have mental health issues need another tool in the toolbox,” Moorlach told us. “A Superior Court judge cannot force someone with schizophrenia to take his medication. But he can tell him to take it. That’s the ‘black robe effect,’ and it can be powerful. A lot of people who are mentally ill just don’t know they’re mentally ill, and families are telling us, ‘We need some outside help.’ If we can provide this extra help, we should.”

‘DOUBLE STANDARD’

Laura’s Law could apply to some 120 severely mentally ill people who pose a danger to themselves or others in O.C., the county has estimated, and would cost $5.7 million to $6.1 million a year.

Through the lean years, that was prohibitively expensive. But a law passed last year – at the express urging of Orange County – allows counties to spend Proposition 63 money on Laura’s Law. (Prop. 63 added a 1 percent tax on those earning more than $1 million a year, to be spent on mental health programs.)

O.C. expects about $104 million in Prop. 63 money this year, and the O.C. Mental Health Board gave a unanimous thumbs-up to spending $4.4 million on Laura’s Law outpatient treatment for the severely mentally ill in 2014-15. The Board of Supervisors has the final say, which should make for much drama on May 13.

“Forced treatment is wrong,” wrote psychologist John M. Grohol in a 2012 article titled “The Double Standard of Forced Treatment.” “Just as no doctor would ever force someone to undergo cancer treatment against their will, I can no longer back the rationalizations that justify forcing a fellow human being to undergo treatment for their mental health concern without their consent. As a society, we’ve shown time and time again that we cannot devise a system that won’t be abused or used in ways that it was never intended.”

Civil rights lawyer Ann Menasche has argued that public funds are better spent on expanding voluntary programs and crisis intervention training.

Orange County is bracing for lawsuits if Laura’s Law is adopted.

‘TOOLBOX’

Laura’s Law was passed by the California Legislature in 2003 in honor of Laura Wilcox, 19, who was working at a public mental health clinic in Nevada County during her winter break from college. A man who had refused treatment stormed the clinic, shooting Wilcox and two others.

Nevada County is the only one in California to fully implement the law.

Opponents’ arguments are reasonable, but Moorlach expects the board to embrace Laura’s Law nonetheless. It’s one of the main things he wants to accomplish before he terms out as supervisor. “One more tool in the toolbox,” he said again.

If it passes in May, the board will vote on the budget in June. Training for police officers, psychiatrists and others would come next, and O.C. would be able to use Laura’s Law by October, Moorlach said.

Orange County’s Carla Jacobs, who has seen mental illness devastate her own family, thinks it’s about time.

“It’s constitutionally right and it’s morally right,” Jacobs said. “Yes, people can threaten to sue, and they can even file suit, but Orange County is planning on doing this right. I’m hoping the Board of Supervisors will vote for the resolution in May. They’re going to be saving a lot of lives.”

Would Laura’s Law have helped Kelly Thomas?

“After the fact, there’s no way to really determine that,” Jacobs said. “It didn’t exist here when Kelly was alive. We didn’t have the option. But if it passes, it’s going to save a lot of people like Kelly.”

Seen at the Scene – Celebrating 40 years of Grand Prix

By Shirley Wild

The 40th anniversary of the Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 13 was a wonderful celebratory occasion.

The etiquette books tell us the gemstone for the 40th anniversary is the ruby, because rubies are thought to possess an eternal inner flame — a symbol that the passion in a marriage is still very alive and strong after 40 years together. What better describes the marriage of the Long Beach Grand Prix race and the city of Long Beach! The love affair has grown each year since its beginnings 40 years ago.

The crowd, the largest attendance ever, was full of passion for the race, which holds a national reputation for excellence. In return, the city has garnered an international recognition to be envied. The checkered flag has been waved with enthusiasm, a win-win for all!

Even attendees who don’t necessarily understand motorcar racing, enter the spirit of the day with enthusiasm that generates tremendous energy. Whether it’s sheer numbers, the roar of the engines, the speed, the pageantry, the exhibition of power, the abundance of sensory sensations or the party atmosphere, it’s a day of tremendous fun and excitement.

Speaking of parties, there were three standouts among the multitude offered. The Grand Prix Association of Long Beach offers Pit Row race viewing in addition to a fabulous buffet that includes its famous lobster fare. The Keesal, Young & Logan affair begins with brunch and ends the day with dancing in their law offices high atop the Union Bank. And the Committee of 300, which has provided volunteer support for the race from its beginning, offers a three-day party with food, classic cars and dancing in their exclusive Paddock Club.

LBGPA: The excitement of seeing the precision team of mechanics in action during pit stops is thrilling; however, watching all of the pit row action is only part of the privilege of this setting. It’s a very glamorous and exclusive venue! It’s the ultimate thrill to see all the action from start (the opening ceremony, the flyover) to the end of the race. Hospitable and indefatigable LBGPA President and CEO Jim (and Mary) Michaelian join their notable guests, and one never knows which celebrity might be on the scene.

Seen at the scene: Supervisor Don and Julie Knabe with grandson Kaden, Beverly O’Neill, Diane Jacobis, City Manager Pat West, Jim Gray, Steve Goodling, Debbie and Charlie Riehl, Harry and Maria Saltzgaver, Tim King, Doug Krikorian and Heddy Drum, Dan and Desiree Gooch, Jay Oxford, David Wolfley, Justin Wolfley, Dan and Cindy Rodriguez, John Metcalfe.

Keesal Young and Logan: This party draws a crowd of 500 to 600 guests for a two-part event, brunch and after-party. The fun atmosphere is highlighted not only by a sky-high view, but with gorgeous floral displays intertwined with checkered flags among huge red oil funnels and race tires. Their gracious staff and hosts somehow make it all seem like a private party for pals.

The food is endless! Brunch began with mimosas, champagne and featured the usual breakfast fare plus salmon and capers, eggs Benedict and fruit; the afternoon buffet offered a carving station of tri-tip, chicken wings, taco bar and a Mardi Gras station with jambalaya and sausage on soft pretzel rolls.

Seen at the scene: Supervisor Don and Julie Knabe, Councilman Gary DeLong, Susan and Erich Wise, Rich and Yolita Dines, Lori Ann Farrell and Reggie Harrison, Beverly O’Neill, Ernie and Jackie Kell, Jim and Michelle Hahn, Charlie and Terese Parkin, Doug and Jill Haubert, Suja Lowenthal, Laura Doud, Linda and Doug Drummond, Robert Garcia, Dee Andrews, Steven Neal, Patrick O’Donnell, James Johnson, Roberto and Tonia Uranga, Suzie Price, Martha and Tino Bernadett, Michelle and John Molina, Arline and Mike Walter, Vicki and Blake Christian, Vern Schooley, John Hancock, Nancy Gaines, Rick and Joey DuRee, Marty Eisenberg, Larry Poe, Alex and Linda Bellehumeur, Mari Hooper, Anne Cramer, Jim and Chris Eaton, Cookie Braude and Greg Perrault, Jean Bixby Smith, Barbara Blackwell, Art Levine, Graham Vanhegan, Kalim Rayburn, Dennis Lord, Mike Murchison, Tom Shadden and Donna Bennett, Rocky and Julie Suares, Michael Cole, Al Moro, Noel Hacegaba, Michael Mais, Rex Richardson, Stacy Mungo, Graham Vanhegan, Victor Gonzales, Steve Miller, Mimi and Marie Song, Jim Zehmer, Jim Allen, Anna and Brian Russell, John Moorlach, Nuch and Noreen Trutanich,

Committee of 300: There were in excess of 650 guests attending the Paddock Club on Sunday alone, the last of the three-day package of parties. Attendees enjoyed an alfresco luncheon and all-day dancing to a live band. There were beautifully restored cars on display by the Sultans Car Club and a large-screen TV in the tented lounge area. Away from the crowds it was a perfect place to refresh and enjoy a delicious repast.

Seen at the scene: President Dian Morris and Rich Carry, event chairwoman Phyllis Covey, Cheryl LeMmon, Lynda Holcomb, Patti Maude, Rick Lorenzen and Kadee, Jimmy McCullough, Perry Cohen, Judie Johnsen, Lisa Veits, Vivian Tondreault, Ken Kern, Julie Nemechek.

News of social events with charitable purposes may be sent to Shirley Wild at spwild or by fax to 562-594-9668. Please include a contact phone number. Send high-resolution jpeg photos, by attachment, to spwild and include group name and identification of individuals from left. Call Shirley at 562-594-9468 for more information

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Posted in California

MOORLACH UPDATE — Daily Pilot — April 19, 2014

I did not abstain. So I’m sending this UPDATE out to clarify my vote at last Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. To bring you up to speed on legislation to provide a veterans cemetery, here are two links: MOORLACH UPDATE — You’re Being Political — April 9, 2014 and MOORLACH UPDATE — Man of the Year — April 11, 2014. A correction will be provided in a future issue of the Daily Pilot. Also, I do not believe Supervisor Nelson was joking when he abstained. Using our veterans as props for a political reelection campaign is not funny one bit.

Three thoughts. The first is that I am supportive of a veterans cemetery. The second is that I am also supportive of a civilian cemetery. I have been down this road before and the Daily Pilot article below addresses another critical issue that impedes the establishment of any cemetery: feng shui. Feng shui, observed by Asian cultures for some 6,000 years, holds that the energy emanating from a cemetery is too negative and would be harmful to neighboring homes. From my private sector days, I know that Orange County is running short on cemetery space. During my time as a Supervisor, I have met with representatives of the Orange County Cemetery District, which is also looking for more acreage. I tried to help out. So I made a call to a representative of The Irvine Company on the topic of allocating more land for a cemetery. The response was a reference to the demographics of the city of Irvine. According to the City’s website, 39 percent of its residents are Asian. It’s not that no one has considered the need for more cemeteries, it’s that it should have been pursued decades ago. As the old Chinese proverb states: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.”

The other hurdle is the finances, which is why I opposed a “support” position for AB 1453. The Federal government has no money. And the state of California has no money, which explains why it has its hands in the County’s pockets, taking $73 million a year. I would gladly give 5 percent of it to an Orange County Veterans Cemetery in order to keep the 95 percent. So my third thought is if the city of Irvine can overcome the feng shui conundrum, and the State can return to the County its revenues, then the County can provide a facility within months, instead of decades. That’s why I proposed a “support, if amended” position. It would be better to actually deliver the dream for the veterans, instead of offering false hope of something somewhere out in the distant future for political expediency. The second half of the Chinese proverb states: “The second best time to plant a tree is now.” Senate Bill 89 took a portion of the County’s revenues away. The California Legislature could just as easily vote for a bill to restore these revenues. Proper ethics demands that Sacramento give Orange County its revenues back. And the Legislature can really deliver on a veterans cemetery as a bonus.

Veterans cemetery at the Great Park?

Irvine council has agreed to form a committee to explore the idea as ex-military members see relevance in the site’s former use as a Marine Corps air station.

By Jill Cowan

When American Legion Chaplain Bill Cook peered through the chain-link fence at the windswept landscape — stripes of concrete marking a scrubby field framed by dark green foothills in the distance — he remembered the Phantoms.

The fighter jets were once a regular sight, slicing the air over what was for decades a bustling military base, a place local servicemen and women have seen as a kind of home.

"The jets would just roar," he said on a recent afternoon at the former U.S. Marine Corps Air Station El Toro.

Now, Cook, a Vietnam veteran who lives in Mission Viejo, is leading the charge to transform a small piece of that land into a final resting place for Orange County’s veterans.

Although for Cook, building a veteran’s cemetery at what was a Marine Corps air station in Irvine has been a dream since the base closed in 1999, the idea is finally gathering steam as the site, a swath known as the Orange County Great Park whose fate has been contested and revised for years, is divvied up.

In January, Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton) introduced a bill that would ask the federal Department of Veterans Affairs for a grant to create a state-run Southern California Veterans Cemetery in Orange County.

And last month, as cities around the county registered their support for the bill, the Irvine City Council voted to form a committee tasked with exploring the possibility of making room for a cemetery in the park. The council is expected to begin forming that committee at its meeting Tuesday.

"Tonight, we should be making a strong, affirmative statement," Councilwoman Beth Krom said just before she cast her vote in favor of the plan at that March 11 meeting. "It’s land that is steeped in history that we have committed ourselves to preserve and to honor."

But like so many aspects of the park’s evolution, a seemingly simple idea with broad support is running up against the realities of developing some of the region’s most valuable real estate.

