MOORLACH UPDATE — Missed Outsourcing — July 24. 2014

Although I am currently winding down my public career, it would have been fun to run one more substantive ballot measure campaign to provide better governance for the County of Orange. Participating in the successful Measure J campaign in 2008 was a fun experience (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Clerk-Recorder — October 15, 2013). Having a ballot measure that permitted outsourcing would have been a wonderful leadership opportunity. After all, this is Orange County, where the voters have a good grasp of prudent fiscal policies. The OC Register provides its observations in an editorial, which is the first piece below.

The OC Register also printed a rare correction in the second piece below, for erroneously not attributing a quote to me (I’m sure Joel Zlotnick, an employee for OCTA, would not want to have a positive reference to outsourcing attributed to him – I write with a smirk). I thought the correction should have been about the understatement of the amount of savings that would be available from outsourcing (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Questioning Outsourcing — July 23, 2014). Oh, well.

Editorial: A missed opportunity to save money

O.C. Board of Supervisors opts not to ask voters to OK more contracting of services.

A proposal by Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach that would have amended the county charter to allow more opportunities for contracting out county services won’t be making it on the November ballot after three supervisors abstained from voting on the issue.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer, the only abstaining supervisor to speak up during discussion, said that while he found the topic “exciting,” putting it forward on the last day to qualify for the ballot didn’t allow enough time to vet the measure.

While perhaps that is true, as even Supervisor Shawn Nelson, while giving a courtesy second to Mr. Moorlach’s motion, didn’t seem to think the proposal had legs. The topic should certainly be revisited by future boards.

As unfunded pension liabilities surpass the $5 billion mark, any proposal that could potentially save money on that front is worthy of detailed discussion, and Mr. Moorlach’s proposal would have likely done that.

It’s simple: By allowing the county to reduce government employees through contracting out nonessential services or by hiring contract employees, there would be fewer people eventually collecting on those far-above-private-sector level benefits.

However, contracting services isn’t without its issues, as well, and has led to complaints of cronyism and so-called “evergreen” contracts that give one company the sole rights to provide certain services for decades.

Those arguments are certainly valid, and no monopolies on services are acceptable, although a private monopoly is likely preferable to a public one because the private monopoly, at least, is susceptible to the forces of competition. But a private monopoly created and perpetuated by the power of government, as almost all are, presents the worst of both worlds. That sort of contracting must be avoided at all costs.

The best way to avoid the pitfalls of contracting, while still maintaining cost savings that only the market provides, would simply be to privatize county functions that are unnecessary for providing the core functions of government.

As municipal governments across the country continue to creep more and more into areas that are outside their proper purview, giving rise to ballooning budgets and overstretched pension liabilities, the necessity of reining in those governmental excesses is becoming all the more obvious. The county of Orange is no exception.

Short of that solution, which is likely a long way off when even the topic of managed outsourcing of some services is met with calls of moderation, Mr. Moorlach’s plan would have been a worthy start. Far more remains to be done to return government to its rightful parameters, however, and the topic of privatization must be addressed by the board in the future.


Orange County Supervisor John ‍Moorlach described outsourcing as an excellent way for the county and unions to reduce costs. Due to a reporting error, ‍Moorlach‍’‍s statement was mistakenly attributed to Joel Zlotnick, spokesman for the Orange County Transportation Authority. The statement appeared in a story on Page 1of the Local section in the July 23 edition of the Register.

We will promptly correct factual errors. Call 714-796-7951or email corrections. Legal demands for correction must be in writing and sent to the publisher at P.O. Box 11626, Santa Ana, CA 92711-1626.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Questioning Outsourcing — July 23, 2014

The first piece below, from the OC Register, provides a surface review of yesterday’s attempt to provide the County with another critical fiscal management tool. The second piece in the Voice of OC digs down a layer. A great third piece would have gone a little deeper by asking who lobbied my colleagues. Not one union representative bothered to make a public comment on this agenda item.

There was plenty of time for my colleagues to prepare for this vote. My office provided the information for this agenda item to the offices of my colleagues on July 10th. Supervisor Spitzer provided his Charter amendment last Friday afternoon, July 18th. There was nothing confusing about my proposal, as it mirrored that of Los Angeles County (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Outsourcing Measure — July 21, 2014). I could explain outsourcing in less than 30 seconds. Supervisor Spitzer couldn’t explain his measure in less than five minutes. Consequently, for your consideration, I’m providing a bonus below. It is the e-mail that Supervisor Spitzer referred to when he said it was the impetus for needing additional time to study this very simple proposal (it is referred to in the OC Register piece, less a zero or two). After abstaining on outsourcing, the Board then approved, after an agonizing discussion on wording, Supervisor Spitzer’s request for a miniscule and insignificant Charter amendment for the November ballot to fix his Measure V, the original Charter measure, with four votes. Go figure.

Proposal to outsource county jobs fizzles

Supervisors want more details on plan that would reduce salary, pension costs.


A plan to ask Orange County voters to consider outsourcing county jobs to private contractors fell flat Tuesday when three supervisors abstained from voting on the issue.

Supervisor John Moorlach proposed managed outsourcing – as a way to lower the county’s unfunded pension liability – by reducing government workers and hiring contract employees. By doing that, the county could pay salaries and pension costs more like those in the private sector, reducing the county’s overall expenditures, he said.

Moorlach noted examples of outsourcing in Los Angeles and San Diego counties.

In San Diego, he said, recent reports show the county has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by outsourcing through private companies. Moorlach also citedthe Orange County Transportation System’s use of outsourcing.

OCTA earlier this year signed a contract in which up to 40 percent of their bus drivers come from a private company. Some engineering and design work is also done by contractors, said OCTA spokesman Joel Zlotnik.

“This is an excellent management tool for the county and for the unions as a way to reduce cost,” he said.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer liked the idea but said he couldn’t support it without doing research.

“I’m excited you brought this forward but I don’t know what you’re trying to fix,” Spitzer said. “I feel we’re on a hard-pressed deadline to put something on the Novemberballot. I’m not prepared to support it. I have a lot more questions.”

“I certainly think competitive bidding in the private and public sectors is good and can reduce costs,” Supervisor Pat Bates said. “But I don’t think we should put something before the voters without context. Makes more sense to have meat on the bones.”

“The language of the ordinance was not clearly crafted,” Supervisor Janet Nguyen wrote in a email response. “An ordinance should not be a mere statement of intention. Particulars need to be addressed, so that the public knows what they are voting on.”

Nguyen, Spitzer and Bates abstained from voting. The item failed for lack of amajority. Moorlach needed three votes by Tuesday to put the item on the November ballot.

“Unfortunately political priorities for the November election took a higher priority than doing what’s right for the taxpayers,” Moorlach said after the vote.

The plan would have required voters to approve a change to the county’s charter.

In 2002, with the approval of Measure V, Orange County became a charter county. That means what the county decides becomes the “law of the state” and can affect legislation. Charter approvals usually trump any conflicting state law.

If voters had approved the charter amendment on outsourcing, the board would have had to specify the criteria for each contract.

Moorlach said he did not have specific jobs in mind when he proposed the ordinance.

The issue comes up as the city of Costa Mesa continues to facelegal battles regarding attempts to outsource city jobs. The city looked to outsourcing as a way to reduce costs and avoid dipping deep into its reserves.

Opponents of the outsourcing idea disagree with Moorlach and say that outside contracting could mean lower quality and might be prompted by lucrative agreements that could finance elected officials’ political campaigns.

Separately, the board approved changes to an ordinance that will make discussions on county contract negotiations with unions more transparent. But labor groups still want the board to meet with them and hash out the issue. The Orange County Employees Association on July 11 filed an unfair practice charge with the state Public Employment Relations Board.

“The board has repeatedly rejected our efforts to make county contracting truly transparent by shining a light on all contracts – those with employees groups as well as those with outside contractors,” said Jennifer Muir, general manager of the employee union. “This program is not only unlawful, it’s a way to divert the community’s attention from all the money changing hands between lobbyists, contractors, politicians and the county during the process of awarding millions of taxpayer dollars. It’s a free-for all, which is why even the Orange County Grand Jury called for an ethics commission in Orange County to clean it up, and repeated internal audits have shown millions of dollars in no-bid contracts.”

The board removed a provision to automatically appeal the ordinance on Jan. 1, 2017. If approved on Aug. 5, the ordinance will be valid until another board changes or deletes it.

The ordinance, brought to the board by Moorlach, gives the public the opportunity to review contracts with organized employees. Called Civic Openness in Negotiations, it will prevent the approval of labor contracts with little or no public scrutiny. It follows a similar one passed in Costa Mesa in 2012.

The ordinance will require the board to report formal offers and counteroffers from closed sessions.

When a labor contract is proposed, the county auditor-controller would estimate the financial impacts of its terms and also provide the current contract’s terms. The information will be posted on the county website and be available for comment by labor groups and the public.

The board alsoadopted an ordinance prohibiting the collection of signatures supporting political candidates at county workplaces. The law goes into effect in 30 days.

Contact the writer: 949-492-5152 or eritchieTwitter: @lagunaini

Colleagues Reject Moorlach’s Effort to Outsource More Jobs

Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach (Photo by: Violeta Vaqueiro)


Orange County supervisors on Tuesday soundly rejected a proposal to amend the county charter to allow for greater outsourcing of government jobs, barely even allowing a brief public discussion of the issue.

Two county supervisors seeking election this November to the state senate — Pat Bates and the OC GOP Elected Official of the Year Janet Nguyen — never even uttered a word from the dais about the idea to outsource government work to the private sector, other than to quietly indicate they didn’t support the idea.

County Supervisor John Moorlach – who is finishing his second and final term this year – said he felt election-year jitters likely prevented his colleagues from taking a vote or dealing with the issue publicly.

“The drift was, ‘John, we have an election in November, and our priority is to get people elected,” Moorlach said was the message he got from his colleagues.

“I said, my priority is to give taxpayers tools to balance budgets. That’s what I came here for. I came here to hunt for Bear. Not to swat flies.”

Moorlach told other supervisors about his idea just this last week, saying it was part of his original goal to enact charter reform. But, there seemed to be little appetite for an initiative that would be seen as an attempt at union busting to go alongside Bates and Nguyen on the November ballot.

“I sensed that the political priority was probably going to override, but I wasn’t sure, so the only way to find out was to move forward, explain it and watch the dance,” Moorlach said.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer was the only audible voice from the majority on the dais Tuesday.

“I’m excited that you brought it forward,” Spitzer said. “But I’m not sure what I’m trying to fix yet.”

Spitzer suggested the debate was better for a charter review commission. “I just don’t’ have enough information to support it,” he said.

While Supervisors’ Chairman Shawn Nelson was the only supervisor to offer Moorlach a second to his motion, thus allowing debate, he said the measure’s timing was off.

Asking colleagues to engage in a ballot measure on the last day to qualify just didn’t give them enough time, Nelson said.

“John is running out of time. He doesn’t get another bite at the apple. I understand he’s frustrated,” Nelson said.

“I was willing to give him a second. But it didn’t have any legs.”

One Moorlach proposal that did end up with enough legs on Tuesday was his proposal to make labor deals public before a final vote by county supervisors.

While Moorlach’s colleagues balked earlier this month at approving his Civic Openness In Negotiations (COIN) ordinance, they did give final unanimous approval to the measure Tuesday.