Among the obstacles the plan faces are bureaucracy and concerns about funding.

Earlier this month, the Orange County Board of Supervisors agreed to support the bill, but with board Chairman Shawn Nelson joking that he "refused to participate" in a politicized vote that pitted the county’s financial interests against veterans. Supervisor John Moorlach abstained, with strong reservations about whether government funding to keep up the site could be assured.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle of all, though, is that placing the cemetery in the park, nestled among planned tracts of new homes, is really, really bad feng shui.

STATE LEGISLATION

Starting in the early 1940s, soldiers worked and trained at El Toro before heading overseas. In its early days, the base was isolated among vast orange and avocado groves.

Slowly, however, as the high-end suburbs of South County spread, the planes found themselves roaring over homes and communities.

On a recent afternoon, silvery clouds hung in the empty sky, lending the park a chilly gray cast.

Pristine amenities, including the iconic orange orb of the Great Park Balloon, loomed silent. The Great Park carousel was almost eerie in its stillness.

"I want to do all I can to make sure this place maintains some of its Marine identity," said Bill Sandlin, a member of the Orange County Veterans Memorial Park Committee, a kind of grassroots organization that Cook convened to push for the cemetery.

"It never crossed my mind they’d close these places down," added Sandlin, a longtime Orange County resident whose job was to ferry people between El Toro and Camp Pendleton.

Members of the local veterans community say the former base would be the perfect site for a much-needed gathering place for those who’ve served and their loved ones.

Such a place is missing, they say, for the growing — and aging — population of veterans who live in Southern California.

While locals’ minds may jump to the sprawling Los Angeles National Cemetery in Westwood, it’s actually been closed to new burials for about 20 years, said Stephen Jorgensen, a California Department of Veterans Affairs official who oversees memorials and cemeteries.

While Riverside National Cemetery, which Jorgensen ran for more than a decade, is within the 75-mile radius that federal officials use to determine whether an area’s veterans are being served, he said Orange and Los Angeles counties are denser and residents must contend with potentially nightmarish transportation problems to visit loved ones.

In Orange and Los Angeles counties, he estimated, about 14,000 veterans die every year.

"I think it’s probably much underused by Los Angeles and Orange County," Jorgensen said. "I know we didn’t serve a lot of people out of those two counties even though Riverside is the most active veterans cemetery in the country."

The 980-acre cemetery handles more than 8,000 burials per year, he said.

So for members of Southern California’s military community, the next best option after a federal veterans cemetery is a state version.

Creating one requires state legislation, which in this case would be Quirk-Silva’s Assembly Bill 1453, and a suitable piece of property on which to build. While the state would have to pay for its operation and upkeep, the federal government could come through with a grant for its construction.

A proposal presented by Councilman Larry Agran to the Irvine City Council calls for the Southern California cemetery to be at least 100 acres, which is smaller than the state’s first veterans’ cemetery outside Redding.

That site, Jorgensen said, hosts about 600 burials per year.

An Orange County state veterans cemetery, Jorgensen said, would accommodate more once it’s complete. And it could end up being the busiest in the country.

Quirk-Silva, who chairs the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee, said her bill has earned bipartisan support and is moving quickly.

Still, the bill doesn’t designate a specific site in Orange County.

Getting a jurisdiction to commit the land could prove to be the hard part.

DEVELOPER’S VIEWPOINT

Emile Haddad, president and chief executive of development company FivePoint Communities, also has a vision for the Orange County Great Park and the areas surrounding it.

Neighbors will recognize one another on orange bikes as they cruise down cul de sacs of houses with shaded front porches and big, grassy backyards. Their children won’t have to go far to play on dozens of new sports fields and tennis courts.

The idea, Haddad said, gesturing to softly colored architectural renderings and giant maps hung in an office conference room, is to create a walkable community that harkens back to a kind of "Dennis the Menace" era.

In November, the Irvine City Council approved a controversial deal with FivePoint that allowed the developer to nearly double the number of homes it could build on the land it owns surrounding the park in exchange for the company spending $172 million to complete a major chunk of the park, which had languished as the recession took its toll.

It’s a public-private partnership that was strongly opposed by Irvine leaders, who had hoped that the Great Park would become a grand public space to rival New York’s Central Park.

FivePoint’s plan includes vast amounts of parkland, including trails, a golf course, a wildlife corridor and a sports complex that would be twice the size of Disneyland.

What it does not include is a cemetery.

Haddad stressed that, in the end, the decision about whether to pursue a veterans cemetery in the park is the city’s.

"The land is not my land," Haddad said.

Nevertheless, he said, it’s his job to make homes in FivePoint neighborhoods appealing to the people who want to buy them.

With most new home buyers coming from Asia, he said, developers around the Southland can’t afford not to cater to that market.

In Pavilion Park, for example, the first of several planned Great Park Neighborhoods surrounding the park, multigenerational homes, with in-law units and side entrances, are available.

Throughout the community’s development, he said, FivePoint has also consulted with a feng shui master, who helps ensure that houses and streets are designed to best allow the flow of energy according to the ancient Chinese practice.

While FivePoint declined to have its consultant speak with a reporter, Simona Mainini, a Beverly Hills-based feng shui master, said having a cemetery in the park could definitely lead to an "exponential" drop in property values.

Having houses for yang, or life force energy, and yin, which is the energy of the dead, in close proximity is a "major, major, major faux pas," according to feng shui teachings, she said.

And "the bigger the cemetery, the farther away it should be from the residential area," she said.

"Think about it even from a Western perspective," she said. "You don’t want to get up and look out your window at a cemetery, right?"

Haddad said FivePoint has "been extremely respectful of people who served on this base."

Trees from the base were boxed to be replanted, and a veterans’ memorial on the grounds is in the works.

And regardless, the company will continue to work with the city toward finding a place for the cemetery — be it at the park or elsewhere, he said.

Veterans, though, see the allotment of the space as a small price to pay to honor those who left from El Toro and never came back.

Cook and other members of the Orange County Veterans Memorial Park Committee have encouraged veterans to come to Tuesday’s meeting in uniform, with patches, ribbons and medals proudly displayed.

Disclaimer: You have been added to my MOORLACH UPDATE communication e-mail tree. In lieu of a weekly newsletter, you will receive occasional media updates, some with commentary to explain the situation, whenever I appear in the media (unless it is a duplication of a previous story).

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Good Friday — April 18, 2014

The Board of Supervisors is courteous to public speakers, almost to a fault (if you’ve ever watched one of our meetings and observed our regulars). But, one of the more “abrasive” public speakers sued the County and lost in Federal Court. Last night I was informed that the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals came to the same conclusion as that of Central District Judge James V. Selna, but for different reasons. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took on a client known for being a bully, on what I believe was a weak and inaccurate position, to somehow bully the Board of Supervisors in a new form and fashion back in September 2011 (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Sounding Off — September 9, 2011). Being affirmed on appeal makes this a good Friday for me, although it is a somber, reflective, and holy day for the Christian Church.

Most public speakers do not mind being asked a question by a Supervisor. Mr. Fitzgerald did not wish to be interrupted from his prepared speech when I tried to ask him a question. All I wanted to do is ask if he had seen the Internal Audit Department report prepared specifically to address the charges he had delivered during previous Board meetings about the Assessment Appeals Board. If he had not been aware of it, I wanted to hand him a copy (see http://ocgov.com/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?BlobID=5731). At one meeting, I felt compelled to take exception to Mr. Fitzgerald’s comparison of the Clerk of the Board, who oversees the Assessment Appeals Board, to a concentration camp commander. As my parents lived in Nazi-occupied Netherlands during World War II, I thought the statement could not be left hanging in the air without some response. Mr. Fitzgerald is free to say whatever he wants. So am I. And when his speech edges over to an inappropriate area, then I should be compelled to challenge such bullying behavior. I will always be perplexed as to why the Orange County ACLU took on this case and stole precious time from so many here at the County. It does not appear to have good leadership, as this is not the only curious move that the ACLU has made in recent memory. For an example, see MOORLACH UPDATE — Homeless Shelter — October 18, 2013, which also provides links to the prior UPDATES on William D. Fitzgerald v. Orange Count; Bill Campbell; John Moorlach; Janet Nguyen; James C. Pena, in their official and individual capacities. Let’s hope this frivolous litigation is behind us, as condemning bullying on school grounds is the fad, it seems odd for the ACLU to condone it for adults.

With that, may you have a wonderful Easter weekend.

Court says supervisors didn’t violate speech rights with interruptions

Anaheim man sued after his comments drew reactions at public meetings.

BY ERIC HARTLEY

A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that an Anaheim man’s First Amendment rights were not violated when his speech drew strong reactions at Orange County Board of Supervisors meetings.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also upheld a board rule barring “personal, impertinent, slanderous or profane remarks” at public meetings. But the court made its ruling “unpublished,” meaning it does not set precedent for future cases.

William D. Fitzgerald testified that he was intentionally “abrasive” when speaking before the board in 2010 and 2011, comparing the board clerk to a concentration camp commander and later using the phrase “cowardly Vietnamese” when discussing a redistricting proposal.

At both meetings, supervisors interrupted Fitzgerald and a sheriff’s deputy approached him, videos of the meetings showed.

But the appeals court wrote, “… the record shows that at both meetings, Fitzgerald departed the speaker’s podium of his own accord. Thus, he did not suffer injury at either meeting.”

Fitzgerald sued in federal court in 2011, saying his free-speech rights were violated. At a 2012 trial, he testified that the deputy ordered him to leave the building, but the deputy testified that the claim was untrue. A judge ruled against Fitzgerald following the trial.

The appeals court said the judge erred in ruling that Fitzgerald had no standing to challenge a board procedural rule that says people who make “personal, impertinent, slanderous or profane remarks” can be barred from speaking or removed from a meeting.

But because the county has said the rule would be enforced only if a speaker’s conduct actually disrupted a meeting, the appeals court found the rule constitutional.

Bardis Vakili, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who represented Fitzgerald, said he was pleased the county has agreed it can’t cut off speech simply because people criticize board members. Supervisor John M.W. Moorlach said no one on the board ever restricted Fitzgerald’s right to speak, but supervisors tried to ask him questions and respond to his offensive comments.

Contact the writer: ehartley or 949-229-5950

Disclaimer: You have been added to my MOORLACH UPDATE communication e-mail tree. In lieu of a weekly newsletter, you will receive occasional media updates, some with commentary to explain the situation, whenever I appear in the media (unless it is a duplication of a previous story).

I have two thoughts for you to consider: (1) my office does not usually issue press releases to get into the newspapers (only in rare cases); and (2) I do not write the articles, opinions or letters to the editor.

This message should appear at the bottom of every e-mail you receive. If these e-mails should stop arriving in your mail box, it will be because your address has changed and you did not provide a new one. If you do not wish to receive these e-mails, then please e-mail back and request to unsubscribe.

Posted in California

MOORLACH UPDATE — NAIA Champions — April 17, 2014

Let me wish you a pleasant Good Friday and Easter Weekend. After the Easter break, the Board of Supervisors will acknowledge Costa Mesa’s Vanguard University of Southern California Men’s Basketball Team for becoming the 2014 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division I National Champions (see Cammy.Danciu.

The Voice of OC continues its investigative reporting on the recent history of CalOptima. If you have not been following this topic, then linking to MOORLACH UPDATE — CalOptima’s Past — February 4, 2014 may help bring you up to speed. Once a new agency is created, it is a most awkward procedure to un-create it or for the Board of Supervisors to insert itself in its management. The expression, “letting the genie out of the bottle,” comes to mind. The Board of Supervisors created both CalOptima and the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) around the same time period, just prior to the County’s Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing in 1994. Now both organizations are garnering media attention for a variety of reasons. And there is a splash back on this Board of Supervisors. For OCFA, it has been the ambulance request for proposal process. For CalOptima, I have directed the County’s CEO to provide thorough information on the other two alternatives that are available to the County for its managed health care services. I have yet to receive this report.

County of Orange to Honor Vanguard University Men’s Basketball Team Champions

Orange County Board of Supervisors honors the Vanguard University men’s basketball team on their first-ever NAIA Division I basketball national championship win.

We are pleased to announce the Orange County Board of Supervisors will be honoring the Vanguard University men’s basketball team on their first-ever NAIA Division I basketball national championship. The hosted reception will be held Tuesday, April 29 at 8:45am, at the Hall of Administration in historic downtown Santa Ana. An award presentation will immediately follow at 9:30am.