Members of the Board of Supervisors:

Item no. 39 on tomorrow’s agenda, if approved by the Board and adopted by the electorate, would authorize the County to utilize managed competition (i.e., “outsourcing”) in the delivery of County services. The proposal that is before the Board is almost identical to Section 44.7 of the Los Angeles County Charter.

Los Angeles County

In August 1987, the Los Angeles County Economy and Efficiency Commission reviewed the success of Los Angeles County in its utilization of its outsourcing. In Los Angeles County, contracts let pursuant to this outsourcing authority are called “Proposition A” contracts. A copy of the Commission’s report is available at this link:

Though now somewhat dated, the Commission’s findings give some insight as to how the County of Orange might utilize similar outsourcing authority, as well as the amount of savings that might be realized.

· The 1986 report indicated that Los Angeles County utilized its outsourcing authority to contract out 20% of its operating budget. The report indicated that Proposition A contracting, for work formerly performed exclusively by County employees, amounted to 1% of Los Angeles County’s operating budget and was generating (in 1986 dollars) annual savings amounting to $24 million.

· The 1986 report indicated that Proposition A contracting had not substantially reduced Los Angeles County’s workforce. The report found that over 1,060 of the 1,320 employees whose jobs were eliminated by contracting still worked for Los Angeles County in similar jobs. The report indicated that, of the 1,320 employees whose jobs were eliminated, 805 (61%) transferred to equivalent positions, 224 (17%) were promoted, 128 (10%) went to work for the contractors, 96 (7%) left County service, 35 (3%) were laid off, and 32 (2%) were demoted. The County rehired 26 (74%) of the 35 laid off.

· The 1986 report indicated that, at that time, Los Angeles County government had utilized its outsourcing authority for “low level internal services – custodial, maintenance, food service, security guards, and so forth.”

San Diego County

In 2010, the San Diego County Grand Jury reviewed San Diego County’s utilization of the outsourcing authority granted by the San Diego Board of Supervisors to the County Director of Purchasing and Contracting. A copy of the Grand Jury’s report is available at this link:

The San Diego County Grand Jury reported the following findings:

· On March 13, 2007, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors adopted Ordinance No. 9836 granting the Director of Purchasing and Contracting expanded authority to enter into contracts to purchase, rent or lease all personal property for the County and to engage independent contractors to perform services for the County. The ordinance also granted the Director authority to enter into contracts, without the approval of the Board of Supervisors, where the total anticipated value of the services or non-services provided are under $1,000,000 per year.

· The Grand Jury found that the San Diego County Director of Purchasing and Contracting had administered managed competition, outsourcing and reverse auction transactions under the County ordinance, which together with reengineering, had resulted in savings of $678,596,736 for the taxpayers of San Diego County through FY 2008.

· San Diego County’s managed competitionprogram resulted in savings of $78,935,727 through FY 2008.

· According to the San Diego Grand Jury, San Diego County saved $261,100 on the cost of supplies and tree removal in reverse auctions conducted in December 2009 alone.

If approved, such a charter amendment would provide this County with additional flexibility in the delivery of public services in the future. It would also provide the County with an additional legal defense in the event that any of the County’s existing contracts with outside providers are ever challenged.

Please contact me or Senior Deputy County Counsel Leon Page if you have any questions.

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.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Outsourcing Measure — July 21, 2014

In a September 21, 2006, speech to the Orange County Financial Society, titled “An Agenda For The Next Four Years,” I had a segment on fifteen possible solutions to pursue in reducing the County’s unfunded actuarial accrued liability. The third proposed solution on that list is to reduce the number of government workers through the utilization of contract employees, in order to pay salaries and pension costs more commensurate with that of the private sector, thus reducing the County’s overall expenditures. Now, I’ve enjoyed two constraints. The first is that of pacing myself. One can only do so much at a time, so addressing this solution is one of the last things I will be able to pursue. I had hoped to establish a Charter Committee while I was Chair, but certain events in 2012 crowded out this initiative. The second is that this item has to be approved by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday in order to qualify for the November ballot. If a full Charter, which the County lacks, is not in the cards, then separate modifications are the next best alternative. The OC Register and the Voice of OC introduce the topic in the first piece below. Should it be put on the ballot and If the voters approve this proposed Charter Amendment, it will give future Boards another necessary management tool to assist them with balancing annual budgets.

The second piece is from the Orange County Breeze. Orange County’s inception date is August 1, 1889. Therefore, Friday, August 1,2014, is the Quasquicentennial (125th anniversary) of this historic occasion. This milestone will be celebrated at the OC Fairgrounds at 12:30 p.m. I hope that you can attend.

The very first Orange County Board of Supervisors Board Meeting was held on August 5, 1889. Just by sheer coincidence, the current Board of Supervisors will have its regularly scheduled Board meeting on Tuesday, August 5, 2014, the Quasquicentennial of this historic event. Consequently, a reception will be held Tuesday in the Hall of Administration’s Lobby at 8:30 a.m. We have invited local historian and author, Phil Brigandi, to provide a presentation on the history of the nearly twenty years of political efforts to have the state legislature approve the splitting off of Orange County from Los Angeles County. If you have not heard his historical account of these efforts, then please join us for a celebration of the culmination of this accomplishment.

At the beginning of the Board meeting at 9:30 a.m., we hope to provide two more brief presentations. The state of California started with 27 counties when it became the 31st state admitted into the union in 1850. The legislature was very busy with approving new counties over a 57-year period. I hope to provide a brief history of the formation of the other 31 counties. Orange County would become the 53rd county. Also, we hope there will be time to have Orange County Historical Society President Chris Jepsen provide a few historical slides. If you can join us on August 5th for an hour or so, we would love to see you here at the Hall of Administration.

Countywide outsourcing? Supervisors to take up ballot option

A measure requested by John Moorlach would allow more privatization than currently is permitted by state law.


Orange County supervisors are slated to decide Tuesday whether to ask voters in November to approve changes to the county charter that would allow more county jobs to be outsourced to private companies.

The proposed ballot measure, requested by Supervisor John Moorlach, would change the county’s charter to allow the county to privatize more county work than currently is permitted by state law.

Moorlach’s staff report doesn’t identify positions that could be outsourced.

The effort is likely to spark objections from county employee representatives while generating support from conservative groups. Proponents argue that outsourcing saves taxpayer dollars in salaries and benefits and spawns more innovative ways to provide services through the profit incentive. Opponents counter that privatization often costs taxpayers more and delivers lower-quality services, with poor oversight of contracts and companies that finance elected officials’ political campaigns.

The potential ballot measure comes as the Costa Mesa City Council majority fights a years-long lawsuit challenging its efforts to outsource most city work.

The county measure is scheduled for discussion toward the end of Tuesday’s meeting, which starts at 9:30 a.m.

Voice of OC is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on public policy in Orange County.

OC Fair invites you to celebrate the County’s 125th birthday

Come celebrate Orange County’s Quasquicentennial on Friday, Aug. 1, when the OC Fair hosts “Orange County Day” with a special ceremony honoring the county’s birth on Aug. 1, 1889.

The celebration begins at 12:30 p.m. at the fairground’s Hangar building. The program includes a live performance of period music from the 1880s and a slide show of historic photos from the Orange County Archives.

A further celebration will take place at the Hall of Administration on Tuesday, Aug. 5, at 8:30 a.m. The public is invited to a reception commemorating the very first Board of Supervisors meeting 125 years before, though it was held several blocks away above the Beatty Bros. store on Fourth St.

Prior to 1889, the region was part of Los Angeles County. The county seat at that time was seven hours distant by horse buggy on rutted dirt roads, and local residents felt overtaxed and unrepresented. Attempts to form a separate county began in 1870. The Legislature finally approved a county formation vote, which was held on June 4, 1889. Support for the new county was overwhelming — 2,505 to 499. The county officially formed on Aug. 1 of that year, and the rest is history.

The Orange County Fair & Events Center is located at 88 Fair Dr. in Costa Mesa. Standard fair admission fees apply. Special thanks are extended to the Orange County Business Council for their support of the Quasquicentennial ceremony and to Supervisor John M. W. Moorlach for his support of the Board of Supervisors reception.

The Orange County Hall of Administration is at 333 West. Santa Ana Blvd. in Santa Ana.

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.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — COIN Modifications — July 18, 2014

Opposition to the sunset clause proposed for the Civic Openness in Negotiations (COIN) was very evident (see MOORLACH UPDATE — COIN Expiration Date? — July 14, 2014). So pulling out the sunset provision would necessitate another “first” reading, which was anticipated. The Daily Pilot covers the discussion, but “roadblock” and “stumbling block” doesn’t necessarily do justice to the reality of the process. Supervisor Spitzer used this agenda item to vent about my observations of the most recent negotiations (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Split Supervisors — July 11, 2014). But, I wholeheartedly agree with him on disclosing “supposals” for a number or reasons. So while we were prepared to modify the ordinance for another “first” reading, his additional modification was also gladly accepted.

County COIN proposal hits roadblock

Supervisors decide, after previously supporting the contract negotiation measure, to not accept it on a second vote.

By Jill Cowan

A proposed county ordinance aimed at increasing transparency in traditionally closed labor negotiations hit a stumbling block this week when supervisors opted not to finalize its passage.

After voting last month to approve a first reading of Supervisor John Moorlach’s Civic Openness in Negotiations, or COIN, ordinance — modeled on a similar law adopted in Costa Mesa — the Orange County Board of Supervisors decided not to vote on a second reading, sending it backward in the approval process.

The ordinance, among other things, would require both sides of labor contract negotiations to make their offers public and allow for comment. It would also require the release of a fiscal analysis of each offer.

The measure will return before the board in modified form later this month, county officials said.

At issue in Tuesday’s discussions were two provisions of the proposed ordinance: a sunsetting clause that Supervisor Janet Nguyen requested, as well as the provision that requires formal offers to be released during bargaining but not what are known as "supposals."

Essentially, Supervisor Todd Spitzer said, these supposals — hypothetical situations used by negotiators that don’t rise to the level of formal offers — could belie the terms of contract proposals.

He said that without a requirement that supposals be made public in addition to formal proposals, the county’s ordinance as written, as well as Costa Mesa’s, represent "a farce" of transparency.

In explaining his position, he accused Moorlach of backing in closed session some of the terms of the labor contract for sheriff’s deputies that the board had narrowly approved earlier in the meeting, while publicly bashing the agreement.

Moorlach responded that he tried to respect closed-session discussions.

Spitzer said Wednesday that while he supported the ordinance all along, he didn’t think it went far enough.

"I hoped to enlighten people about the fallacy that COIN is the savior in fair and open negotiations," he said.

Ultimately, the full board, including Moorlach, agreed to move ahead with the ordinance, removing the sunsetting clause and adding a provision that would require the terms of supposals be released as well as formal offers.

But the idea that Costa Mesa’s system was ineffective left the architects of the city’s COIN ordinance — which they say will become a standard statewide — bristling.

"A supposal is a hypothetical," said Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger when reached Thursday. "In a negotiation, there are thousands of hypothetical questions."

Mensinger said that from a logistical standpoint, it’d be impractical to expect all supposals to be reported unless negotiation sessions were televised — an idea he said he wouldn’t oppose.

He added that if the financial analyses were available to cities and counties years ago, they might have been less generous with pension benefits.

Labor leaders, however, have disputed any contention that COIN sheds an accurate light on the collective-bargaining process. The proposed ordinance, they have added, unfairly targets for scrutiny negotiations with public employees over talks with private contractors.

"It is selective transparency designed to manipulate the process," said Jennifer Muir, spokeswoman for the Orange County Employees Assn., the county’s largest union.

Furthermore, Muir said, the way the county’s version of COIN has been debated violates the state laws governing collective bargaining rights for public employees.

In an unfair labor practice claim that the association filed last week with the California Public Employment Relations Board, the association alleges that the county violated a provision of the law by changing negotiation processes without meeting in good faith to discuss them.

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.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Laws, Contracts and Costs — July 17, 2014

Articles discussing matters addressed at Tuesday’s Board meeting continue to appear. The first is in the Daily Pilot and Coastline Pilot. It addresses a new ordinance proposed to solve a very obscure and rare occurrence. One would think that there are already laws on the books to solve this matter, as the District Attorney’s office has expended considerable resources in investigating the matter, including visiting petition signers late in the evening (with one or more investigators) at their personal residences. All the same, here is the historical perspective. The Assessor, just like his predecessor, decided against rerunning two weeks before the filing deadline. Many serious county observers took a look at the announced candidates and panicked. They were unable to convince other more qualified individuals to run and pleaded with the Assessor to rerun. Webster Guillory then pulled papers on or near the last day and walked the Civic Center for signatures.

There are two types of department heads in county government: appointed and elected. It is always a little scary for employees when a department head retires and a new one is selected by the County’s Executive Officer or by the Board of Supervisors (depending on the governing authority that determines who is responsible for the appointment). It’s a little different and perhaps scarier for employees who work for an elected department head (of which I have a little experience). These employees will get someone that the voters give them and they will be stuck with that person, for good or for bad, for a minimum of four years. Consequently, many employees would gladly sign Webster Guillory’s petition anytime and anywhere to retain him as their boss. They would prefer to keep the status quo versus the anxiety of the unknown. The only thing that is being differentiated with this new ordinance is that the signer should do it outside of county buildings. This would comport with a traditional understanding of the procedures and strikes me as spending a significant amount of Board time on a miniscule matter. I want to thank our Assessor for his many years of distinguished service to the County of Orange. It was a privilege to work with him for the eight years we were both serving together as countywide elected officials.

The Daily Pilot and the Voice of OC provide perspectives on the AOCDS contract vote (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Pythons’ Tightening Grips — July 15, 2014 and MOORLACH UPDATE — Homeless Shelter, et al — July 16, 2014) in the next two pieces.

In the fourth and final piece, the Voice of OC addresses a recent legal settlement approved by the Board of Supervisors. Here is my attempt to recall the history of the issue. Due to the Carlos Bustamante criminal case being conducted by the District Attorney, the Board of Supervisors was advised that certain documents could not be released in response to a California Public Records Act request. However, a judge later ruled that certain documents, if redactions were made, could be released. Consequently, this was done for a very few of the documents that were requested. Although ruling favorably on behalf of the requestor, providing a very small fractional victory, the judge ruled that the requestor could be reimbursed in full for its legal fees. It is a shame that the taxpayers have to make this payment. It brings back an old phrase used in other instances, and I paraphrase, “Carlos Bustamante is becoming the gift that keeps on giving.”

Law aimed at campaign signatures moves forward

An ordinance barring county employees from gathering campaign signatures in the workplace was pushed forward Tuesday.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors, in a 4 to 1 vote, decided to send the measure to a second reading.

Supervisor John Moorlach dissented.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer proposed the rule after allegations emerged that county Assessor Webster Guillory had gathered employee signatures for his reelection nomination papers during work time — although Spitzer has stressed that the measure is aimed more at preventing bad behavior in the future than at bringing down the hammer on rule-breakers.

Campaigning in the workplace, he said, is just inappropriate.

"It’s intimidating," he said when reached Wednesday. "What employee in their right mind would say no to somebody who was either their boss or could possibly become their boss?"

But Moorlach said Wednesday that Guillory’s alleged conduct marked a "once in a quasquicentennial occurrence" and therefore didn’t merit a whole new law.

He added that if an employee is happy with a boss, then he or she should have ample opportunity to support that person without onerous regulation.

"I thought it was a little bit of overkill," Moorlach said.

—Jill Cowan

County approves sheriff’s contract

By a 3 to 2 vote Tuesday, the Orange County Board of Supervisors approved a new two-year contract for sheriff’s deputies and district attorney’s office investigators.

Supervisors Todd Spitzer, Pat Bates and Janet Nguyen voted yes, while Supervisors Shawn Nelson and John Moorlach voted against the agreement with the Assn. of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs.

The move follows 23 months of arduous negotiations, which ended with a contract that requires, among other provisions, that employees pick up their entire pension contribution share starting in July of next year — a hardline bargaining point for the county throughout the process.

The increase approximately doubles the percentage of salaries that will go toward retirement — from 7% to about 14%, officials said.

However, to help offset that hit, the contract also includes a 3% raise when the pension contribution bump takes place in July 2015.

According to a staff report, the agreement will save the county about $22.6 million over its term.

While some, including Moorlach, have expressed concern that the contract will prove too expensive as the county continues to deal with a tough financial situation, sheriff’s department officials cautioned that without competitive salaries and benefits, the department risks having deputies lured away by nearby law enforcement agencies.

Ultimately, though, department officials called the deal fair, and urged the board to pass it.

The association represents about 2,040 employees in nine peace officer classifications.

The new contract is in effect through June 30, 2016.

—Jill Cowan

Divided Supervisors Approve Contract for Deputy Sheriffs


A sharply divided Orange County board of supervisors Tuesday, on a 3-2 vote, approved a two-year labor contract for more than 2,000 deputy sheriffs working throughout the county jails and patrolling local communities.

The deputies’ contract became controversial because of allegations of pension spiking from Supervisors’ Chairman Shawn Nelson and John Moorlach, who voted against the labor pact.

Both supervisors took issue with the deal ultimately approved privately saying that deputies got too much of a salary offset in the negotiations, making a mockery of the requirement that they pay more into their pensions.

The county approach to negotiations with sheriff deputies, offsetting higher pension payments with salary increases, is a concept that supervisors rejected in other labor negotiations.

Tom Dominguez, president of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, publicly disputed Nelson and Moorlach’s claims, saying they had “mischaracterized” the trade offs as pension spikes.

Dominguez said deputy sheriffs still lagged in medical coverage behind other workers, criticized the requirement to pay full pension share as too fast and reminded supervisors that the contract was not popular with rank and file deputies.

County officials now pay the equivalent of about 60 percent of a deputy’s salary to their pension contributions and the county’s unfunded pension liability is past the $5 billion mark.

That has put significant strain on both the county budget and salary talks.

According to the county staff report, the net estimated impact of the term of the two-year contract would be a total cost to taxpayers of $14.7 million, making it the most expensive labor contract at the county.

For comparison, the deal recently reached with 12,000 general county workers carried a cost of $22 million over three years. According to sources knowledgeable about the county budget, the salary concessions to deputies will present challenges next year as many one-time revenue enhancements were utilized to keep this budget cycle balanced.

Supervisors Todd Spitzer, Pat Bates and Janet Nguyen on Tuesday supported the deal with the deputies saying it was competitive with what’s being done in other counties and would avoid Orange County losing good deputies to other places that pay better.

Of that group, only Spitzer – rumored to be gearing up for a run for district attorney in 2018 – will have to potentially deal with the budgetary implications as both Bates and Nguyen are running for the state senate.

Moorlach and Nelson – both visibly demoralized on Tuesday – largely stood alone in their opposition to the deal, with several elected officials and candidates – State Senator Mimi Walters and Assemblywoman Diane Harkey – sending representatives to the public podium Tuesday to speak in support.

The Orange County Register’s editorial page also took issue with the concessions in the contract concluding, “this deal is not in the best interest of the community.”

Later in the day, Moorlach wrote in his "Moorlach Update" newsletter entitled "Python’s Tightening Grips" that "increased salaries will mean increased pension liabilities."

Although Nelson voted against the deal, Walters, in a statement, credited him for a “monumental” achievement in getting the deputies to pay into their pensions like every other employee.

Even Orange County’s conservative Lincoln Club – which has been very vocal about the county’s unfunded pension liability – remained silent on the issue, with President Wayne Lindholm avoiding comment.

Both Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and District Attorney Tony Rackauckas publicly supported the deal, arguing that low crime rates and public safety compensation are connected.

“Safety and security comes at a cost,” Hutchens said in a prepared statement.

Only one candidate running for one of two open county supervisor seats in November chimed in on the issue.

State Assemblyman Alan Mansoor – running to replace Moorlach as 2nd District Supervisor – stood firmly and vocally with Moorlach saying he would not support raising deputy salaries to match heightened pension contributions.

His opponent, State Board of Equalization Board Member Michelle Steel – who already received campaign support from the deputy’s union – remained silent when asked her opinion of the deal.

That position is similar to the answers given during the Feet to the Fire debate on the race earlier this year.

In the 5th District, the silence was similar.

Dana Point Mayor Lisa Bartlett didn’t respond to a call seeking comment.

Laguna Niguel Mayor Robert Ming danced around the issue offering a roundabout comment.

"I wasn’t part of this process so I can’t comment on how we got here, but I can certainly share how I would approach things next time. We need a long-term fix for how pensions are funded so we don’t end up underfunded again. We also need to attract and retain quality deputies. My South County cities expect a high quality of service from the sheriff so we can’t expect to pay total compensation at the bottom of the barrel, but many cities are struggling financially too, just like the county. Every dollar in increased sheriff contract costs comes out of parks, streets and other city programs. Finding the right balance won’t be easy, but those are the things I’ll be focused on."

The trade-off negotiated after two years of private talks that got deputies to pay their full employee share of their annual pension in year two of their contract came in exchange for a three percent salary raise, another potential 5.5 percent salary hike through step increases for senior deputies and enhancements to health care as well as retiree medical coverage.

With the deputies now agreeing to pay their full employee share of their annual pension payment, every public worker at the county would be paying their full share of pension obligations by 2015.

County Pays $120K to Cover Costs of Records Battle With Voice of OC


Orange County Supervisors this month paid out $120,905 to Voice of OC attorneys, under a court order requiring them to cover court costs accrued during the news organization’s successful two-year public records battle over documents relating to the county’s investigation into allegations that former Public Works executive Carlos Bustamante sexually assaulted women who worked for him.

In December, Orange County Superior Court David T. McEachen ordered the county to make public more than two-dozen sets of documents that shed some light on how officials handled the internal investigation into Bustamante’s alleged actions.

It was the culmination of a two-year open records case brought against the county by Voice of OC and open-government advocate Californians Aware.

“It’s disheartening to see county supervisors waste more than $120,000 in taxpayer dollars to keep documents secret that the public clearly has a right to see,” said Voice of OC Editor-in-Chief Norberto Santana Jr.

Only one supervisor responded to calls seeking comment.

Supervisor John Moorlach said he was following the advice of county lawyers when he supported other supervisors in trying to keep the records from being disclosed.

“We were advised (by county counsel) that because it (the Bustamante case) was of a criminal nature, we should not release it,” said Moorlach. “It seemed like it was good advice.”

Two supervisors – Janet Nguyen and Pat Bates – are also seeking state senate seats in the upcoming November general election and Nguyen’s race is a hotly contested race with statewide implications.

Numerous other records sought by Voice of OC remain sealed because of a judicial ruling that they stay blocked until the conclusion of the ongoing criminal case against Bustamante, who was also a Santa Ana councilman.