Supervisor John M.W. Moorlach, and the County of Orange will honor the Vanguard University athletes with a congratulatory Proclamation for their role in this record-breaking season. In the program’s 64-year history, the 2013-14 Lions are the first squad to earn a Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) regular season and tournament crown in the same year. In addition, the Lions sit as the only team to advance past round two in national tournament play, and are now the all-time VU record holder for the most wins in a single season (32-6).

The Honorable John M. W. Moorlach, C.P.A., is the Second District Supervisor on the Orange County Board of Supervisors, representing the cities of Costa Mesa, Cypress, Huntington Beach, La Palma, Los Alamitos, Newport Beach, Seal Beach, Stanton, and a portion of Buena Park and Fountain Valley. The County of Orange offices, where Moorlach serves, is a regional service provider and planning agency whose core businesses include public safety, public health, environmental protection, regional planning, public assistance, social services and aviation.

The honorary event on April 29 is open to the public, as well as students, faculty, alumni, and parents, which make up the Vanguard University community.

Event Details:

Orange County Board of Supervisors Honorary Presentation
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
8:45am
Hall of Administration Building, 5th Floor, Conf Rm A
333 West Santa Ana Blvd, Santa Ana, CA

ABOUT VANGUARD LIONS

The Intercollegiate Athletic Program at Vanguard University is dedicated to the holistic growth and development of all student athletes, teaching them to lead Christ-centered lives on and off the field of competition. The program encourages a high standard of academic and athletic excellence that embraces character building. Along with the specific-sports instruction, the department seeks significance by providing the student athlete with the knowledge to impact his/her world through a lifetime of service to Christ.

The Vanguard Lions are leaders of character emulating Christ through faithfulness and selflessness, while passionately educating and influencing others to change the culture of sport. Learn more at http://www.vanguardlions.com.

ABOUT VANGUARD UNIVERSITY

Vanguard University (VU) is a regionally ranked, private, Christian university of liberal arts and professional studies. Located ten minutes from Newport Beach and an hour from Los Angeles, Vanguard equips students for a Spirit-empowered life of Christ-focused leadership and service. Vanguard is committed to academic excellence, boasting small class sizes that are designed to cultivate lasting professor-mentor relationships that enhance the learning process. The U.S. News & World Report ranked Vanguard a top 10 regional college in the west for 2014 and The Princeton Review ranked Vanguard a 2014 "Best in the West" regional college. Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), Vanguard offers more than 30 degrees and certificates through its undergraduate, graduate, and professional studies programs. Please visit http://www.vanguard.edu

CalOptima Leaders Shelved Critical Review

By TRACY WOOD

A comprehensive study of weaknesses at CalOptima, the county’s $1.5 billion health plan for low income residents, was quietly sidetracked two years ago by Supervisor Janet Nguyen and two of her board of directors allies.

The move killed a chance to fix at least some potential problems as much as a year before federal auditors discovered one of CalOptima’s programs posed a “serious threat to the health and safety” of participants.

According to meeting records and emails, Nguyen and CalOptima board Vice Chairman Lee Penrose, president and CEO of St. Jude Hospital in Fullerton, put off making a decision on which firm to hire. County Health Care Agency Director Mark Refowitz, who became board chairman during the process, didn’t act to ensure the work got done.

It wasn’t until May, 2013, more than a year after CalOptima received seven bids for the project, including proposals from some of the most prominent firms in the field, that the companies were told their bids would receive no action.

At the same time the three public officials were delaying awarding a contract for the operational review, they also shelved efforts to hire an outside general counsel to oversee in-house lawyers who had been labeled inexperienced and disruptive by an earlier investigation.

And, in spite of repeated requests, Refowitz and other CalOptima board officials never have explained publicly what happened to an anti-fraud board of directors ad hoc committee that was in place in 2012 when Refowitz took over as board chair.

Lack of fraud detection procedures was one of the major issues cited in the November, 2013, audit by the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services.

Nguyen, Refowitz and Penrose declined to be interviewed.

Nguyen, who is running for the state Senate this year, has raised more than $95,000 in campaign contributions from the health industry since joining the CalOptima board of directors in 2011. Before that, her medical industry political contributions totaled $15,000.

Secrecy vs. Openness

In January, 2012, Nguyen became angry at a CalOptima board meeting when then-CEO Richard Chambers proposed a thorough, public examination of CalOptima’s operations.

Chambers said he was acting to identify problems that were suggested in portions of a secret report to the CalOptima board of directors that was leaked out-of-context to the Orange County Register a month before, appearing to support Nguyen’s claims that there were serious problems inside CalOptima. In addition, he said he was moving ahead of implementation of the 2014 national Affordable Care Act, known politically as ObamaCare, which is adding thousands of new residents to CalOptima’s rolls.

By having public monthly reports on the investigation’s findings, any serious problems would have been out in the open. If Nguyen was wrong and there were no serious existing problems, that also would have been public.

What wasn’t made public until this year, when Voice of OC obtained a copy of the “final report” by the Costa Mesa law firm Theodora Oringher, was that its investigators determined in 2011 “we uncovered no flagrant misconduct by any CalOptima executive, no gifts of public funds, and no conduct that exposes CalOptima to immediate significant liability to regulators or third parties.”

But at the January, 2012, CalOptima board of directors meeting, Nguyen said she wanted the operational review done behind closed doors and she wanted to use Theodora Oringher, one of her campaign contributors, to privately advise the CalOptima board on what firm to hire to do the work.

Chambers proposed asking Deloitte & Touche to do the overall assessment and deliver monthly, public, reports on its findings. Deloitte is one of the nation’s largest auditing and financial advice firms and the company was then doing an internal audit of CalOptima. It also is one of the seven firms that later bid to do the operational review.

"I don’t know Deloitte," Nguyen said during the CalOptima board meeting. "Staff is now overstepping their boundaries."

But after going behind closed doors, the then-CalOptima board reconvened and voted unanimously—including Nguyen—to create a special, three-member board committee. That ad hoc committee would select an independent firm to do the comprehensive evaluation of CalOptima and "make it fully public."

The three-member committee was then-CalOptima board Chairman Ed Kacic, Nguyen and Penrose.

What is an Operational Review?

“Operational reviews” typically look at what sections of an organization should be doing, as well as what it is doing, to make sure it is carrying out its goals.

Among the areas that were intended to undergo scrutiny were the compliance department, health plan operations, procurement, governance and the troubled in-house legal department.

In a normal operational review, the investigation likely would have included how well vendors hired by CalOptima were working with patients and health professionals.

One serious weakness identified by federal auditors, for example, involved Philadelphia-based PerformRx, which manages all of CalOptima’s prescription drugs. CalOptima is responsible for ensuring the vendor correctly authorizes prescriptions, something that federal auditors said wasn’t being done well by the firm that had just won its contract in 2012.

Other areas spotlighted by federal auditors that likely would have been examined in the shelved operational review included whether appeals of medical and prescription decisions were properly handled. The auditors found numerous ways in which appeals by patients and providers were mishandled including failure to provide enough information and denying appeals without fully checking the issue.

Mark Nottley, head of Michigan-based Municipal Consulting Services, which conducts operational reviews or audits, but has no connection to CalOptima or Orange County government, said the goal of a well-done operational audit is to “look at all of the systems” and “be comprehensive.”

In some cases the review might find duplication of work or other “important things that can save you money.” But, he added, what is “really important” is to examine the work of vendors to ensure they are following contract requirements. “Bottom line, are they (government agencies) getting what they’re paying for.”

The seven bids to conduct the operation review were received by CalOptima as of April 9, 2012, according to CalOptima records and emails, and they were emailed to the three ad hoc committee members. One file was too large to email and was sent on a CD by regular mail.

Kacic, Nguyen and Penrose had scheduled weekly conference calls to discuss the operational review. Kacic emailed Nguyen and Penrose the evening of April 9 to set up a telephone conference call on April 18, in which the three would discuss their evaluations of the bids and prepare a recommendation for the full board on which firm to hire.

He also reminded them the proposals for an outside general counsel would be arriving within a few days.

Regarding the conference call, Nguyen emailed back that same night “That’s fine with me.” and Penrose replied shortly after 6 a.m. the next day “Works for me too. Thanks. Lee”

But an hour later, Penrose sent a second email to Nguyen and Kacic: “Just checked my calendar for next week. My day is pretty booked. Not sure that we have a meeting scheduled. Can we find a day/time that will work for all three of us? Lee”

No meeting could be arranged for April and at the May 3, 2012 board of directors meeting, the board suddenly went into closed session and Kacic said he was told by in-house lawyer Gary Crockett that he couldn’t attend the meeting. Crockett was one of the in-house lawyers who was going to be subject to the overall examination of the legal team. Kacic had opposed Nguyen’s restructuring of the CalOptima board the previous fall.

Terry Francke, an expert on California open meeting laws and general counsel to Californians Aware, said the CalOptima board on May 3, led by Nguyen, probably violated the state’s Brown Act because very little can be discussed behind closed doors. The public officials who serve on government boards aren’t allowed to discuss leadership positions, such as board chairman or vice chairman.

Even before the CalOptima board went into executive session, there were rumors in the meeting room that the new board would remove Kacic as chairman.

That didn’t happen right then, but after the closed session Kacic and then board Vice Chairman Jim McAleer left the room for a few minutes.

Noting their absence, Nguyen made an apparent joking reference to what happened in executive session.

“Oh, let’s vote them out,” said Nguyen to chuckles from other board members. “Second,” came the male voice of another board member.

Less than a week later, on May 8, again in closed session, the board did just that, replacing Kacic as chairman and naming Refowitz in his place.

McAleer resigned from the CalOptima board, sending Board of Supervisors Chairman John Moorlach a letter that said, in part, “I am concerned that the needs of those we serve are no longer our first priority. I have expressed concerns over what I perceive to be Brown Act violations in recent weeks to no avail, and continue to have reservations around that issue.”

Nguyen had been using an anonymous letter that was distributed by the local office of the Hospital Association of Southern California or HASC, a Nguyen political ally, in an attempt to discredit Kacic. The state Fair Political Practices Commission later determined the allegations in the letter weren’t accurate.

But once Kacic was out as board chairman, no further attempts were made to either award a contract for the public operational review, including the work of the in-house legal team, as well as issues that later were the focus of the federal audit.

A May 23, 2012 email from Kacic to Nguyen and Penrose said “We haven’t had any calls lately, and I was curious as to where we stand regarding the RFP review for interim outside general counsel and operations review. … I still have the standing Wednesday 10:30 AM call on my calendar, although we haven’t had the call in quite some time. Are we going to continue with calls? Are there plans for our ad hoc to discuss this? Bring a recommendation to the Board of Directors? Thank you.”

There was no response from Nguyen but Penrose said he had been busy. He also said he had talked to Refowitz about adding a lawyer to the ad hoc that was going to recommend an outside general counsel. Penrose suggested adding new CalOptima board member Steve Knoblock, a GOP activist and onetime aide to former Supervisor Larry Schmidt. Knoblock briefly was a member of the San Clemente city council, serving out the remainder of another council member’s term but he was defeated when he ran for election in 2008. He also served on the county Fire Authority board.

No outside general counsel ever has been hired to oversee the legal department, even though that was a strong recommendation of the Theodora Oringher report, and no outside review was performed of the legal department.

In January, 2013, Crockett began reporting directly to the current CalOptima board of directors. Before that, he reported directly to the CEO. Last year the CalOptima board also awarded Crockett a four percent raise, increasing his annual base pay to $214,240.

On Jun 15, 2012, then-CalOptima CEO Michael Engelhard sent an email to Nguyen, Penrose and Kacic reminding them the seven bids for the operational review were set to expire in three days, on June 18.

“Purchasing will amend the RFP and explain to the vendors that more time is needed to make a decision,” Engelhard wrote. “…. By June 26, we will advise you of the status of the current proposal, and if any vendors submit a new proposal it will be sent to you for your consideration.”

Kacic replied that he didn’t think it was a good idea to have to start all over again. Refowitz asked if the bids could be extended.

On June 18, Nguyen sent an email to Engelhard, Penrose and Kacic that said: “Mike, I just saw this email. I think this is an issue that should be discussed on their next conference call by the (ad hoc) committee to see if we should or not go forward with the rfp. Thank you for bringing it to our attention on the expiration date. Supervisor Nguyen”

A year passed.