Bustamante, whose next Superior Court appearance is scheduled for August 15, is awaiting trial on both felony and misdemeanor sex crime charges.

When allegations of Bustamante’s actions first surfaced in a 2011 report, he was allowed to resign with three months severance pay. It wasn’t until nearly six months later that county leaders referred the case to the District Attorney’s office for prosecution.

Ultimately several top county executives, including then CEO Tom Mauk, resigned or were fired and the human resources department was reorganized.

The document originally sought by Voice of OC was a claim letter sent by fired Deputy CEO Alisa Drakodaidis in the summer of 2012, which alleged a host of complaints against county officials and the Board of Supervisors.

Drakodaidis recently filed suit against the county.

Other documents still under seal pending the outcome of the Bustamente case are expected to shed light on what top county leaders, including then-members of the Board of Supervisors, knew about Bustamante’s alleged harassment, when they knew it and what they did about it.

Santana said Voice of OC would seek to make all those records public as soon as the Bustamante case is resolved.

“We will remain vigilant,” he said. “Count on it.”

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Posted in California

MOORLACH UPDATE — Homeless Shelter, et al — July 16, 2014

Tuesday’s Board agenda was an action-packed one. I’ll attack the articles in the order they were addressed during yesterday’s meeting. The Voice of OC provides its perspective on the potential acquisition of a year-round homeless shelter in the city of Santa Ana, an item that had more than twenty speakers. Finding a location for a year-round homeless shelter has been a high priority of mine and has been an objective since my first Board Study Session back in 2007. It became even more important in my role as the founding Chair of the Commission to End Homelessness. Yesterday had one unique connection to that rare study session early in my tenure. A facility that was visited by then-Supervisor Bill Campbell was a multi-service center in Phoenix. It was highlighted as a model. The new city manager for Santa Ana is David Cavazos. He spoke in favor of the proposed facility. His last position was the city manager of Phoenix. Let’s hope this proposed facility will match the Phoenix model of providing shelter, meals, health and dental care, job training, job finding, rapid rehousing and all of the other necessary tools to assist individuals in receiving a hand up. I also want to welcome Mr. Cavazos as the new city manager representative on the Commission to End Homelessness.

The OC Register also addressed the homeless shelter in the second piece below and then segues into the second topic, the AOCDS contract. It did not receive unanimous support from our Board in closed session and the vote remained the same in open session. The Laguna Niguel-Dana Point Patch also covered this topic in the third piece below. The subtitle is a little inaccurate, which was one of my concerns with the proposal. It’s not just a 3 percent raise, it really is a 10.5 percent raise. There is a 2 percent raise for retiree medical assumption by the County and two pay step increases of 5.5 percent. Obviously, the subtitle proves that the optics worked. The piece also covers my recent UPDATES (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Split Supervisors — July 11, 2014 and MOORLACH UPDATE — Pythons’ Tightening Grips — July 15, 2014). It seems that over the past few years our Board has spent more time in closed session than in open session. After more than two years of closed sessions on this contract, you can imagine that things may have gotten a little testy at times. Well, they did. We had tried to find a solution that all five of the Supervisors could agree to. At one point we did, but it was rejected by AOCDS’s negotiators. Unfortunately, at the last Board closed session on the topic, Supervisor Spitzer garnered his three votes and the rest is history.

I have some suggestions after incurring all of the tension. First, don’t shy away from your victory – own it. Congratulations on achieving an obvious minimum goal, having the employees pay their full cost for retirement, which the County has been paying for all these many years. This now provides almost full parity with all of the other bargaining units, which adheres to the retirement laws and ends the generous subsidy provided to some by the County. And, since you have to live with this contract, let me provide some thoughts on what may occur in the future that my successors should be prepared to address.

1. The triennial actuarial study for the AOCDS retiree medical plan has not been concluded. Should the results of this study, or any future study, show an increase in the unfunded liability, be ready to address it, as employees hired after the inception of “3% @ 50” will no longer be paying in toward their share (hence, a 2 percent raise) at the conclusion of this new contract. Retiree medical funding should be factored into future negotiations as you attempt to address total compensation. The retiree medical plan for AOCDS is different than that of the others, so keep your eyes on both plans going forward. Transferring liability exposure in the wrong direction in this area would replicate the tragic result of having increased defined benefit pension formulas in prior years.

2. When AOCDS comes back and still tells you that it is difficult to recruit, remember that they approved lower pay steps for new hires. But, the lower initial steps being there will be thrown back at the Board, not the association.

3. When negotiations begin again with the other bargaining units, be ready for them to ask for similar concessions. The fact that most of them asked for “2.7% @ 55” after AOCDS received “3% @ 50” should not be forgotten. Adding new steps is a slippery slope and strategies for similar requests should be considered earlier than later.

4. A strategy needs to be reached on how to balance future salary increases with the resulting defined benefit pension plan impacts. This is difficult to calculate and the resulting costs were not included in the financial information that was provided to us by staff.

5. Trust that I will be praying that the Orange County Employees Retirement System achieves its annual investment return goals over the coming years, but remember that down cycles happen and 7.25 percent is still a lofty annual goal to achieve.

The Aliso Viejo and Newport Beach-Corona del Mar Patch provide the details of a ballot measure that will be on the Orange County November ballot. A solution is being offered for your consideration that has its merits, but is dependent on your support.

BONUS: The plans for our July 26th day hike are taking shape and have some fun, new changes. Crystal Cove Alliance President Harry Helling will be joining us, along with a tide pool docent from his program. It is Mr. Helling’s recommendation that we start the hike at Los Trancos (the cottages) and hike DOWN the beach to the Moro Canyon Day-Use area and back. He says it’s only 3.6 miles round trip but it will take the morning including stopping at various places. One of the reasons he recommends this is that there are some great tide pools just south of the cottages and we can see them right away rather than hiking a couple of miles first and then seeing the tide pools. After the hike, if you wish to stay for lunch, you can either bring your own or you can try take-out food from the Beachcomber Restaurant. Mr. Helling has invited us to eat in Cottage #22. We meet at Crystal Cove at 7:30 a.m. at the picnic tables in front of the Beachcomber. If you are interested in joining us, please RSVP with Cammy.Danciu.

SECOND BONUS: Anyone interested in serving as an Assessment Appeals Board Hearing Officer, please contact Cammy.Danciu. To learn what a Board and Hearing Officer does, see and To learn what is required from a Hearing Officer, go to and click on “Assessment Appeals Board Members Req.” If you are interested, please fill in the application (see and forward it to Cammy Danciu.

Supervisors Approve Land Purchase for Homeless Shelter in Santa Ana


Orange County supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to purchase a property in an industrial area of east Santa Ana with the idea that the site would become the county’s first year-round homeless shelter.

The move drew praise from homeless advocates, but also criticism from residents who live near the proposed site, as well as some supervisors, over what was described as a poor job of outreach by county officials.

“It’s been a long time coming – there’s been a lot of suffering” over last few years, said Tim Houchen, a spokesman for the homeless advocacy group Civic Center Roundtable. “People actually die out here at the Civic Center."

Orange County is among the largest metropolitan areas in America without a year-round homeless shelter, and Santa Ana tops the list of potential locations for a shelter largely because its City Council is supportive and its downtown Civic Center already serves as an encampment for hundreds of homeless people.

Yet the planning process has left several residents and supervisors feeling left out of the loop.

Only one community forum was held on the proposed shelter site and notice for the July 2 meeting didn’t come until two days beforehand, said Santa Ana resident Dora Lopez.

“The approach that was taken did not give us an opportunity for input,” Lopez said, echoing concerns by several other residents who spoke at the meeting.

To her, that was “pretty much telling us it’s a done deal.”

About a half dozen other Santa Ana residents shared similar sentiments.

“I’m here representing a lot of my community that are seniors and not English speakers. None of us were informed…I found out about this yesterday,” said Laura Garcia. “If it’s going to be in our back yard, we should know.”

Even Civic Center Roundtable representatives complained about a lack of outreach.

“The Civic Center Roundtable was never consulted” as part of the community engagement process, said Massimo Marini, an advocate with Civic Center Roundtable. “We really disagree with the fact that you really didn’t inform the community that well.”

Yet supervisors’ Chairman Shawn Nelson said the fact that people showed up to Tuesday’s meeting showed that the community was informed.

“That’s odd you just happen to be in the lobby today,” said Nelson.

But some of Nelson’s colleagues sided with those complaining about the lack of notice.

“I found out about this on Wednesday when I got my agenda, so it’s sort of the same issue. We just found out,” said Supervisor John Moorlach, who questioned why the vote wasn’t delayed.

Supervisor Pat Bates said key input was missing and that another forum is called for.

Santa Ana Unified School District officials “should have been commenting” on residents’ concerns about safe routes to schools on Tuesday, said Bates.

“I believe that you need to have another meeting to specifically address how you’re going to look at that issue and allay their concerns. That is fundamental to my support,” she added, to applause from the audience.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer, meanwhile, agreed that Santa Ana Unified board members “need to weigh in.”

He also criticized county management for not presenting a safety plan for the shelter, particularly when it comes to homeless sex offenders.

“To come here today and not know these things is very disheartening to me,” said Spitzer. “It’s disheartening because we want to champion this, but these questions should have been answered before it came here to a vote.”

The county’s lead staffer on homeless issues responded to the criticism, saying the outreach was extensive.

“I think they did a great job getting community notices out,” said Karen Roper, director of OC Community Services. “We hope that the community will feel that they can be a part of this.”

The $3.6 million building purchase now goes into a 90-day escrow period, where the property’s condition will be inspected, before the sale is completed. After that, the county would seek bids from contractors to operate the shelter.

The 23,000-square-foot warehouse, at 1217 E. Normandy Place in Santa Ana, is located near the corner of Grand and McFadden avenues.

The county would be purchasing the property from B&N Group and JRMV Investments, Inc., who are represented by Blake V. Elliott. It would then spend another $2.3 million to renovate the building, and about $2.6 million per year to operate and maintain the shelter. Operating costs would be covered by a mixture of county, federal and private funds.

In many respects, the scene Tuesday was a replay of the effort last year by Nelson to push through a proposal for the county to buy a property in Fullerton and build a homeless shelter before getting buy-in from Fullerton residents. Faced with stiff resident opposition, the Fullerton City Council nixed that plan last June.

But a significant difference this time around is that the Santa Ana City Council, as well as City Manager David Cavazos, are already on board with placing a shelter in Santa Ana. The council approved zoning for a 200-person shelter “by right” last August.

Nonetheless, many of the Santa Ana residents raised concerns — similar to those raised in Fullerton — about nearby schools, particularly Kennedy Elementary, which lies on busy McFadden Blvd. about 750 feet from the proposed shelter.

“We already do have many homeless,” in the area, said Juana Perez, a recent graduate of Century High School.

There are several areas where drugs are used by homeless people, including nearby Madison Park, she added.

Nelson, meanwhile, said he lived three doors down from Fullerton’s seasonal homeless shelter for years without incident.

“There was never any problems,” he said.

As far as the larger issue of homelessness, speakers highlighted how rising housing costs compared to income has generated economic hardship.

“The percentage of income devoted to housing can leave many people – many families” homeless, said Jan Wagner, who spoke on behalf of all Orange County chapters of the League of Women Voters.

Every school district in the county has homeless students, she added.

Urging supervisors to purchase the Santa Ana building, Wagner said league members also want the county to “continue to seek additional sites” for more shelters.