On May 28, 2013, Mark Finch, the CalOptima purchasing manager, sent a letter to the seven firms that bid in April, 2012, on the operational review.

“Ladies/Gentlemen:…. This letter is official notice that RFP 12‐022 has been cancelled. CalOptima wishes to thank you for replying to the RFP and for agreeing to extend the validity of your bids through January 4, 2013. The CalOptima Board and CalOptima’s executive management team has decided that many of the tasks contemplated in the RFP will be addressed by CalOptima’s internal audit team (Deloitte). ….”

Please contact Tracy Wood directly at twood

Disclaimer: You have been added to my MOORLACH UPDATE communication e-mail tree. In lieu of a weekly newsletter, you will receive occasional media updates, some with commentary to explain the situation, whenever I appear in the media (unless it is a duplication of a previous story).

I have two thoughts for you to consider: (1) my office does not usually issue press releases to get into the newspapers (only in rare cases); and (2) I do not write the articles, opinions or letters to the editor.

This message should appear at the bottom of every e-mail you receive. If these e-mails should stop arriving in your mail box, it will be because your address has changed and you did not provide a new one. If you do not wish to receive these e-mails, then please e-mail back and request to unsubscribe.

Posted in California

MOORLACH UPDATE — Man of the Year — April 11, 2014

Shelley Henderson, editor and publisher of the Orange County Breeze, expands on my last UPDATE (see MOORLACH UPDATE — You’re Being Political — April 9, 2014), to make a fun announcement below. I will be recognized by the Cypress Chamber of Commerce as their 2014 Man of the Year. This is a very humbling honor. The dinner is scheduled for June 19th, and I would be honored if you are able to attend. Shelley will be recognized as the 2014 Woman of the Year, so I’m in very good company.

This gives me a QUASQUICENTENNIAL opportunity, as Cypress is a very special city in my life’s history.

Last evening, at the monthly meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, my wife, my parents and I listened to John Olson make his presentation “History of the City of Cypress.” If you get a chance to catch John Olson, please do so. His slides and narrative brought back so many memories. Cypress was my first home in California in 1960. We then resided in Bellflower for a brief time before moving onto my uncle’s dairy at 5352 Orange Avenue. The dairy would become a commercial center and a housing development. Directly across the street, the dairies would become the Cypress City Hall and Library. Here is a photo of the dairy residence that became the Cypress Police Department in the 1960s:

Here is another former neighbor’s residence that became the Cypress City Council Chambers in 1965:

My first, second and third grade school principal at Cypress Christian School (now the Crescent Avenue Church of the Nazarene on the corner of Walker and Crescent) was Ms. Wilhelmina Van Hunnick. She lived on her father’s dairy property on Valley View, directly across from Cypress College. See the photo below, taken in the 1950s.

At the right of the home is the dairy cow milking building and a service building. In my senior year of high school and freshman year of college timeframe, I worked for Trojan Drive-In Dairy. It had two locations, one on Lincoln, on the west side of the Post Office. The other was the Van Hunnick Dairy. I would wait for customers in the service building and the refrigerators were in the front of the dairy. Customers would use the U-shaped driveway to purchase their milk and other related groceries. Working next door to Ms. Van Hunnick kept me in touch with her at that time in my life. We would reconnect again a few years ago, shortly before she passed. And there is your Quasquicentennial moment, as we appreciate the history and people of Orange County.

BONUS: We’re planning another Saturday day hike for June 14th, from 9 a.m. to noon. We will meet at the Pacific Ridge Trailhead and hike toward the coast to El Morro. We may even do a picnic at our destination. Please e-mail your interest to Cammy.Danciu.

CORRECTION: Point 6 below is incorrect. It is not $1.7 billion, it’s $1.7 trillion!! I misread the financial report. Usually you drop the thousands, in the Federal Government’s case, you drop the millions! $1,763,614,000,000! (With a population of 314 million, that’s $5,616 owed by everyone in this nation!)

Supervisor Moorlach votes against “apple pie”

In his email newsletter yesterday, Second District Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach explained his no vote when the Board of Supervisors was asked to support AB 1453.

Introduced by Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (who represents Cypress and parts east), the bill “would require the [California Department of Veterans], in voluntary cooperation with the Orange County Board of Supervisors and city councils of other participating southern California cities, to design, develop, and construct a state-owned and state-operated Southern California Veterans Cemetery.”

Supervisor Moorlach’s explanation (appended below) is clear and well-reasoned.

I encourage everyone to read it. I wish only to add this: when a politician loudly points in one direction, you should always look at what your attention is being distracted from.

In this case, Assemblywoman Quirk-Silva is loudly and publicly supporting an “apple pie” issue in a district with a large conservative voter base, and is facing a strong conservative challenger. She wants those conservative voters remembering her push for a veteran’s cemetery in Orange County, not her votes on other issues:

Bill Number Description
AB 10 Raise state minimum wage yes
AB 60 Issue driver’s license to illegal immigrants yes
AB 48 Prohibit large-capacity magazines and large-capacity conversion kits yes
SB 4 Amends hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) laws yes
AB 4 Prohibits law enforcement from detaining individuals solely based on immigration status yes
AB 711 Prohibits lead ammunition for hunting yes
AB 154 Authorizes certain individuals to perform aspiration abortion procedures yes

(Voting record information courtesy of Vote Smart.)

Transparency disclaimer

I have not been shy about my pleasure at how Supervisor Moorlach has comported himself since he first attracted attention prior to Orange County declaring bankruptcy. I continue to be a big fan.

It is, therefore, with a huge amount of pleasure that I report that Supervisor Moorlach will be honored on June 19 at the annual business awards ceremony hosted by the Cypress Chamber of Commerce.

Supervisor Moorlach will be recognized as 2014 Man of the Year.

Union Bank of California (Cypress branch) will be recognized as 2014 Business of the Year.

Tim and Linda Keenan will be recognized for Lifetime Achievement.

And, much to my astonishment and great honor, I will be recognized as 2014 Woman of the Year.

Explanation by Supervisor Moorlach

The text below is taken from Supervisor Moorlach’s email newsletter. Introductory remarks and links are omitted.

The Board was asked to approve a “Support” position on Assembly Bill (AB) 1453, which was promoting a Veteran’s Cemetery in Orange County, specifically at the Great Park. You can’t find a bill more apple pie, God and country. But, when someone wraps themselves in the Flag, and provides a glimmer of hope to an extremely important segment of our community, the veterans, then don’t do it for self-aggrandizement. Do it for the right reasons.

The Bill would require the state Department of Veterans Affairs, through its Veterans Cemetery division, to apply for a grant from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs State Cemetery Grant Program. Admirable. But, let’s peel off the layers and see what we find.

1. California is in the worst financial shape that it has been in in its entire history. Below is a concise recap of the most recent Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the state of California, as of June 30, 2012 (as the June 30, 2013 CAFR has not been completed by the State’s outside independent auditors). California has more in booked debt than it does in assets. I say booked, as the unfunded liabilities for its defined benefit pension plans and retiree medical benefits are not on the books, which I’ve added in the second slide below. I don’t want to worry you too much, although you should be worried, but the net per capita deficit is twice that of Jefferson County, Alabama ($1,607), which filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy a couple of years ago. The state has no money to assist Orange County with a Veteran’s cemetery.

2. California only has two Veterans Cemeteries, only one is funded. It is in the unincorporated area of Igo, which has some 625 residents, and is 9 miles west of the city of Redding. The Northern California Veterans Cemetery was dedicated in December of 2005. A third cemetery, the Central California Coast Veterans Cemetery, to be located in Monterey County, is in the planning stage. It will complement the two closed National Cemeteries in San Francisco. This is a fledgling organization that is soliciting donations. I would not expect the state to be a strong funder of this agency or for the proposed Southern California Veterans Cemetery Master Development Fund.

3. Orange County is not excited about inviting state agencies into its borders. Recently, the state offered a $100 million grant to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department for a jail expansion through AB 900. When it became clear that it would be a state run penitentiary, we politely declined the funds. Once the state gave the County control over the funding to improve our existing facilities, manned by Deputy Sheriffs, then we gladly accepted the funding.

4. The main purpose of the California Veterans Cemetery program is to serve where National Cemeteries are inadequate. But, we have four National Cemeteries within driving distance, two in San Diego County, one in Riverside County, and one in Los Angeles County (which is now full). If you want a great day trip, I would recommend that you visit the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery on the Point Loma Peninsula. It is California Historical Landmark No. 55, which reads: “FORT ROSECRANS NATIONAL CEMETERY – A burial ground before 1847, this graveyard became an Army post cemetery in the 1860s. It is the final resting place for most who fell at San Pasqual in 1846, and for the USS Bennington victims of 1905. It became Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in 1934 and was placed under the Veterans Administration National Cemetery System in 1973. Over 50,000 who served the U.S. honorably in war and peace lie here.”

5. When you go to the National Cemetery Administration, you learn that only 39 states have a National Cemetery. Consequently, I’m not so sure that one could make the claim that our area is underserved.

6. A look at the Condensed Financial Statements for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs does not provide much comfort. The net financial position is a deficit of $1,721,321,000! Ironically, it is due to one line item in the Liabilities section of the balance sheet: “Federal Employee and Veterans Benefits Liabilities” of $1,763,614,000! Accordingly, there really isn’t much in the way of grant funding to be hopeful for. In fact, the income statement reflects an operating loss of some $223 million for the year ending September 30, 2012.

I would suggest to you that if the Great Park allotted the space for a Veterans Cemetery, that the funding and installation will not happen for a decade or two. There is no funding. And there is no compelling need.

I have visited a number of National Cemeteries in this country, including Civil War sites, and outside of this country, including the famous Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, as displayed in the recent movie “Saving Private Ryan.” I am a beneficiary of the sacrifice made by United States veterans with their liberation of Nazi-occupied Netherlands. My father-in-law was a veteran and was awarded the Purple Heart for injuries incurred during his service in western Europe. I just attended the funeral service of nearly life-long friend Walter Ehlers at the Riverside National Cemetery. I am pro-Veteran. However, I do not appreciate exploiting them for political purposes.

I made a very simple request to amend AB 1453, change it to “Support, if Amended.” Instead of giving our Orange County Veterans a pipe dream, let’s actually build, fund, and operate a Veterans Cemetery. Here was my proposal:

1. The State of California, through its Department of Finance, wants the County of Orange to pay it $150 million for what it stipulates are Vehicle License Fees (VLF). These funds are actually property tax revenues that were re-characterized as VLF. This is a money grab by Sacramento. The Bill should be modified to state that Orange County shall retain the $150 million if it contributes 5 percent ($7.5 million) to endow the cemetery on land contributed by the Great Park.

2. The State of California also wants the County of Orange to transfer $73 million per year out of the its General Fund to Sacramento. The Bill should be modified to allow Orange County to retain its rightful funds if it contributes 5 percent ($3.65 million) each year to underwrite the costs of the Veterans Cemetery. The Orange County Cemetery District has annual expenditures between $3 million and $3.2 million, so this funding should be adequate.

3. The Bill should be modified to have the Orange County Cemetery District as the lead agency to oversee the new Veterans Cemetery. This will eliminate duplicate administration and provided for a staff that is already experienced in running cemeteries in Orange County and can do it in conjunction with the requirements and internment policies established by the National Cemeteries.

4. The author of AB 1453 drafted the legislation that provided for the terms of Orange County’s surrender of the VLF funds to the State of California with AB 701. I would suggest that she do everyone a favor by righting a grievous wrong with the State’s money grab and obtain an immediate funding source to create a viable sanctuary for those who honorably served or will serve our nation in the future.

As I could not get a second for my motion, I voted against the recommendation to “Support” AB 1453. I see this bill as an exercise that rings hollow and smacks of grandstanding during silly season. Therefore, adopting a policy on a sphere of influence on what legislation the Board of Supervisors should take a position on in the future would be a helpful exercise.

Featured photo

Second District Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach riding in the 2012 La Palma Days Parade. Photo by C.E.H. Wiedel.

Disclaimer: You have been added to my MOORLACH UPDATE communication e-mail tree. In lieu of a weekly newsletter, you will receive occasional media updates, some with commentary to explain the situation, whenever I appear in the media (unless it is a duplication of a previous story).

I have two thoughts for you to consider: (1) my office does not usually issue press releases to get into the newspapers (only in rare cases); and (2) I do not write the articles, opinions or letters to the editor.

This message should appear at the bottom of every e-mail you receive. If these e-mails should stop arriving in your mail box, it will be because your address has changed and you did not provide a new one. If you do not wish to receive these e-mails, then please e-mail back and request to unsubscribe.

Posted in California

MOORLACH UPDATE — You’re Being Political — April 9, 2014

It’s campaign season, also known as silly season. Consequently, candidates will do anything to conjure up free (unearned) media to build name recognition with their constituents and voters at this critical moment in time. Sometimes the activities are legitimate and are misconstrued, which I believe happened to me twenty years ago this month. Here is an example from my April 10, 2009 LOOK BACKS:

1994

April 5

The Daily Pilot’s Russ Loar did a piece on my candidacy, titled “Moorlach plans to challenge Citron for county treasurer.” Here are some selected portions of the article:

It’s not a political contest expected to generate much excitement, but local accountant John Moorlach is doing his level best to make the sparks fly in the June 7 election battle for county treasurer.

Times are changing, interest rates are rising, and the aggressive, highly leveraged investment strategies of the county treasurer could lead to disaster, [Moorlach] says.

“He’s been a gambler and he’s been lucky,” says Moorlach. “When you leverage, either you win big or you lose big. This is high risk.”

I was accused by my opponents of being “political,” something that made me bristle then and still does today. But, you can clearly see, with the benefit of hindsight, that my claims were eerily accurate. I do not do something for the sake of grandstanding. If I’m vocal about an issue, it is because I believe strongly in my position. So, when “you’re being political” is thrown in my face, I simply request the accuser to get a new script. But, I get why they are frustrated. They, like myself, are not amused with political grandstanding. My dander rises when I see true grandstanding. This occurred at yesterday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

The Board was asked to approve a “Support” position on Assembly Bill (AB) 1453, which was promoting a Veteran’s Cemetery in Orange County, specifically at the Great Park. You can’t find a bill more apple pie, God and country. But, when someone wraps themselves in the Flag, and provides a glimmer of hope to an extremely important segment of our community, the veterans, then don’t do it for self-aggrandizement. Do it for the right reasons.

The Bill would require the state Department of Veterans Affairs, through its Veterans Cemetery division, to apply for a grant from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs State Cemetery Grant Program. Admirable. But, let’s peel off the layers and see what we find.

1. California is in the worst financial shape that it has been in in its entire history. Below is a concise recap of the most recent Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the state of California, as of June 30, 2012 (as the June 30, 2013 CAFR has not been completed by the State’s outside independent auditors). California has more in booked debt than it does in assets. I say booked, as the unfunded liabilities for its defined benefit pension plans and retiree medical benefits are not on the books, which I’ve added in the second slide below. I don’t want to worry you too much, although you should be worried, but the net per capita deficit is twice that of Jefferson County, Alabama ($1,607), which filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy a couple of years ago. The state has no money to assist Orange County with a Veteran’s cemetery.

2. California only has two Veterans Cemeteries, only one is funded. It is in the unincorporated area of Igo, which has some 625 residents, and is 9 miles west of the city of Redding. The Northern California Veterans Cemetery was dedicated in December of 2005. A third cemetery, the Central California Coast Veterans Cemetery, to be located in Monterey County, is in the planning stage. It will complement the two closed National Cemeteries in San Francisco. This is a fledgling organization that is soliciting donations. I would not expect the state to be a strong funder of this agency or for the proposed Southern California Veterans Cemetery Master Development Fund.

3. Orange County is not excited about inviting state agencies into its borders. Recently, the state offered a $100 million grant to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department for a jail expansion through AB 900. When it became clear that it would be a state run penitentiary, we politely declined the funds. Once the state gave the County control over the funding to improve our existing facilities, manned by Deputy Sheriffs, then we gladly accepted the funding.

4. The main purpose of the California Veterans Cemetery program is to serve where National Cemeteries are inadequate. But, we have four National Cemeteries within driving distance, two in San Diego County, one in Riverside County, and one in Los Angeles County (which is now full). If you want a great day trip, I would recommend that you visit the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery on the Point Loma Peninsula. It is California Historical Landmark No. 55, which reads: “FORT ROSECRANS NATIONAL CEMETERY – A burial ground before 1847, this graveyard became an Army post cemetery in the 1860s. It is the final resting place for most who fell at San Pasqual in 1846, and for the USS Bennington victims of 1905. It became Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in 1934 and was placed under the Veterans Administration National Cemetery System in 1973. Over 50,000 who served the U.S. honorably in war and peace lie here.”

5. When you go to the National Cemetery Administration, you learn that only 39 states have a National Cemetery. Consequently, I’m not so sure that one could make the claim that our area is underserved.

6. A look at the Condensed Financial Statements for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs does not provide much comfort. The net financial position is a deficit of $1,721,321,000! Ironically, it is due to one line item in the Liabilities section of the balance sheet: “Federal Employee and Veterans Benefits Liabilities” of $1,763,614,000! Accordingly, there really isn’t much in the way of grant funding to be hopeful for. In fact, the income statement reflects an operating loss of some $223 million for the year ending September 30, 2012.

I would suggest to you that if the Great Park allotted the space for a Veterans Cemetery, that the funding and installation will not happen for a decade or two. There is no funding. And there is no compelling need.

I have visited a number of National Cemeteries in this country, including Civil War sites, and outside of this country, including the famous Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, as displayed in the recent movie “Saving Private Ryan.” I am a beneficiary of the sacrifice made by United States veterans with their liberation of Nazi-occupied Netherlands. My father-in-law was a veteran and was awarded the Purple Heart for injuries incurred during his service in western Europe. I just attended the funeral service of nearly life-long friend Walter Ehlers at the Riverside National Cemetery. I am pro-Veteran (see MOORLACH UPDATE — OC Fair Christmas Present — December 20, 2013. MOORLACH UPDATE — Memorial Lanes — August 23, 2013, MOORLACH UPDATE — Memorial Gardens Building — July 10, 2013 and MOORLACH UPDATE — Preserving — July 8, 2013). However, I do not appreciate exploiting them for political purposes.

I made a very simple request to amend AB 1453, change it to “Support, if Amended.” Instead of giving our Orange County Veterans a pipe dream, let’s actually build, fund, and operate a Veterans Cemetery. Here was my proposal:

1. The State of California, through its Department of Finance, wants the County of Orange to pay it $150 million for what it stipulates are Vehicle License Fees (VLF). These funds are actually property tax revenues that were re-characterized as VLF. This is a money grab by Sacramento. The Bill should be modified to state that Orange County shall retain the $150 million if it contributes 5 percent ($7.5 million) to endow the cemetery on land contributed by the Great Park.

2. The State of California also wants the County of Orange to transfer $73 million per year out of the its General Fund to Sacramento. The Bill should be modified to allow Orange County to retain its rightful funds if it contributes 5 percent ($3.65 million) each year to underwrite the costs of the Veterans Cemetery. The Orange County Cemetery District has annual expenditures between $3 million and $3.2 million, so this funding should be adequate.

3. The Bill should be modified to have the Orange County Cemetery District as the lead agency to oversee the new Veterans Cemetery. This will eliminate duplicate administration and provided for a staff that is already experienced in running cemeteries in Orange County and can do it in conjunction with the requirements and internment policies established by the National Cemeteries.

4. The author of AB 1453 drafted the legislation that provided for the terms of Orange County’s surrender of the VLF funds to the State of California with AB 701. I would suggest that she do everyone a favor by righting a grievous wrong with the State’s money grab and obtain an immediate funding source to create a viable sanctuary for those who honorably served or will serve our nation in the future.

As I could not get a second for my motion, I voted against the recommendation to “Support” AB 1453. I see this bill as an exercise that rings hollow and smacks of grandstanding during silly season. Therefore, adopting a policy on a sphere of influence on what legislation the Board of Supervisors should take a position on in the future would be a helpful exercise. The Voice of OC provides its take in the first piece below.

The second piece from the Voice of OC provides an update on the ambulance RFP (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Special Attention — March 31, 2014, MOORLACH UPDATE — OCFA Study — March 26, 2014, and MOORLACH UPDATE — ALS/CCW/CCP/AOT — March 5, 2014). I opposed requesting an extension of time. The Health Care Agency’s staff has been working feverishly, under tight deadlines, to pursue this task, and they are on schedule and provided the RFP these last two Board meetings as a courtesy. Let’s move forward and step up to the challenge. If the State wants to allocate more time, then that is the State’s business and prerogative. In the meantime, after the State reviews the RFP, it will be released and our ambulance community is encouraged to provide competitive and professional responses.

Election Season Rears Its Head on Supervisors’ Dais

By NORBERTO SANTANA JR.

As California’s political season heats up, the county government’s legislative platform is at risk of getting politicized and Orange County supervisors are fighting back.

On Tuesday, Supervisor Janet Nguyen, who is running for State Senate in one of the state’s hottest races, attempted to get her Republican colleagues to take positions against one state bill seeking to expand affirmative action protections for students (Senate Constitutional Amendment 5) and federal legislation blocking Vietnamese officials from visiting the United States (House Res. 4254).

Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk Silva also drew protests from county supervisors for attempting to move a bill authorizing a veterans’ cemetery in Orange County.

Supervisors’ Chairman Shawn Nelson called out Quirk Silva’s efforts as political, given that he had already received political mail at this house regarding her veterans’ cemetery effort.

While these issues would seem like an easy vote for an all-Republican board of supervisors in one of America’s most Republican counties, board members balked on Tuesday.

In resisting Nguyen’s call for support of legislation on Tuesday, supervisors instead moved to place on the agenda a policy keeping the county’s official legislative platform separate from individual political campaigns.

The vote on affirmative action was delayed until Apr. 29. Meanwhile, the House resolution regarding Vietnamese official visits was endorsed 4-0, with Nelson abstaining.

Regarding Quirk Silva’s bill, supervisors voted 3-1 to support the bill, with Nelson refusing to register a vote. Supervisor John Moorlach voted no, saying he wanted to amend the bill to have the county’s ongoing $73-million tax dispute with the state resolved, which would provide stable funding for such a cemetery.

But the debates, especially on Nguyen’s request as part of the official county legislative platform, drew concerns.

“Why do I have to vote on this as a county supervisor?” asked Supervisor Todd Spitzer Tuesday from the dais about the affirmative action bill.

While Spitzer said he has consistently voted against the specific expansion of affirmative action being proposed nearly a dozen times, he doesn’t see why he had to consider that bill as a county supervisor in Orange County.

“What does this have to do with our legislative platform and county business?” Spizter said, warning his colleagues that, “if we’re going to get in the legislative review business, it’s very complicated.”

Nguyen fired back at Spitzer saying, “I don’t bring issues to the platform quite often” in reference to the two issues she put in front of supervisors this week.

“These are very important to the constituency that not only I represent but the county represents,” Nguyen said, reminding Spitzer that he himself has involved the county in victims’ rights, one of his key issues.

Fighting any kind of preferential treatment based on race or gender is very important to Nguyen, she said. “All children in Orange County should be treated equally.”

Nguyen said supervisors’ vote does matter.

“When we take a position on a bill like this, it does send a strong message: Everybody should be treated equally,” Nguyen said. “That’s why this is before us today.”

Ironically, the bill in question has been declared dead for this legislative year.

Yet Nelson, who has made timely meetings a public goal, backed Spitzer, saying “this has nothing to do with the county.”

Nelson said he does not want to see county supervisors “get dragged into everybody’s backyard fight,” saying “I was not elected to run the school system.”

That prompted Supervisor Moorlach to note, “maybe we need some kind of policy on what we cover.”

At present, the county’s legislative staff simply responds to supervisors’ desires when putting together the public legislative agenda for each public meeting.

Given Tuesday’s motions by Nguyen, Nelson responded, “We probably should get one, starting tomorrow” about separating the county legislative platform from individual supervisor’s campaigns.

Yet others see things differently.

Supervisor Pat Bates, who is running unopposed for a State Senate seat, backed Nguyen’s request.

“I don’t mind getting dragged into debates” that cut to “the core of the Constitution,” Bates said

“We have the bully pulpit,” Bates said about such debates, adding, “We can lend our voice.”

Her sense was simple: “Bring it to the board, it’s fine with me.”

Nguyen said she could support a new policy.