Nonprofit representatives also offered to help provide services at the shelter, including homeless veterans advocates at Volunteers of America Los Angeles.

Dwight Smith, a longtime operator of a small homeless shelter in Santa Ana, said the county must pursue permanent housing options and find a way to address deaths of homeless people from hypothermia.

“Without an adequate and proven response to cold weather, people will perish,” said Smith.

O.C. approves year-round homeless shelter in Santa Ana

Supervisors set their sights on a $3.6 million industrial building on Normandy Place. They envision a facility that would offer multiple services for families and individuals.


SANTA ANA – Orange County supervisors on Tuesday gave a nod to what could be Orange County’s first year-round homeless shelter – providing not only beds but a host of services.

The 23,000-square-foot, 200-bed emergency center is planned to include a multi-service center for homeless families and individuals. The county will operate the shelter through a provider and offer services to assist individuals to assimilate into the workforce. Services will include mental and public health services, assistance for veterans and housing needs. The county will work with local resource groups to provide help.

Supervisors voted unanimously to begin proceedings to purchase a $3.6 million industrial building on Normandy Place. The Santa Ana City Council identified the site in 2012. The building selection followed multiple meetings including Planning Commission reviews and community outreach.

After the building is purchased, the county will spend $2.3 million to renovate it and about $2.6 million per year to operate and maintain it. Funding comes from county, federal and private funds.

The shelter is the first that officials plan to open as part of the county’s 2010 Ten-Year-Plan to End Homelessness. In 2013, county data show about 12,700 people were identified as homeless at some point in the year. Officials say the shelter and service center will meet critical needs for some of the most vulnerable people in the county’s neighborhoods and will address social impacts on local businesses and communities.

“I’m very proud of what’s being done here,” David Cavazos, city manager from Santa Ana, said following the board’s vote. “I’m proud of the leadership from our supervisors. It’s very difficult to place this type of service.”

Multiple speakers supporting local nonprofits, veterans and The League of Women Voters urged supervisors to purchase the building. But some who live near the site were not happy.

A handful of residents criticized the location, citing public safety concerns for children who will pass by on their way to schools. They worried children would encounter drug and alcohol addicts. Some said they worried about claims of prostitution near other locations that housed homeless such as the Santa Ana National Guard Armory. Residents also said they were the last to be informed about shelter plans.

“We as a community were never informed,” said Doris Lopez. “Two days ago, I received an email that the board was planning to discuss the purchase of the building. I oppose this, not because I oppose homeless but because we were never given notice. Not my neighbors or my neighborhood were considered.”

Cavazos assured the board that city leaders provided multiple opportunities for the public to comment. He added he was in discussions with school district officials over any safety concerns.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer worried loopholes on requirements for sex offender registration might allow transient sex offenders to live in the shelter unchecked and pushed for a review of safety plans by the city and school district. Supervisor Janet Nguyen agreed.

Board Chairman Supervisor Shawn Nelson tried to allay resident fears by saying he had no problems when he lived three doors from the armory in Fullerton.

“Everyone wants to solve the homeless problem except for the person who lives near it,” he said. “It’s finally a start. It’s time to get some product into the ground.”

The county will have 90 days to review the property to make sure its meets the expected criteria and planned use. The board will then give the final OK to move forward, said Scott Mayer, the county’s chief real estate officer.

Separately, supervisors voted 3-2 to approve an agreement with the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs to have deputy sheriffs and district attorney investigators pay between 14 percent and 20 percent of their salaries toward pensions in exchange for increases in county medical contributions and an across-the-board 3 percent salary increase next year.

Nelson and John Moorlach voted no, criticizing the contract because it provided for pay increases and the opportunity for veteran deputies to earn even more, which will increase the county’s responsibility for future pension payments.

AOCDS received support from a handful of people including District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, who said the two-year deal has been “a long time coming.”

He spoke about other agencies such as San Jose losing career law enforcement personnel because of cuts in pay and pensions.

In more board action, supervisors unanimously approved a November ballot measure that would authorize the state Fair Political Practices Commission to enforce the county campaign laws, including limits on contributions to candidates.

Contact the writer: 949-492-5152 or eritchie or

New Contract: Sheriff’s Deputies Get 3% Raise But Have to Pay for Pension

In Orange County, sheriff’s deputies will pay 14 to 20 percent of their salary toward pension benefits, which is "substantially higher" than what other county employees pay.

Posted by Penny Arévalo (Editor)

The Board of Supervisors today approved a new contract with the union representing Orange County sheriff’s deputies and District Attorney investigators that has them pick up all of the cost of pension benefits starting next year, but also includes pay raises of about 3 percent.

Orange County Board Chairman Shawn Nelson and Supervisor John Moorlach cast the dissenting votes.

Sheriff Sandra Hutchens called the deal "fair," and it was also supported by Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and Tom Dominguez, president of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs.

"It’s been a long time coming with a lot of negotiations, but it arrives at a good balance," Rackauckas said in urging the board to support the agreement.

Rackauckas, however, warned county officials about asking too much of employees, making it harder to recruit.

In San Jose, city officials a decade ago boasted of having the safest large city in the country. But when police officers were required to cover the full cost of their retirement benefits, the tide turned, Rackauckas said.

"It was devastating to their police department since that’s gone into effect," Rackauckas said. "They’re struggling to put that police department back together again, but they’re hemorrhaging police officers … They’ve had literally hundreds of transfers … and their crime rate has gone up. They’re now higher than the national average, higher than the state average, and they can no longer brag they’re the safest city. In fact, far from it."

Response times for crimes in that Northern California city has gone from eight minutes to 20 minutes, Rackauckas said. Worse, he said, the city is "spending large amounts of money on training" recruits, only to lose them in a short time to other departments that can offer better pay and benefits.

"They have a very real concern they’re training people for other departments," Rackauckas said.

In Orange County, sheriff’s deputies will pay 14 to 20 percent of their salary toward pension benefits, which is "substantially higher" than what other county employees pay, Dominguez said.

The union leader said the deal has been "mischaracterized as being riddled with generous" giveaways to law enforcement employees. Dominguez said other law enforcement agencies in the area offer better pay and benefits, and the deputies and D.A. investigators are now the only county employees paying for medical benefits for retirees.

Supervisor Janet Nguyen said the deal won’t "spike pensions as some claim it will do. I believe the contract is both fair and balanced."

The deal is expected to save the county $22.6 million through fiscal year 2015-16, when it ends. The estimated total cost will be about $37.3 million.

Details of the private labor negotiations over two years with the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs recently surfaced in a report by the Voice of OC, which prompted a public quarrel between termed-out Supervisor John Moorlach and Supervisor Todd Spitzer.

Moorlach accused Spitzer of being an "agent" of the union, and Spitzer fired back that Moorlach was being hypocritical.

In April it appeared that the two sides would reach an agreement, but then Spitzer changed his mind on a deal point, according to Moorlach. That indicated that negotiations would hit an impasse and that they would be sent to a mediator, as has happened with other bargaining units, according to Moorlach.

Moorlach, however, said that he has since reached the conclusion that Spitzer changed his mind and called for another private session among the board so he could introduce new deal points from union leaders.

"They said, ‘No, we want our pay increase immediately,’ and that’s when Todd realizes, ‘Oh, I screwed up. I didn’t put together the deal the way (union leaders) wanted it.’ That’s when we knew he was an agent (of the union)."

Moorlach said that now he doesn’t feel he can trust Spitzer and that he thinks the supervisor "played" him.

Moorlach said a new ordinance he has proposed that would let the public know more about labor negotiations as they happen instead of after the fact could have prevented this conflict.

Spitzer laughed off that notion.

"He’s trying to say (his ordinance) would prevent this when he supported a (proposal) that offset pension costs with salary increases," Spitzer said, adding he just "called him out on that inconsistency" in his interview with the Voice of OC.

"I’m not an agent for anybody," Spitzer said. "This is ridiculous."

Spitzer said Moorlach and board Chairman Shawn Nelson "have this mythological concept that I’m a middleman (for the union). They wanted it to go to impasse. Shawn has always wanted to stick it to the (union)."

A vote on Moorlach’s ordinance allowing for more public discussion of labor negotiations was delayed again today until later this month.

–City News Service

O.C. Voters to Decide if They Want State to Prosecute Violations of Local Campaign Finance Laws

A watchdog’s dream? The author of the original "Time Is Now, Clean Up Politics" law passed in 1991 says no.

Posted by Penny Arévalo (Editor)

Orange County voters will be asked if they want to give the California Fair Political Practices Commission the authority to prosecute violations of a local campaign finance ordinance.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors agreed today to place the question on the Nov. 4 general election ballot.

If voters approve a change in the Time Is Now, Clean Up Politics — or TINCUP

Posted in California

MOORLACH UPDATE — Pythons’ Tightening Grips — July 15, 2014

The editorial board of the OC Register opined in opposition to the contract bargained between the County and the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs (AOCDS). Unfortunately, it did not change the outcome of the Board’s vote today. It was not unanimous in closed session and it saw Chair Nelson and myself voting in opposition in public.

Increased salaries will mean increased pension liabilities. Increased pension liabilities will mean increased annual pension plan contributions. Increased pension plan contributions will further restrict an already overly-choked County budget. It’s a tough conundrum when someone wants a massive pension increase and then complains about not receiving raises. But, you can’t shame the Board, after it granted the pension enhancement in 2001, for more raises. And you can’t complain that you are being treated differently than other employee bargaining units with retiree medical withholdings when your plan is very different than that of those other bargaining units. Wordsmithing will only go so far. Someday someone will have to pay the piper. Future Boards of Supervisors will have to deal with these two unfunded pythons as their liabilities continue to tighten their fiscal grip on the County’s budget.

There are no easy answers. If there were, someone in this country would have proposed and implemented it. For me, I see only one ultimate solution and I laid it out in MOORLACH UPDATE — San Diego U-T — October 13, 2013. Here is some of what I wrote:

Modifying down pension formulas is the prudent approach to pursue. Employees would be assured a reasonable pension. It may not be the “formula on steroids” they recently negotiated, but the modified formulas were still very generous equations compared to any private-sector retirement plan, and certainly compared to Social Security. Such a change would preserve the defined-benefit pension model and avoid the obvious cry to freeze plans and convert wholesale to defined-contribution models similar to the 401(k) retirement approach of many Fortune 500 employers.

Although it is often framed as an all-or-nothing issue, from a rational perspective California’s public employees should be willing to take the initiative to moderate their pension formulas, knowing that they could possibly lose a significant percentage of benefits if municipalities start declaring bankruptcy. Low-funded defined-benefit pension plans are exposed to the risk of eventually paying out a much lower benefit, one that can be afforded over time, versus what was actually promised.

Some airline pilots of now-bankrupt carriers are receiving 40 percent of their formerly promised annual benefits. This scenario is bound to be duplicated in the public sector as taxpayers reach a tipping point and refuse to pay more and more for equal or reduced service levels. In fact, certain retirees of Central Falls, Rhode Island, recently agreed to pension reductions of 50 percent as a resolution of that city’s bankruptcy filing.

With the recent filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy by the cities of Detroit, Stockton, and San Bernardino, the inference that pensions are untouchable will be questioned.

A federal bankruptcy judge may just approve [this] solution in a plan of adjustment to allow one or more of these cities to exit Chapter 9 with the debt relief they need to survive financially. This may change the pension paradigm for municipalities around the entire country. This is the joy of federal bankruptcy court, where any contract, including pensions protected by state law, can be impaired by a federal judge. It is no wonder that the bankruptcy judge overseeing Detroit’s filing has demanded that a creditor committee representing the city’s more than 23,000 retirees be established as soon as possible.

Something will happen to the pensions of current and retired employees. It behooves public employee bargaining units around the nation to get in front of this imminent shift. They should negotiate a rescission now that is acceptable to their current and past membership, but also affordable to the taxpayers who foot the bill.

No one likes being forced to give back a gift. But, by being stubborn, bargaining units run the risk of seeing their pension drastically reduced with little or no input if their employer pursues Chapter 9 to obtain the results that these three cities are about to achieve.

It’s time for everyone to admit that recent pension enhancements, generated from an unachievable expectation created by the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, are no longer fiscally prudent. The direct beneficiaries need to take ownership and set a course to correct it. If city and county employees take the appropriate leadership role, fiscal calamity can be avoided and they will have saved their cities and counties, and their pensions.

Judge Klein, the Federal Bankruptcy Judge handling the Stockton Chapter 9 bankruptcy, stated last week that pension plans are touchable. His legal interpretation and ruling are due in the fall. I have that sense that the County of Orange is slowly walking further out into a frozen lake, where the ice is getting thinner and thinner. It’s difficult to watch, as you would rather that it were moving back towards the shore. I hope that the OC stays fiscally viable in the coming decades, but I don’t envy my successors as they deal with the ramifications of the votes made in 2001 and 2004 and today.

Editorial: Deputies’ contract unfair

Union wins exclusive concessions from O.C.

If any lesson should have been learned from the financial fallout for local governments in the last recession, it is that making big promises to public employees can have big consequences. That lesson doesn’t seem to have stuck, though, by the looks of a proposed contract with the Orange County deputy sheriff’s union.

The contract, set for a vote today by the Board of Supervisors, has several worrisome concessions, but a handful are more glaring than the rest. One, in particular, looks to offset a required increase in pension contributions through salary and other compensation increases.

That is a uniquely generous concession not given to other county employee unions during current negotiations. Those other groups have been asked to pay their full share – some agreed and some had it imposed on them. Even the supervisors are picking up their full contribution under new rules.

It is essentially a pay raise that will contribute to the overall payout retiring public safety employees can draw from their pensions. Increasing the county’s pension liability – now more than $5 billion – as budgets remain fairly stagnant, simply isn’t prudent.

The problem is compounded by calls to create two new salary tiers at the top. Supervisor John Moorlach told us that about 77 percent of the union’s membership is in the top wage tier. This amounts to another pay raise that, coupled with the pension offset and an increased county contribution into the union’s retiree medical plan by more than half, add up. Mr. Moorlach said, in all, some employees could be looking at up to 10.5 percent in raises.

Supporters say public safety should hold a special place in the county budget, as the dangers inherent in the job warrant special consideration, and recruitment efforts will suffer unless the department remains competitive. But comparing ballooning public safety budgets with one another creates an endless upward cycle.

Further, while no one can argue that risk and responsibility come with the uniform, serving the community is at the core of the job. This deal is not in the best interest of the community.

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.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — COIN Expiration Date? — July 14, 2014

COIN receives its second reading at tomorrow’s Board meeting (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Minting New COIN — June 25, 2014 and MOORLACH UPDATE — Maximus COIN — June 17, 2014). The OC Register’s editorial board weighs in, in the first piece below, and recommends that the sunset clause that was requested by one of my colleagues be deleted. If it is, then the Board may have to enjoy another second reading of the amended ordinance in the near future.

The second piece below, from the Voice of OC, provides an update on the streetcar topic as it relates to the city of Santa Ana (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Streetcar Feedback — June 21, 2014). The common thread that seems to be appearing is a lack of direct communication with the parties that will be impacted the most (also see MOORLACH UPDATE — Streetcar Razing? — February 28, 2014). I’ve been doing a significant amount of research on streetcars and their rise in implementation and/or consideration around the nation. There are good people on both sides of the discussion. But keeping the environmental impact reports opaque or not involving property owners and renters that are directly along the proposed routes seems like an odd strategy to pursue.

Editorial: Don’t give openness law an expiration date

The proposal by Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach to institute a “Civic Openness in Negotiations” (COIN) law modeled after one in Costa Mesa has been called by union leadaers “criminal,” “an ambush” and “another knife in the back.”

But when nearly 60 percent of the county’s General Fund revenues are gobbled up by employee salaries and benefits, and negotiations for that compensation remain largely hidden from the public, the real ambush seems to be on the taxpayer’s wallet.

Now, by the time a proposed union contract makes it to an agenda report, the outcome has already been determined, the negotiations have been concluded, the agreements have been nearly formalized and the public’s input is largely a Brown Act formality.

The Costa Mesa plan, according to a Register report from August 2012, looked to change that by requiring the city “to hire an independent negotiator, bring in an independent auditor to publicly report on the fiscal impacts of each contract proposal 30 days before negotiations begin, let residents know which provisions were off the table, and allow the public to discuss the contract at two meetings before the council takes a vote.”

Any proposal that seeks to bring light to what the OC Watchdog once called “cloak-and-dagger contract negotiations” is certainly worthwhile. In addition, the proposed ordinance doesn’t greatly depart from the original, which so far has worked rather smoothly in Costa Mesa.

The Board of Supervisors would be wise to approve it. But one change made during the June 24 first reading warrants a second look.

A sunset clause proposed by Supervisor Janet Nguyen would have the ordinance expire on Jan. 1, 2017, unless board members moved to extend it. The supervisor didn’t respond to a request for comment, but if the ordinance is good enough to pass now, we wonder why it would be necessary to have it expire in less than three years.

Setting a timetable could defang the ordinance. Parties could be amicable in negotiations now, expecting to undo those concessions once negotiations returned to the shadows.

If the ordinance needs modification, or proves unworkable, it would be just as easy for the board to make changes as it is to assign such a seemingly arbitrary cutoff date.

Now, Mr. Moorlach says he is thinking about adding some wording to clarify his colleague’s stipulation. He says he worries it could mean the abrupt end of transparency in the middle of negotiations. That is certainly a worthwhile clarification and would alleviate some of the concern.

But Supervisor Moorlach also noted, “I don’t think a sunset clause is even necessary.” He’s right, and removing it entirely would be a far better solution. Government transparency doesn’t have an expiration date. Pass COIN, but without the timetable.

Santa Ana Streetcar Route Under Fire From Downtown Shopkeepers


It’s a bold idea: build Orange County’s first light rail system in decades, connecting the Santa Ana train station with the city’s downtown and one of the county’s busiest streets, Harbor Blvd.

The streetcar, supporters say, would bring a surge of new customers to downtown and spur investment in the area.

That vision, however, is being met with growing worries from downtown business owners – many of whom now oppose the main proposed route and say the city needs to do more to involve them in the process.

In recent weeks, more than 200 local residents and business owners have signed a petition against the city’s “preferred option” of having the rail line travel on Fourth Street in downtown, according to people involved in the signature gathering.

Among those listed in opposition are more than 70 local businesses, including restaurants, bridal shops, travel agencies, jewelry stores, beauty salons and mobile phone shops along the Fourth Street area.

Concerns include construction impacts on their business, not being contacted as part of outreach efforts, as well as the potential removal of street parking on Fourth Street.

Many of the shop owners say they want the streetcar to run down Fifth Street instead.

“The fact that 200 people got engaged in a letter of opposition means that there’s something wrong with the outreach,” said Madeleine Spencer, president of the Santa Ana Community and Business Alliance, who gathered many of the signatures.

City officials, meanwhile, say they’ve conducted an extensive outreach campaign that went above and beyond the legal requirements.

“The city did do an extensive outreach and definitely cares about the community and residents. And all of the comments that are being made are taken seriously,” said Santa Ana city spokeswoman Tanya Lyon.

Lyon said the city sent about 3,800 postcards to all properties within 500 feet of the proposed project, including property owners and tenants, along with notices on the city website and news releases to neighborhood leaders.

About 100 people came to the three June meetings to give feedback on the project’s environmental impact report, Lyon said.

Interim Public Works Director William Galvez said the city can’t reply to the questions or concerns from the meeting until October or November because of the environmental review process.

“We’re following those processes because in the end when we have our documents certified we’d like for that document to be good enough for a project to actually occur,” said Galvez.

“We have engaged agencies, businesses and property owners” for about a three-year period, he added.

If businesses adjacent to the proposed streetcar line weren’t contacted, “then we need to check our records to see if we in fact left anyone out,” said Galvez.

Mayor Miguel Pulido and the rest of the City Council didn’t return messages through Lyon seeking comment.

Spencer said a majority of shop owners along Fourth Street were not informed by the city about recent outreach meetings for the project.

The city had no problem citing them for code violations during a recent Cinco de Mayo event, Spencer wrote in a cover letter for the petition.

This shows that city officials have “every ability to inform businesses of violations yet seem to have little ability to inform them of processes that may well affect their livelihood for years to come,” she added.

Lyon said over the weekend that she didn’t know if the city had someone walk the route to conduct in-person outreach to shopkeepers and residents next to the proposed route.

City officials say the feedback they’ve received on the streetcar has been mostly positive.

One those supporters is Ryan Chase, a real estate developer who heads up Downtown, Inc.

“I think the project’s a no-brainer,” said Chase, pointing to new investment and customers expected to be brought the downtown area.

The city is competing for federal grants, he said, adding to the urgency of getting the streetcar approved.

“I think we need to find a way to say yes” and move forward, said Chase.

Having the streetcar run down Fourth Street has an advantage because it features better architecture, historic buildings and more street activity than Fifth Street.

"At the end of the day the streetcar will be bringing a lot of people and attention to the area, and [Fourth Street] would be best to showcase the heart of the Downtown rather than a secondary street," said Chase.

Pete Katz, an active Santa Ana resident who serves on the Com-Link board, disagreed with opponents regarding the outreach.

“I think there was plenty of public outreach and there [were] more opportunities in every part of [the day] for people to get out there and voice their opinion every step of the way over the last three years,” said Katz.

“People had the opportunity to show up, they just didn’t bother.”

Galvez, meanwhile, said construction would not be very disruptive, with a two or three block section being worked on at a time for two or three weeks each.

For those who feel they’ve been left out of the process, he encouraged them to call the city and ask to be included in the mailing list.

“We’d be more than happy to add them and keep them engaged,” said Galvez.

Santa Ana council members plan to discuss the project at their Aug. 5 meeting, where they’re slated to decide on whether to approve the preferred route.

The streetcar project is slated to ultimately be overseen by the Orange County Transportation Authority, where a board member said he was surprised to learn of the opposition.

OCTA Director John Moorlach, who is also a county supervisor, said Mayor Pulido has been telling board members that “everyone’s supportive of the streetcar.”

“Then I get this email from [Spencer] saying ‘we’re opposed and I’ve got 500 people who are opposed,” said Moorlach, who opposes the streetcar.

One aspect of the project that activists want more clarity about is the future development plans for Willowick Golf Course.

Both proposed streetcar routes would travel directly between the golf course and the city’s Santa Anita neighborhood, likely causing a significant boost to the value of the land if developed.

The course has been the subject of development discussions for years.

At one point, Mayor Pulido was arranging negotiations with the Chivas USA soccer team to build a stadium on the land.

And last year, the city of Garden Grove, which owns Willowick, considered selling the course to McWhinney Enterprises, the developers of an upcoming water park hotel in the city.