“If there is a new process, you want legislative items that each board member here wants to ask the board to support … I can go with that process,” she said.

Please contact Norberto Santana Jr. directly at nsantana and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/norbertosanana.

After Cities Complain, Ambulance Contracts Might Be Extended

By NICK GERDA

Local city officials moved a step closer Tuesday to getting the extra time they’ve been seeking to evaluate a controversial ambulance contracting process they claim is full of holes.

Following a litany of letters from concerned city leaders, Orange County supervisors agreed Tuesday during their weekly public meeting to seek state approval for a one-year extension of the current ambulance contracts, which expire Sept. 1.

The cities’ concerns “absolutely justify” requesting a one-year extension, said Supervisor Todd Spitzer.

Cities such as Irvine, Mission Viejo and Aliso Viejo recently warned that the proposed process fails to adequate explain how the evaluation panels will be selected and what the response time requirements will be, as well as eliminsating certain experience requirements for vendors, among other concerns.

At the same time, supervisors moved forward with seeking state approval of their request for proposals document or RFP, which is expected to be released to bidders on April 25.

Supervisors voted 4-1 to request a one-year extension and change the draft RFP to make ambulance contracts last five years with no extensions, as opposed to the staff-recommended three years with two one-year extensions.

They also voted unanimously to send the draft RFP to the state, with supervisors Pat Bates and Janet Nguyen opposing requirements that ambulance firms pay fees to cover new county software and staff to monitor.

Supervisor John Moorlach also opposed requiring ambulance providers to collect fees for Orange County Fire Authority paramedic service.

It remains to be seen whether the state Emergency Medical Services Authority will allow the contracts to be extended and if so, for how long.

“My guess is they’re putting pressure on us to come up with some solution to the issue but would not deny us if we” have a good basis for the extension, said Supervisor Pat Bates.

State EMSA officials hadn’t yet received the county’s extension request as of late Tuesday afternoon, according to a spokesman for the agency.

Since the RFP was released last month, more than 1,000 changes have been made to it, Spitzer said.

On the issue of the review panels’ composition, Spitzer said that language has been updated so that each panel will include representatives of cities, the county, a hospital, physician, first responders and 911 emergency responders.

It’s unclear whether cities will be satisfied by the new specifications.

Please contact Nick Gerda directly at ngerda and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

Disclaimer: You have been added to my MOORLACH UPDATE communication e-mail tree. In lieu of a weekly newsletter, you will receive occasional media updates, some with commentary to explain the situation, whenever I appear in the media (unless it is a duplication of a previous story).

I have two thoughts for you to consider: (1) my office does not usually issue press releases to get into the newspapers (only in rare cases); and (2) I do not write the articles, opinions or letters to the editor.

This message should appear at the bottom of every e-mail you receive. If these e-mails should stop arriving in your mail box, it will be because your address has changed and you did not provide a new one. If you do not wish to receive these e-mails, then please e-mail back and request to unsubscribe.

Posted in California

MOORLACH UPDATE — Distinguished Alumni — April 5, 2014

The Beach Connection, a publication for members of the California State University, Long Beach Alumni Association, in its Spring/Summer 2014 issue, made a fun announcement. I attended the Los Alamitos Chamber of Commerce monthly Networking Breakfast yesterday morning to listen to Janice Arrington, the Orange County Film Commissioner. One of my table mates said she was a Forty-Niner, a CSULB alumnus, and had just read that I was being recognized as a distinguished alumni in the newsletter she had just received in the mail. It is an honor to be recognized! I’m included with some others that you may know, including Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck and my former Treasurer’s Advisory Committee member Clyde Kendzierski. Clyde served me and the County with distinction for more than a dozen years and his wisdom, insight and knowledge were a valued contribution to the Treasurer’s office. I wish to thank good friend and CSULB Legal Studies of Business Professor Art Levine, Founder/Director of the CSULB Distinguished Speaker Series and host of the renowned cable program “Straight Talk” (more than 500 shows produced) for his involvement. And my sincere gratitude goes to Michael Solt, Dean of the College of Business Administration and Professor of Finance, for selecting me. Put May 8th on your calendar. I would be honored to have you at the dinner. This humbling news is provided in the first piece below.

The OC Register had a photographer present at yesterday morning’s Avenida La Pata extension groundbreaking ceremony in San Clemente. This extension over the Prima Deshecha Landfill has been a high priority project for me these past seven years, as South County needs another road, other than the Santa Ana (I-5) Freeway, to maneuver out of the area. A photo of the occasion is the second piece below.

The third piece below is a public service announcement concerning upcoming candidate forums in the Second District and is provided by the OC Register.

The CSULB Alumni Association is proud to announce the 2014 Distinguished Alumni. Nominated by their respective college deans, these recipients are recognized for distinction and leadership in their professions, communities and in our university. They will be honored at the Alumni Awards Banquet on May 8 at the Long Beach Hyatt Regency and at their respective college commencement ceremony in late May.

CSULB’s highest alumni honor, the Distinguished Alumni Award is bestowed

annually in each College by the CSULB Alumni Association. In addition to

demonstrated pride and positive affinity for CSULB, awardees have achieved a

record of distinction, recognition and accomplishment in their fields and a proven

record of leadership and service to their communities and society at large.

The CSULB Alumni Association is proud to acknowledge this year’s recipients.

2014 Alumni Awards Recipients:

College of the Arts

Karen Baker Landers
Two-time Academy Award winner for sound editing

Alumna, Film & Electronic Arts

College of Business Administration

John M. W. Moorlach
Supervisor, Second District, Orange County Board of Supervisors

1977, Bachelor of Science, Accountancy

College of Education

Patricia Ann Farber
Algebra Teacher, Desert Hills Unified School District (ret.)

1967, Bachelor of Arts, English
1983, Master of Arts, Educational Administration

College of Engineering

J.P. Wang
Founder & CEO, Golden Star Technology

1984, Master of Science, Electrical Engineering

College of Health and Human Services

Thomas Salerno
President & CEO St. Mary Medical Center

1980, Master of Public Administration

College of Health and Human Services

Charlie Beck
Chief of Police, Los Angeles Police Department

2007, Bachelor of Science, Occupational Studies

College of Liberal Arts

Nelson Farris
Sr. Director, Culture & Heritage, Global Talent Management, NIKE, Inc.

1969, Bachelor of Arts, Speech Communications

College of Liberal Arts

Clyde Kendzierski
Managing Director, Financial Solutions Group LLC

1969, Bachelor of Arts, Political Science
1972, Master of Arts, Economics.

College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics:

Jeffrey L. Stein
President & CEO, Trius Therapeutics. San Diego

1979, Bachelor of Science, Marine Biology
1983, Master of Science, Biology

For a full list of past recipients of Distinguished Alumni Awards

categorized by college, please click on the college banner below.

http://www.csulb.edu/alumni/distinguished/

Representatives of Orange County Public Works and other area officials kick off construction of the $73 million La Pata road extension that will link San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente. The extension is scheduled to be ready by fall 2016.

JOSHUA SUDOCK, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Feet to the Fire puts candidates on the hot seat

BARBARA VENEZIA

CONTRIBUTING COLUMNIST

It’s not often you see media outlets in Orange County working together on a project as the news business is so competitive.

But on April 17, the Orange County Register, Daily Pilot, which is owned by the Los Angeles Times, and the Voice of OC come together for the first of four Feet to the Fire political forums.

The first forum brings Assembly candidates running for the 74th District together to answer questions in a political talk show format on stage at the Costa Mesa Community Center, 1845 Park Ave, Costa Mesa.

And if you think an Assembly race that covers part of Irvine, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Laguna Woods and Costa Mesa doesn’t affect you because you don’t live there, think again.

Just look at what happened when Newport Beach decided to get rid of fire rings on its beaches. It sparked a countywide and statewide debate on the issue.

Among the candidates running for Assembly is Newport Councilman Keith Curry.

So is Huntington Beach Mayor Matt Harper, who opposed the removal of fire rings in his city.

At this Feet to the Fire, the media team of Register and Huntington Beach Current columnist Jack Wu, Daily Pilot Editor John Canalis, Editor-in-Chief of the Voice of OC Norberto Santana Jr. and I will be joined by Alicia Lopez from the Daily Pilot.

I’ll be moderator again and have already dug out my leather flamed pants for the occasion, which have oddly become a signature of the events.

Feet to the Fire started in 2010 as an alternative to the boring candidate forums. Let’s face it, just the words – local politics – makes most folks’ eyes glaze over.

Not here.

The discussion is lively and fast moving. Candidates need to think on their feet, and they aren’t pre-fed questions they can rehearse.

It’s off-the cuff conversation at its best.

You never know what will come out of someone’s mouth, which is what makes Feet to the Fire so interesting.

It’s also a chance to experience, live and in person, the journalists you love – or love to hate – as they jump off the printed pages and online screens doing what they do best – asking tough questions.

As producer of the event, I’ve been busy arranging the location for the shows, technical aspects and media coverage.

Coordinating candidates falls on the shoulders of longtime local journalist Roger Bloom.

In the past, we’ve held one or two a political season. But we all agreed 2014 is an important election year.

Those we elect to the Assembly, city councils and Board of Supervisors have the greatest impact on what happens right outside our front doors and directly affect our quality of life.

Soon we’ll all be bombarded with political literature stuffing our mailboxes and inboxes. But until you’ve seen candidates hold their own among their competitors, you don’t have the whole picture of who they are and what they’re made of.

This is why Feet to the Fire has found such a strong voice on the local political scene.

We can no longer pay attention only to what happens in our own neighborhoods. It’s all about looking at the bigger picture.

Take what happened in Costa Mesa a few years ago, for example.

When city leaders there handed out pink slips to more than half their city staff, the discussion about pensions and unfunded liabilities took off like wildfire not only in that city but across the county.

This year, Feet to the Fire starts with our state Assembly race.

Then on April 28, we gather candidates looking to replace Supervisor John ‍Moorlach, who is terming out.

On that panel, we welcome Gustavo Arellano, editor of the OC Weekly, adding some crazy fun into the mix.

Sept. 18 Feet to the Fire moves from the Costa Mesa Community Center to Orange Coast College’s Robert B. Moore Theatre. There, we’ll talk with candidates running for Costa Mesa City Council.

And Oct. 1 we move to the Newport Beach Oasis Senior Center’s stage for the Newport council race candidates.

It would be nice to have a Feet to the Fire forum in every city. Maybe someday.

But for now, I have my plate full and a limited wardrobe of flame-themed clothing.

Information: feet2thefireforum.com  .

CONTACT THE WRITER: bvontv@gmail.com  

Feet to the Fire forums

Doors open 6:30 p.m. Forums are from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

April 17: 74th District Assembly race candidates at the Costa Mesa Community Center, 1845 Park Ave., Costa Mesa

April 28: 2nd District supervisor candidates at the Costa Mesa Community Center, 1845 Park Ave., Costa Mesa

Sept 18: Costa Mesa City Council candidates at Orange Coast College, 2701 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa

Oct. 1: Newport Beach City Council candidates at the Oasis Senior Center, 801 Narcissus Ave., Newport Beach

Disclaimer: You have been added to my MOORLACH UPDATE communication e-mail tree. In lieu of a weekly newsletter, you will receive occasional media updates, some with commentary to explain the situation, whenever I appear in the media (unless it is a duplication of a previous story).

I have two thoughts for you to consider: (1) my office does not usually issue press releases to get into the newspapers (only in rare cases); and (2) I do not write the articles, opinions or letters to the editor.

This message should appear at the bottom of every e-mail you receive. If these e-mails should stop arriving in your mail box, it will be because your address has changed and you did not provide a new one. If you do not wish to receive these e-mails, then please e-mail back and request to unsubscribe.

Posted in California

MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — Ballot Designation — April 2, 2014

Although I am no longer a candidate, I still am in the news for campaign related stories. As I am not permitted to send out UPDATES on campaign subject matter from my regular UPDATE account at the County, I can at least provide some insights from my personal account.

Thank you for your support and encouragement. When I start something, I usually finish it. So pulling out of the 45th Congressional race was difficult for me. I am still going through the various stages of grief. I have been catching up at the office these past few weeks, closing down my Congressional campaign, and spending more time with my patient wife. We’ve even been spotted at the local theater, catching a current movie.