“The value of the Willowick Golf Course…for a medium density mixed-use development is estimated to be $50 million,” Garden Grove City Manager Matt Fertal wrote in an email to a different developer.

Santa Ana’s current website for the streetcar also marks the land as “Future Development Willowick Golf Course.”

Regarding Willowick, Moorlach said it “is likely the case” that “there something going on behind the scenes that we’re not aware of.”

“It would not be a shock if there was something going on and this were a motivating factor” behind the proposed route, he added.

Galvez said he was unaware of any specific development discussions surrounding the property.

Ultimately, Spencer said, the community wants to be part of an inclusive engagement around Santa Ana’s transit and development vision.

“I cannot figure out why they don’t shift over to this more modern way of working. Because people are doing it all over successfully,” said Spencer, pointing to engagement efforts in cities like San Antonio, Texas.

City leaders can take a big step forward, she added, by organizing a town hall meeting about the project.

“Together, we actually come up with the best idea for everyone.”

You can reach Nick Gerda 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 — Split Supervisors — July 11, 2014

The first piece below in the Voice of OC strongly supports why my proposed Civic Openness in Negotiations (COIN) ordinance is so important. After “more than two years of private negotiations,” the public finally gets to see what the Board majority is willing to agree to with the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs (AOCDS). I refused to share any details with the reporter about what was discussed in closed session amongst myself and my colleagues, as I am required to do. Unfortunately, Supervisor Spitzer had no problem revealing deal points that were discussed in closed session. Consequently, I now feel free to share my own observations from these prolonged negotiating sessions. For a good briefing on the deliberations, I would recommend that you reread MOORLACH UPDATE — Another Impasse — April 21, 2014, where I wrote the following:

“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.”

Allow me to elaborate. It is my conclusion that Supervisor Spitzer circumvented the negotiation process and worked independently with AOCDS. I thought the deal points that he proposed were a sincere effort to come to a resolution. I have since come to the conclusion that he was a messenger for AOCDS and was attempting to convince his colleagues into believing that we were countering with an offer that was very magnanimous. I learned rather quickly that Supervisor Spitzer was just usurping the process and being a mouthpiece for AOCDS when he requested another closed session. He had apparently not delivered the specific deal points in the precise manner as he was directed by AOCDS and wanted another closed session to fix his error and satisfy the union. And now I regret having made the vote, because I believe that I was misled by my colleague. This is unfortunate, because the Board was working and coming close to a resolution. We were then surprised at the June 24th Board meeting in our closed session with another attempt to accept a modified version of Supervisor Spitzer’s proposal, which passed but was opposed by myself and Chair Nelson.

I am not necessarily “slamming” this proposal, I’m just staying consistent with the process and the desire for equitability with all of the bargaining units. Those who believe this is slamming may be reacting from their awkward position of cramming down a non-unanimous deal. All the same, here are my concerns with the AOCDS proposal:

1. It adds two new steps to the salary schedule, a thirteenth and a fourteenth. This creates two problems. The first is that it benefits all of those who are at the top of their pay scale (step 12), which represents some 77 percent of the workforce in this union. The second is that the pay increases to these impacted employees would be effective immediately, which is a pay raise, but not implemented until the following year. Initially, it made a mockery of the step system by moving up employees without a job review or proof that their work level even justified an adjustment up the pay scale. The second is that all of the newer members will not receive this pay increase. This is another blatant effort by the union to favor longer term employees and to take advantage of the negotiations at the cost of the newer employees (a common, but very inequitable, negotiating technique).

2. The retiree medical strategy for AOCDS is different than that of the other bargaining units. The County’s assumption of the employees’ portion, the Annual Required Contribution (ARC), assumes that this annual commitment of 3.6 percent will remain flat. That is not the case, as it will most likely continue to increase over time, based on actuarial studies. By the County assuming 2 percent of the cost (more than half), another pay raise, there is a blurring effect that, in future negotiations, could have the County picking up all of the costs. This may subject the taxpayers to an ever-increasing cost that this Board may probably initiate in perpetuity for subsequent Boards. This is not unlike the “3% @ 50” formula, where future Boards are straddled with ongoing and ever increasing costs. The positive side of this unique pay raise is that it is not compensation earnable for pension plan funding purposes.

3. Now the costs of the “3% @ 50” pension enhancement have come home to roost and it must be addressed. Consequently, all employees should at least pick up the employee portion that the employer had previously, and generously, subsidized. In 2001, AOCDS determined that a pension increase, retroactive to the date of hire, was more important than salaries. Therefore, dealing with this growing fiscal tumor will require an impact on wages. Every other bargaining unit has stepped up to the plate. This proposal provides an almost full offset for this maneuver, a point that may not settle well with the other bargaining units in future deliberations.

4. This is not an equitable proposal. One of the main reasons that I even ran for County Supervisor in the first place was because I could see the future impacts of “3% @ 50.” It was easy to see that every County general employee (non-safety) would have to subsidize the salaries and benefits of the deputy sheriffs. Someone has to sacrifice to pay the Sheriff Department’s employees, and it would be the employees of all the other County departments.

5. I’ll save comments about the lack of full disclosure and the current high fund balance level in the AOCDS Medical Trust for another time, as well as discussing the fact that pay raises exasperate the pension system’s unfunded liabilities.

6. The contract cities will have to budget for this proposal. I hope that they have an opportunity to weigh in and provide their counsel before the Board of Supervisors votes on this matter.

The bad news is that I’m not yet convinced that this is an equitable and fair deal. The good news is two-fold. This proposal is close to the Board’s intended goals. Fortunately, I will not have to live with the repercussions of this proposal as I am termed out. I just feel sorry for the rest of the County employees, including my former employees at the Treasurer-Tax Collector’s Department, that I could not do more to stop the potential hemorrhaging that they will suffer in the years ahead if this contract is approved.

The two other pieces, in the Orange County Breeze and the Corona Del Mar Today, explain why the County’s flag is at half-mast. I want to give my sympathies to the family of Ben Carlson, the Newport Beach Lifeguard who lost his life while rescuing a distressed swimmer. The County is not able to have the United States and California flags lowered, but we can lower the County’s Orange flags, which will be done until Sunday.

BONUS: As a Supervisor, I make appointments to various Boards and Commissions when openings occur. The Assessment Appeals Board has two possible openings. To learn what a Board and Hearing Officer does, see Cammy.Danciu).

DOUBLE BONUS: We will enjoy an early morning day hike on Saturday, July 26th. The hike will start at Crystal Cove State Park, Moro Canyon Day-Use Area, and conclude at the Crystal Cove Historic District. If you haven’t explored tide pools in a long time, here is an opportunity. We start at 7:30 a.m. Contact Cammy.Danciu if you are interested.

OC Supervisors Split on Sheriff Deputy Pay Package

The Orange County Board of Supervisors. (Nick Gerda / Voice of OC)


After more than two years of private negotiations between Orange County’s deputy sheriff’s union and county supervisors, a tense split has emerged among supervisors–with allegations of pension spiking–just as they prepare to publicly vote Tuesday on a two-year wage and benefit package.

At issue is whether deputy sheriffs should be offered a salary hike and other concessions to compensate for requiring them to pay more into their pensions. No other employee group that had their contract up this recent negotiations cycle – called the Super Bowl of labor talks – has been granted such an offset.

Given the county’s rising unfunded pension liability – now past the $5 billion mark – supervisors had stated the goal of these negotiations was to have all workers pay their full employee share of the pension. That aim was imposed on managers and most recently, county attorneys – even county supervisors themselves.

Yet there’s a different approach toward public safety.

Supervisors’ Chairman Shawn Nelson and John Moorlach are both slamming the deal that was ratified by rank and file deputies just before the July 4 holiday, saying it’s as close to a pension spike as they’ve seen because it increases deputy salaries (fueling larger pensions) and shifts responsibility for rising retiree medical costs to the county.

“Picking up the retiree medical is about as close as you can get to a 3 system,” said Moorlach referring to the retirement package that allows deputies to retire at age 50 and accrue 3 percent of pay for each year worked. For many deputies who started work at an early age, the benefit allows them to retire with as much as 90 percent of their pay.

“I don’t’ think this is equitable in the scheme of all the other contracts we’ve approved,” Moorlach said.

Meanwhile, Supervisor Todd Spitzer – a strong supporter of sheriffs’ deputies and a likely future candidate for district attorney – is firing right back at Nelson and Moorlach saying they supported deal points privately but are now blasting the offer in public.

Spitzer said supervisors in March agreed unanimously in closed session with the concept that increased pension responsibilities would be matched with salary hikes, as has been done in other jurisdictions.

“I’m flabbergasted they are not admitting they were supportive of an offset,” Spitzer said.

He argues it’s critical to offer deputy sheriffs a lucrative deal given the preeminent role public safety plays in local government and the possibility that deputies will switch to agencies that pay better.

While Nelson said he recognizes the special role of public safety, “I don’t love them anymore than the rest of my family.”

Nelson said he disagrees with offsetting the requirement of full pension pickups with salary hikes because that wasn’t offered to any other unionized worker.

“It becomes pension spiking to do it this way,” Nelson said. “That was the whole point to not do it this way.”

Sitting silently in the wings are the two deciding votes – Supervisors Janet Nguyen and Pat Bates.

Neither returned a call seeking comment.

Nguyen is locked in a heated State Senate election this November and is reportedly seeking support from the deputy’s union. Bates – who faces a write-in candidate in November for a less competitive Senate seat – has in the past received important campaign support from the deputies union.

Moorlach said the board majority supporting the deal doesn’t appreciate how it will impact future county budgets adding, “I don’t think they understand the fiscal repercussions of what has been approved.”

Under the proposed labor pact, deputies would be granted an across-the-board raise of three percent next year. Senior deputies would be rewarded with supervisors creating two new categories that would allow those already topped out at salary to get a 5.5 percent raise in 2015.

In addition, the county would reduce deputies’ contribution to their retiree medical by one percent and increase payments to the deputies’ medical trust – which pays for current health care coverage administered by the union.

In exchange, the union agreed to have entry-level deputies paid less and have current deputies immediately contribute an additional two percent to their required employee pension payments.

By 2015, deputies would be responsible for paying 100 percent of their employee share for their pension benefit. That would be a significant spike from their current payment of about 5 percent.

Thus, in exchange for an 8.5 percent salary hike, deputies’ take-home pay could drop by an estimated 14-20 percent once higher pension contributions kick in.

That is something that few in law enforcement are doing, said Tom Dominguez, president of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs.

“We have spent the last two years trying to negotiate a contract with the very real threat of our members losing thousands of dollars a year out of their paychecks hanging over our heads,” Dominguez said. “While other Orange County law enforcement agencies have agreed to positive contracts that include significant pay increases, our Board of Supervisors demanded from the very beginning that every deputy sheriff and district attorney investigator once again pay 100 percent of their employee retirement contribution. Our members have accepted that fact.

"Unfortunately, picking up 100 percent retirement contribution means our members will be forced to pay between 14 and 20 percent of their salary toward their pension by next July – substantially more than any other police officer in Orange County.”

Spitzer said holding deputies to an unusually high standard on the pension issue could backfire on the County of Orange because many of the best deputies could leave for other places. He and the deputy’s union both point to a $180,000 cost to replace deputies as a real fiscal threat that can impact the general fund in a real way.

Yet Nelson said the current deal doesn’t match fiscal realities and will blow a hole in the county budget.