The Daily Pilot covers an interesting topic in their piece below. One wonders if one of the candidates seeking to replace me is embarrassed about her current elected position. I would think that most of us are taxpayer advocates, a title which seems rather trite. Why not proudly state your current position? In my practice days, if you were not a partner, you were an employee. And if you’re an employee, you’re not technically a business person. But, if we stretch it a tad, I guess everyone who is employed is a business person. But why be so vague? It makes one ask, "What else is being white washed or papered over?" How about residency? Or at least the length of residency in the County of Orange? It seems odd to me that someone from Los Angeles County is running for an Orange County Supervisorial seat. I don’t know if Assemblyman Allan Mansoor did the SBOE member a favor or not, but the County’s outstanding Registrar of Voters should demand more clarity and discourage the use of euphemisms. The Judge got this one right, but it was an easy call to make.

Judge: Steel must change ballot designation

Mansoor wins challenge to opponent in race for O.C. supervisor.

By Jill Cowan

In a win for her opponent, Orange County Board of Supervisors candidate Michelle Steel will have to change her official occupation from "taxpayer advocate/businesswoman" to "Board of Equalization member" on the ballot, a judge has ruled.

Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa), who is running against Steel for the Board of Supervisors’ 2nd District seat, had alleged in a lawsuit that the Surfside resident’s chosen ballot designation was misleading.

Steel’s role on the state Board of Equalization, which is tasked with considering tax appeals, is "quasi-judicial," the suit alleged, and that is her main job.

According to a court order dated March 25, Orange County Superior Court Judge Franz E. Miller agreed.

In addition to the change in Steel’s ballot designation, which is the job title listed alongside candidates’ names, the document ordered that a reference to Steel’s status as a business owner be deleted from her candidate statement.

Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley, who earlier declined a request by Mansoor to require Steel to drop the "taxpayer advocate/businesswoman" tags, said Friday that his office has already made the ordered changes.

Kelley and Steel were the named respondents in the suit.

Mansoor called the decision a "great victory."

"Deep down, I knew that the truth would come out, and we’re glad with the outcome," he said Friday.

Dave Gilliard, a campaign consultant for Steel, said, "We think the judge got it wrong."

Steel, he said, is known on the Board of Equalization as an advocate for taxpayers when disputes arise. He added that she is the controller of husband Shawn Steel’s law firm, which should allow her to use the title "businesswoman."

Going forward, though, Gilliard said, "It’s not a big enough issue to worry about" to warrant further action.

"She’s got plenty of opportunity to tell voters about her background and her history," he said, "and we’re confident when they see that, they’ll be receptive."

Steel’s Twitter moniker is still @TaxFighterSteel.

She and Mansoor are vying to replace Supervisor John Moorlach, who will be termed out of the board’s District 2 seat, representing parts of Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, among other cities.

Joe Carchio, Huntington Beach city councilman and retired business owner, and Jim Moreno, governing board member of the Coast Community College District, are also running.

The statewide primary election will be held June 3.

This is being sent from my personal account. If you no longer wish to receive occasional UPDATES, feel free to let me know.

Posted in California

MOORLACH UPDATE — Special Attention — March 31, 2014

In the first piece below, the Insurance News Net picks up a story from the OC Register’s wire service on the ambulance fee topic (see MOORLACH UPDATE — OCFA Study — March 26, 2014). This subject will be addressed during tomorrow’s Board meeting, under Supplemental Item S24A, where we will be able to provide recommendations for the draft Request for Proposal (RFP) for Basic Life Support (BLS) Emergency Ambulance Transport. The final draft of the RFP will come before the Board next week. It then goes to the California Emergency Medical Services Authority for its final review before the RFP is released for responsive bids. If this topic is of interest to you, then go to http://www.ocgov.com/gov/bos/agenda/ for the agenda information and feel welcome to attend tomorrow morning’s Board meeting.

Happy Fourth Birthday to the Voice of OC, which commemorates the occasion with a puff piece on achieving this milestone. I usually just provide responses orally, but I was permitted to respond to the topic with an e-mail. Along with some praise, I also included some broad critical observations, which were hinted at, but not included in the second piece below.

BONUS: April 10th is approaching. For those who own real estate in Orange County, your second property tax payment will be due on or before next Thursday.

County’s special-attention ambulance fee will continue

By Martin Wisckol, The Orange County Register
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

An extra ambulance fee charged to those needing special paramedic attention will continue in its current form under new contracts between the Orange County Fire Authority and private ambulance providers, county supervisors decided in 3-2 vote Tuesday.

In addition to the transport fees users pay to the ambulance companies, those needing "advanced life support" — often people in life-threatening medical situations — pay an additional fee of nearly $400. That money is forwarded by the ambulance companies to the fire authority for providing paramedics’ aid and adds $4.5 million to OCFA coffers annually.

Supervisors are preparing to rebid the ambulance contracts for the 19 cities served by the fire authority and voted to continue the additional fee over the objections of two board members.

Shawn Nelson, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, wanted to eliminate the Advanced Life Support fee altogether. He argued that there are no extra personnel costs to the fire authority when paramedics go on a call; those paramedics are getting paid the same wage to sit in the fire station when there are no calls.

Supervisor John Moorlach wasn’t as ardent in opposing the fee completely, but also voted against continuing the collection in its current form. He noted that taxpayers already are covering the cost of paramedics.

"It seems like you’re double charging the public," he said after the meeting.

An option backed by Nelson and Moorlach would have required the fire authority to bill ambulance users directly if they wanted to continue to collect the fee, which is $387 in most of the cities served.

The approved plan to continue the current practice, in which the ambulance companies add the fee to their bill and then forward the money to the fire authority, won the support of Supervisors Janet Nguyen, Todd Spitzer and Pat Bates.

Bates said that the plan supported by Nelson and Moorlach was cumbersome and inefficient.

"It’s too much bureaucracy that increases costs," she said.

OCFA officials say the funding is used to help pay for the additional time and medical supplies required on advanced life support calls, and that without the money the agency would have a budget deficit.

In other action, the board unanimously approved a 15-month contract with the 12,000 employees represented by the Orange County Employees Association. The previously negotiated deal will give workers a 1.25 percent raise and a 1.25 percent one-time bonus, but will require employees to pay a larger share of their health insurance costs.

Voice of OC Hits 4th Anniversary

THE EDITORS

Four years ago this morning, Voice of OC went live.

The premise remains simple.

Faced with a continued decay of civic coverage from mainstream media outlets besieged by budget cuts, local communities can better hold their own government leaders accountable by ensuring robust city hall coverage through a public trust.

Over the past decade, more than 75 independent non-profit investigative news agencies have sprouted up across America with the aim of providing hard-nosed, real-time coverage of the civic issues that matter most.

ProPublica remains the best known, and most successful non-profit newsroom in the nation, already being recognized with several Pulitzer Prizes and a multi-million dollar budget.

Non-profit newsrooms like Voice of San Diego and MinnPost also remain leaders in the field.

In Orange County, Voice of OC was launched by a group of local investigative journalists and attorneys in the spring of 2010 around the idea that great civic coverage – combining the best of CSPAN and 60 Minutes’ approach – produces the best policy outcomes for residents.

It’s an idea that first found a receptive ear at the local labor union, the Orange County Employees Association – a seed funder that has since become a regular contributor.

Since then, a host of foundations such as the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Ethics and Excellence in Journalism, the Orange County Community Foundation and The California Endowment have all joined in the effort to support tough investigative journalism at the local level.

In addition to foundation support and private donors like Board Chairman Wylie Aitken, Voice of OC also has garnered multiple awards from the Orange County Press Club and attracted solid media partners like PBS SoCal, the Associated Press and the California Newspaper Publishers Association.

The Voice of OC newsroom stands for professional and probing coverage – featuring institutional knowledge and perspective – at the local level that is provided through a cost-effective non-profit model deploying investigative reporters across the region on a daily basis with an eye toward exposes on local government and politics.

Voice of OC’s newsroom also focuses intensively on community health – in essence asking the question, what produces healthier neighborhoods?

Whether it’s delving into urban bike safety or covering mismanagement at large public health agencies like CalOptima, Voice of OC reporters and editors have honed a specialty over the past four years holding the largest countywide agencies transparent, accountable and responsive on the toughest social service and health care issues.

In addition, the newsroom now features a vibrant youth media program with a special focus on central Orange County. And the Opinion page now features nearly 40 community leaders and activists who collectively make up the “Community Editorial Board,” many of whom regularly write Op-Eds on local issues and help host discussion forums.

The idea remains to offer residents as much useable information about their local city halls as they get about their local professional sports franchise, with the aim of fueling participation and debate.

Whether it’s jockeying over the future of Orange County’s fairgrounds, government outsourcing, public pensions, stadium and convention center expansions, government whistle blowers, district elections in Anaheim or Santa Ana’s future, all sides have come to expect impactful coverage from the Voice of OC newsroom.

Here’s a link to our most popular stories from 2012 and 2013.

Our online readership has more than doubled in the last year, climbing to nearly 60,000 unique visitors a month – enough to fill Angel Stadium.

We’re even more popular on social media with a 146-percent growth in Facebook fans over the last year.

Yet it’s not just how many people are reading the exposés, but who.

According to our own web records, the FBI checks our site several times each week.

Indeed, computers from the FBI’s criminal justice information system represent one of our biggest institutional jumps in readership – up 513 percent from last year.

Readership from the California State Senate also grew by just over 500 percent.

According to our web data, other large growth in readership came from UC Irvine and Chapman University, along with the Orange County Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Justice, the county governments of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino, and Orange County Superior Court.

Voice of OC coverage attracts a variety of reactions from across the political spectrum.

"It’s a breath of fresh air to have an online newspaper that investigates local events," said Democratic State Senator Lou Correa, especially in "this era of budget cuts, in this era of newspapers going out of business" and with cuts "devastating" investigative news resources.

"I think it’s critical for democracy, critical for the policy makers," Correa said.

Orange County Supervisors’ Chairman Shawn Nelson, a Republican, said he is often frustrated by manufactured “gotcha” stories from local media and wants appreciates having more heft as a policy maker.

“I love it when you guys are digging in and getting the stories nobody else has the time to get,” Nelson said.

“I like when there’s more analysis. You guys get good info because you’re around. People run into you guys, you’re around.”

County Supervisor John Moorlach said he isn’t always a fan of Voice of OC coverage but appreciates the model.

The investigative newsroom “has provided their unique journalistic flair. With a no-fear attitude, it has done a good job of branding itself and has developed a reputation as a no-holds-barred reporting entity,” Moorlach said.

Moorlach – a Republican best known for predicting the 1994 Orange County municipal bankruptcy – wished the newsroom well on its anniversary, saying “as they strive for excellence, for unbiased coverage, and for a devotion to the Journalist’s Creed, may they have many more years as a leader in this new journalistic format.”

City leaders also said the Voice of OC model has had a real impact on Santa Ana.

“It has made city politics, city issues into water cooler conversation,” said Santa Ana City Councilman Sal Tinajero, an Orange County Democrat who also leads a high school debate team at Fullerton Union High School.

Tinajero says he appreciates the Voice of OC model because it highlights that “major events are what you see the minute you open your door outside your house.”

And that approach has made a real difference in changing city hall, he added.

“What the Voice [of OC] did is create a more transparent system,” Tinajero said. “It forced cities to be more transparent, because if you weren’t they were going to call you on it. It forces our government agencies to be more transparent and to really re-think what procedures they’re going to use to make sure there’s fairness.”

Santa Ana City Councilman David Benavides, a Democrat who ran for mayor in 2012, agreed that the agency’s coverage has been impactful.

“Honestly it keeps us on our toes,” Benavides said. Sometimes it is a little nerve-wracking. We know we’re already under the microscope, but when there’s a reporting agency who makes it their mission to scrutinize even more what local government and elected [officials] are doing, it gives us reason for pause and worry a bit what might be reported on individuals and our city."

"But at the end of a day, when I’m looking at it impartially and not from a personal perspective, there’s a public gain in knowing there are reporters looking into what we’re doing.”

“I think I’ll enjoy it more when I’m not a public official,” Benavides said.

Disclaimer: You have been added to my MOORLACH UPDATE communication e-mail tree. In lieu of a weekly newsletter, you will receive occasional media updates, some with commentary to explain the situation, whenever I appear in the media (unless it is a duplication of a previous story).

I have two thoughts for you to consider: (1) my office does not usually issue press releases to get into the newspapers (only in rare cases); and (2) I do not write the articles, opinions or letters to the editor.

This message should appear at the bottom of every e-mail you receive. If these e-mails should stop arriving in your mail box, it will be because your address has changed and you did not provide a new one. If you do not wish to receive these e-mails, then please e-mail back and request to unsubscribe.

Posted in California

MOORLACH UPDATE — OCFA Study — March 26, 2014

The Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) was a department of the County of Orange. The Orange County Board of Supervisors voted to separate it from the County on December 6, 1994, roughly an hour before the Board voted to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection. With two decades of history to review, the question is whether letting this organization go out on its own was a good decision. Has the OCFA managed itself properly and is it a model for others to emulate or is it caught in a time warp and still operating on a centuries-old model?

The 2011-12 Orange County Grand Jury took on this topic with their report, titled “Emergency Medical Response in Orange County – Where did all the ‘fires’ go? Long time passing (with apologies to Pete Seeger),” see http://www.ocgrandjury.org/pdfs/emergmedresponse/emergmedresponse.pdf. Here is the Summary of the report, provided in the opening three paragraphs:

During the last forty years, the role of local fire departments has changed. The services have changed from fire prevention to medical emergency responses. In earlier days, the fire departments were predominantly staffed with fire fighters with their fire trucks, but now these departments include paramedics and emergency medical technicians as part of the crews that respond to the calls. Today medical emergency calls account for at least 70 percent of fire departments emergency dispatches. The low percentage of fire emergencies, i.e., less than two percent in the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) alone, is attributed to improved building codes, more alarm devices, fire suppression systems, stricter code enforcement, and perhaps greater public awareness.

This transition from fire emergencies to medical emergencies has not generated major changes in the operation model for responding to these emergencies. Each emergency call generally results in both fire trucks and ambulances being dispatched to the site of the emergency regardless of the type of emergency. The emergency response communities have discussed developing new models, but little change has been accomplished. While the Orange County Emergency Medical Services (OCEMS) sets the medical standards and protocols for both non-emergencies and emergencies. The fire departments handle the actual operations.

The2011-2012 Orange County Grand Jury concluded that the current emergency response models should be re-evaluated by independent outside consultants. This re-evaluation should consider the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the economics and operations of both the OCFA and city fire department’s emergency response models. This Grand Jury recommends that these studies be completed and made public by July 31, 2013.

For another great study on the topic, go to http://www.scscourt.org/mwg-internal/de5fs23hu73ds/progress?id=9NvAn0gyNp. The 2010-2011 Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury did an excellent report. The opening sentence is priceless: “With police and fire department expenses constituting the majority share of city budgets, the public may well wonder what public services will be left if these agencies remain entrenched in old service and old cost structures.”

I don’t recall that the Grand Jury’s request, to have an overall analysis, was provided on July 31st of last year. And I’m not optimistic that we’ll see one by July 31, 2019. And if we did, I’m less optimistic that it will be implemented. I do not serve on the OCFA Board of Directors, but I have John Wayne Airport (JWA) in my District. I know that OCFA was strongly opposed to reducing the number of firefighters on the night crew, arguing that it should be staffed at the same levels as the day crew. JWA has a curfew and does not accept commercial flight arrivals from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. (8 a.m. on Sundays). I also know that when JWA went out for bid, a private sector proposal would save the airport $10 million over a five-year period (see recent postings in MOORLACH UPDATE — Joy of Competition — August 8, 2013, MOORLACH UPDATE — Voice of OC — November 26, 2012, MOORLACH UPDATE — Voice of OC — November 1, 2012, and MOORLACH UPDATE — JWA Firefighters — November 23, 2011). It prompted OCFA to submit a bid that was lower than its current contract. It also motivated OCFA to threaten litigation, arguing that it cannot be outsourced. This premise is not accurate, but the courts are an unreliable venue for making proper rulings, and does give an excuse to maintain the current model.

There have been other awkward stories emanating from OCFA. Firefighters rigging seat belt alarms. Charging businesses for hazardous material inspections that never occurred. What I see of OCFA is not encouraging. Its model is antiquated, expensive, and fraught with complacency.

We all pay property taxes, directly or indirectly, and we expect public safety services for our “contributions.” To be billed by a public safety agency in our hour of need is insulting. It’s a tax. And it’s needed by OCFA because the organization is in need of additional revenues in order to pay for its high personnel costs. I have been harping on the increase of costs due to the enhancement of defined benefit pension plan formulas, retroactive to the date of hire, for more than a dozen years. These costs have now manifested themselves and it has created a critical reason to re-evaluate fire services. The fact that the city of Irvine has found a disturbing flaw in the property tax revenue allocation component of OCFA’s funding is another important reason for a study. And that private citizens on Grand Juries are blatantly aware of the need for structural changes should be evidence enough to pursue them.

The Board has discussed this matter earlier this month, see MOORLACH UPDATE — ALS/CCW/CCP/AOT — March 5, 2014. We saw OCFA bungle the ambulance RFP process, see MOORLACH UPDATE — Twitter Musick — October 9, 2013. The Board showed restraint, but the State of California did not, and transferred the RFP process back to the County. Now that it is in the County’s wheelhouse, it’s time to perform the study that needs to be done. Especially when one ponders that 69 percent of firefighters in the United States are volunteers. This is a very complex and multi-layered topic. But if OCFA and local fire departments can be improved and be more cost efficient, then those modifications must be made. Our constituents deserve a better model. And Orange County is the best place on the planet to show how it can be done.

BONUS: Congratulations to Vanguard University of Southern California, which won its first National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Men’s Division I Basketball National Championship last night!

Mission Viejo

Supes Decide to Pass Along Cost of Paramedics to Residents who Call for Them

The Orange County Fire Authority’s fee amounts to about $300 for a resident requiring "advanced-level life support," which includes an ambulance and a paramedic.

Posted by Penny Arévalo (Editor)

The Board of Supervisors today gave the Orange County Fire Authority the go-ahead to pass along expenses for paramedic services to residents who call for an ambulance.

The board vote was 3-2, with Chairman Shawn Nelson and Supervisor John Moorlach casting the dissenting votes.

The Orange County Fire Authority’s fee amounts to about $300 for a resident requiring "advanced-level life support," which includes an ambulance and a paramedic. The fee is included in the bill residents get for ambulance service.

Nelson and Moorlach favored another plan that would compel firefighters to collect the fee on their own.

Supervisor Patricia Bates said the plan backed by Nelson and Moorlach would generate "a burden of paperwork," which could boost administrative fees.

Nelson and Moorlach said the fee amounts to "double taxation" since the fire authority receives property taxes that should cover the cost of ambulance service.

"You’re paying these (paramedics) the same whether they go on a run or not, so why charge a taxpayer for their time?," Moorlach said after today’s board meeting.

"Is it really a justified fee? Therefore, if you want to charge for it then charge it separately," Moorlach said. "The whole (funding) model needs to be reevaluated, but you’ve got a firefighters union that’s resistant to making any changes."

According to Nelson, firefighters don’t usually spend much time battling blazes these days. Mostly, they are responding to medical calls and traffic crashes, the chairman said.

Authority officials compare the fee to the extra charges that come with specialized services such as from a planning department in some cities. The fee covers the ongoing costs of training and certifying the authority’s paramedics, said Lori Zeller, the OCFA’s assistant chief of business services.

One issue that remains unresolved is a proposal to reduce the number of contracts for ambulance service from 19 to five. The supervisors will likely decide that issue in April, Zeller said.

Nineteen cities in the county contract with the OCFA for ambulance service, but officials want to reduce the number of contracts to five and have the service handled regionally instead of city-by-city. They say it will drive down costs.

The OCFA’s contracts with ambulance companies expire Aug. 31, Zeller said. A request-for-proposal process takes about four weeks, but officials want enough time to handle appeals and in some cases a transition period if a new company wins a bid, Zeller said.

Ambulance service in the county costs residents less than most other counties throughout the state, officials said.

The most expensive last year was in Butte County, where residents are charged $2,399 for advanced-level service. Orange County charges $1,096.82. Fresno’s rate is the cheapest at $913.88.

–City News Service

Supervisors Call for Comprehensive Review of Fire Authority

By NICK GERDA

Two Orange County supervisors on Tuesday called for a comprehensive discussion about how the countywide fire agency is funded and delivers services, just as county leaders move toward issuing a new bid request for ambulance providers.

“We should lead that discussion,” Supervisor Todd Spitzer said during a discussion about paramedic fees.

“I think we need to understand what the potential future of the [Orange County] Fire Authority is, and what it would mean to Orange County” if Irvine leaves the Fire Authority and the agency is dismantled as Spitzer said he fears.

Irvine officials have raised concerns they are overpaying for fire services and have had public discussions about potentially leaving the Fire Authority, which was set up in the wake of the 1994 county bankruptcy and funded primarily through property taxes.

Meanwhile, Chairman Shawn Nelson cautioned that Irvine’s threat is unrealistic.

“Irvine can’t just leave,” Nelson said. “They don’t have the option to just walk” because all of their money is dedicated to the Fire Authority by law.

But Nelson did signal support for a broader discussion.

“If this thing needs to be refigured, let’s get the adults involved in this” and figure it out, said Nelson, adding that he has “a problem with this entire funding structure.”

“Perhaps we can huddle up offline.”

The discussion came as the Board of Supervisors considered whether to continue having ambulance companies bill for Fire Authority paramedic services.

Supervisors decided 3-2 to stick with the current process and require upcoming ambulance contractors to bill patients for the Advanced Life Support or ALS fee.

Nelson and Supervisor John Moorlach opposed the fee’s inclusion, with Nelson asserting that the cost for paramedic services is already covered through property taxes.

“They’re already on the clock. There’s no additional cost to ride with a patient to the hospital. They’re already being paid,” Nelson said.

Fire Authority officials have said the ALS fee revenue covers only 60 percent of their costs for the paramedic service.

“It’s a very normal process” to collect the ALS fee, said Dave Kendig, the Fire Authority’s general counsel.

As the discussion winded down, one supervisor openly critiqued how a fee discussion emerged into a philosophical debate about how services are delivered.

“To me it was an overreach. We needed to solve the billing issue,” said Supervisor Pat Bates.

For his part, Spitzer criticized how the board keeps having “piecemeal discussions” instead of taking a broad look at issues.

And Nelson said the nature of fire service has changed dramatically in recent decades.

“In excess of 98 percent of the calls have nothing to do with putting out fires,” said Nelson.

As supervisors prepared to discuss the issue on Tuesday, a local resident publicly reminded them that past ambulance contracts in Orange County have been awarded to firms, such as Shoreline Corp., that were ranked lower in the bidding process.

Violations by Shoreline “endangered public safety,” said Westminster resident Darrell Nolta, adding that he questions “how this process is going to be truly conducted fairly.”

In Westminster, Shoreline Corp. was nearly disqualified because of inadequate disclosures.

The company lacked the required two new ambulances for the contract, failed to have a required radio system and misrepresented its ability to offer a computerized patient-monitoring system, according to a report.

Yet the Westminster City Council awarded their contract to Shoreline in 2012 over competitor Care Ambulance.

Even after Shoreline received the contract, it still failed to comply with the contract requirements to buy ambulances and radios.

Nolta also criticized Supervisor Todd Spitzer’s suggestion that the supervisors place themselves on the panel that reviews and ranks the bids.

The makeup of the panel wasn’t discussed by supervisors on Tuesday.

The draft request for proposals is expected to go to supervisors next Tuesday for comment and review.

Then final comments are set to be collected by the county Health Care Agency before the document is sent to the state Emergency Medical Services Authority for approval.

Nolta reminded supervisors that many people are keeping tabs on the bidding process, as evidenced by a letter from state officials.

“I’m watching, and I know from the letter other people are watching it,” he said.

You can contact Nick Gerda directly at ngerda and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

Disclaimer: You have been added to my MOORLACH UPDATE communication e-mail tree. In lieu of a weekly newsletter, you will receive occasional media updates, some with commentary to explain the situation, whenever I appear in the media (unless it is a duplication of a previous story).

I have two thoughts for you to consider: (1) my office does not usually issue press releases to get into the newspapers (only in rare cases); and (2) I do not write the articles, opinions or letters to the editor.

This message should appear at the bottom of every e-mail you receive. If these e-mails should stop arriving in your mail box, it will be because your address has changed and you did not provide a new one. If you do not wish to receive these e-mails, then please e-mail back and request to unsubscribe.

Posted in California