“I don’t blame the sheriff’s union in any of this,” he said. “I understand their perspective. I’m not mad at them. It’s their job to ask for an offset. I just have financial realities that suggest that’s not available right now. And if it is, I should be consistent with everyone. They’re already treated better than everyone else when it comes to retirement.”

You can reach Norberto Santana Jr. at nsantana and follow him on Twitter: @NorbertoSantana.

Flags lowered in honor of Newport lifeguard

Board of Supervisors Chairman Shawn Nelson has directed County of Orange flags at each County facility be lowered to half-staff from Thursday, July 10, through Sunday, July 13, to honor the memory of Newport Beach lifeguard Ben Carlson, who died on July 6 while attempting to rescue a distressed swimmer in high surf.

The request for the flags to be lowered was made by Supervisor John M.W. Moorlach, whose district includes Newport Beach.


Lifeguard Memorials Planned for Sunday

Two memorial services will be held Sunday in Newport Beach to honor Ben Carlson, a veteran lifeguard who died Sunday while successfully rescuing a man in heavy surf.

The City of Newport Beach has released information about the memorials, including parking information.

The first memorial will be a paddle out that will begin at 9 a.m. on the east side of the Newport Beach Pier, according to the city’s website. Members of the public who wish to participate should arrive by 8 a.m. because of limited parking, the city website states. Carpooling or bicycling to the event is encouraged. A temporary drop- off zone will be available on 20th Street between Balboa Boulevard and Court Street, the website states.

Participants must provide their own surf or paddle boards, and conditions permitting, the event will be close enough to the end of the pier that non-surfers can gather there to participate, the website states.

The area around the pier will be closed to all recreational vessels from 8 a.m. until the paddle out ends, the website states.

At 6:30 p.m., the Celebration of Life will begin on the beach at Orange Street, and again, early arrival is advised. Parking will be limited, carpooling and bicycling is advised and a designated bicycle parking area will be provided on the beach.

Parking will be available at a designated lot on the Hoag Hospital campus, off West Coast Highway between Superior Avenue and Newport Boulevard, between 4 and 9 p.m. Shuttle service will be provided between the lot and the ceremony location. When that lot fills, overflow parking will be available in the parking structure to the right of the entrance.

City officials advise those attending to remember that the Orange County Fair will be open and could add to traffic delays.

Individuals with special needs, such as handicap access, should contact the Newport Beach Fire Department at 949-644-3106 in advance of the event to arrange for appropriate parking accommodations, according to a news release.

Wahoo’s Fish Tacos will provide refreshments at the paddle out, a news release said, and light refreshments will be provided at the later memorial as well. Casual or aloha attire is requested for members of the public.

A Ben Carlson Scholarship has begun, city officials said, at the request of his family. The Newport Beach Ocean Lifeguards Association (NBOLA) is accepting donations, which can be made online or by mail; send donations to the Newport Beach Fire Department, Attn: NBOLA, Ben Carlson Scholarship, P.O. Box 1768, Newport Beach, CA 92658-8915. Checks can be made out to NBOLA and include “Ben Carlson Scholarship Fund” in the memo line. Donations are tax-deductible.

Throughout the city, flags have been lowered to half-staff at municipal buildings as well as at private businesses and homes. Many restaurants and shops have messages of remembrance to Carlson on their marquees, and on Thursday, the Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairman Shawn Nelson directed county flags to be lowered in Carlson’s honor.

“The request for the flags to be lowered was made by Supervisor John M.W. Moorlach, whose district includes Newport Beach,” a county website states.

At the annual Newport Beach Junior Guards hotdog dinner event on Thursday, organizers created a memorial with photos and handwritten notes. The event began with a moment of silence for Carlson, who had been a guards instructor.

Carlson, 32, is the first lifeguard to die in the line of duty in the 100-year history of the program, officials said. He was pulled from the water near 27th Street after an extensive search. He was pronounced dead at the hospital. The man he was trying to save has fully recovered.

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Posted in California

MOORLACH UPDATE — Mil-Walkie — July 7, 2014

My wife and I are just back from a fun visit to the Milwaukee area in Wisconsin. We started with a walking tour of my granddaughter’s new neighborhood. Jordi loves to take walks. When she’s in the mood, she simply asks “walkie?” It gave a whole new meaning to the name Milwaukee. Wisconsin is lush. Everything is green and wooded. The trees are glorious. Walks were a treat as we got to listen to Robins and other song birds sing away. You can even pick cherries from a cherry tree on the nearby school yard. We enjoyed an incredible variety of weather, including thunder storms, which provides for all of the greenery. A pleasant walk through the Boerner Botanical Gardens really displayed how many varieties of flowers and roses that thrive in this lush setting. It was a stark contrast to California’s current drought condition. But, with the standing water, it also made me very appreciative of the Orange County Vector Control District’s efforts to address the County’s mosquito population.

We enjoyed a tail-gating party at Miller Park, which has a great tradition of allowing this pre-game activity. The Brewer’s game against the Colorado Rockies was exciting, going down to a walk-off hit in the bottom of the ninth. We enjoyed time at my son-in-law’s church, where he now works. We celebrated my granddaughter’s second birthday with a lovely backyard party at my daughter’s in-law’s home. We visited Lake Geneva and enjoyed the renowned mail boat ride. We visited the Harley-Davidson Museum. I’m a car museum nut, including having worked at the former MovieWorld Cars of Stars in Buena Park while in high school. My take: Unless you’re a serious Harley fan, this museum doesn’t make it to my “must visit” list. We visited Milwaukee’s version of “Pretend City,” the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum. Being the 4th of July week, we enjoyed three wonderful evening firework displays. The annual Milwaukee Summerfest had a great showing last Tuesday night. Milwaukee has a massive annual show every July 3rd. And we enjoyed a community 4th of July show in my granddaughter’s city.

We also watched plenty of World Cup Soccer, a family tradition. Since we didn’t have access to cable and the I-Pad screen is small, we had to find venues to watch the important games. There was a tavern in downtown Milwaukee that made it to the news, as it painted its courtyard in Brazilian colors. So we decided to watch the United States game there. It was standing room only, but we were able to commandeer a booth with a bench. I nursed my lemonade through the long game. Unfortunately, the Belgium team beat the US. On the way out of the establishment, I was interviewed by the CBS Milwaukee affiliate, Channel 58. If you want to see a couple of seconds of me holding Jordi, then go to One of my daughter’s friends asked, “How long have you been in town? I’ve been here all my life and I’ve never made it to the local news.”

But, all good things must come to an end. Thanks kids for a great break. We had a wonderful time. And Happy 7th Anniversary!! It was my first out-of-state vacation in six years and now I get to attack the e-mails and piles of new mail and documents. So, be patient with me as I dig out.

Rick Reiff of SoCal Insider on PBS interviewed me just before I left town. To watch the interview, go to You may also want to bookmark the Pension Tsunami website, as it is a great resource for news clippings on the fiscal impacts of defined benefit pension plans on municipalities. I also wore an orange tie, as I’m still diligently rooting on the Netherlands in the World Cup. (We watched Saturday’s game at the Café Hollander in Wauwatosa.) Go, Oranje!

While walking into the Milwaukee Art Museum to see the Kandinsky exhibit, I received my only reporter call during our trip. The resulting piece made it to the LA Times and Daily Pilot over the weekend. Having just enjoyed flying out of and in to John Wayne Airport, I have a couple of thoughts. The first is that I could see Denver International Airport on the first leg of our return flight yesterday morning. There is a reason why it was built so far out of town. Ironically, just like Sacramento Airport, you could see new residential neighborhoods creeping ever closer to the airport. Since JWA is not out in the farm fields, one must be respectful of the densely populated community surrounding the facilities. Regretfully, it appears that our current Orange County Grand Jury missed the point of finding an appropriate balance, did not consider the recent impact of the economy on air travel, and underestimated the tremendous amount of work done by local community groups, the city of Newport Beach and the County, including my office. I guess that’s what happens when nineteen people get to be experts for twelve months. Oh, well. Had they interviewed me (or anyone else knowledgeable about JWA), I would have told them that a cell phone waiting lot is in the design phase and should be built next spring.

JWA report brings ire

Grand jury says airport could have a bigger effect on local economy if operating curfews were lifted.

By Jill Cowan

A recent report by the Orange County Grand Jury suggesting that John Wayne Airport’s operating constraints are blunting its potential impact on the local economy is ruffling feathers in Newport Beach, where residents have long fought to keep the roar of jets over their homes to a minimum.

"There’s a lot wrong with it," Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff said about the report Wednesday, adding that the findings hinged on "a lot of speculation."

The grand jury, he said, didn’t ask the city for input.

The report, which was released last week, comes as the county is in the midst of the environmental review phase of a process to extend the agreement that places caps on the airport’s operations.

The current agreement, which resulted from a 1985 legal settlement aimed at curbing the airport’s effects on the surrounding community, is set to expire in 2015.

If approved as proposed — following months of negotiations between the settlement’s parties, including Newport Beach, the county and two Newport resident advocacy groups — the extension would allow stepped increases to annual passenger caps effective through 2030, as well as more departures.

The airport’s famously strict curfews are governed by a separate county ordinance. Under the proposed deal struck by the settlement parties last year, those curfews would be in place until 2035 — a major selling point for the city.

The grand jury, however, found that the operational limits keep the airport from capitalizing on growing demand for flights and becoming a greater contributor to a "more robust" county economy.

"The Settlement Agreement operating constraints significantly impair John Wayne Airport’s ability to serve future demand," the report says.

The document recommends that county and airport officials consider opening up the curfews once newer models of jets are quiet enough when they take off.

But Kiff said that was too far out on which to base any kind of action plan.

"Someday fleets might be a lot quieter," he said. "Someday jets might leap straight up into the air … but we don’t know that."

Among the report’s other recommendations are that officials explore changing the airport’s name to John Wayne International Airport, and building a cell phone waiting lot.

It also suggests lowering JWA’s long-term parking fees to offset what it found were 3% to 24% more expensive commercial fares compared to other local airports.

Such a move would lure more leisure travelers, who might otherwise head to Long Beach or Ontario International airports.

Kiff said that approach is counterproductive, because, as he put it, "Ontario is begging for customers."

Overall, the report read as "kind of one-sided," said Marko Popovich, president of Stop Polluting Our Newport, one of the advocacy groups included in the settlement negotiations.

"It’s looking at the potential economic benefit without looking at the residential property values," he said.

Popovich added that he hoped the Board of Supervisors keep in mind the long hours spent delicately negotiating the proposed agreement extension when it officially responds to the report within 90 days, as is required by law.

"We hope they’ll listen to public opinion on this," he said.

Supervisor John Moorlach, whose district includes Newport Beach, said he hadn’t had a chance to thoroughly review the report, but the title alone, "Maximizing the benefits of John Wayne Airport to better serve Orange County," was disconcerting.

"From my memory, ‘maximizing,’ was used," he said. "I wasn’t at all amused by the choice of that word."

He said he was disappointed that the grand jury hadn’t spoken with him for the report.

"We’re trying to find a fair balance between air carriers and the residents," he said. "And we’re working diligently to have an extension to the settlement agreement that’s fair to everybody."

Airport spokeswoman Courtney Wiercioch said staff members were working with the county to weigh possible responses that will go before the supervisors and that she couldn’t comment on its findings.

But, she said, "we noticed that they were complimentary about our role in the community, and we certainly appreciate that."



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