MOORLACH UPDATE — Shirley Grindle — July 19, 2015

This is my tribute UPDATE to Shirley Grindle, as she was the topic of the front-page story in the Sunday OC Register article below. I’m providing most of the mentions she’s had in my UPDATES over the years. Shirley has been engaged in my life since at least the year 2000, if not earlier. And, she has been able to convince plenty of reporters that she needed a little attention about establishing an Ethics Commission.

The piece reminds me of when Garrison Keillor had his annual farewell tours in the late 1980s. This has got to be Shirley’s Tenth Annual media announcement tour about her file cards and succession planning. You’ve just got to admire someone who just keeps swinging.

MOORLACH UPDATE — Political Stunts — October 11, 2014 October 11, 2014 John Moorlach, MOORLACH UPDATE — Ethics Take Two — Septembr 17, 2014

MOORLACH UPDATE — Daily Pilot 103 — December 27, 2013 December 27, 2013 John Moorlach

MOORLACH UPDATE — Happy Thanksgiving! — November 27, 2013

MOORLACH UPDATE — Feet to the Fire — October 11, 2013 October 11, 2013 John Moorlach (see LOOK BACKS)

MOORLACH UPDATE — Ethics Advice — April 16, 2013 April 16, 2013 John Moorlach

MOORLACH UPDATE — OC Register — February 7, 2013, MOORLACH UPDATE — What Price? — January 25, 2013

MOORLACH UPDATE — Orange County Business Journal — January 22, 2013

MOORLACH UPDATE — Super Vote — November 6, 2012 November 6, 2012 John Moorlach (see LOOK BACKS)

MOORLACH UPDATE — Calpensions — October 15, 2012 October 15, 2012 John Moorlach (see LOOK BACKS)

MOORLACH UPDATE — Voice of OC — June 13, 2012 June 13, 2012 John Moorlach

MOORLACH UPDATE — OC Register — February 28, 2011 February 29, 2012 John Moorlach (see LOOK BACKS – 2002)

MOORLACH UPDATE — Voice of OC — March 5, 2011 March 5, 2011 John Moorlach

MOORLACH UPDATE — PA/PG — March 2, 2011 March 2, 2011 John Moorlach,

MOORLACH UPDATE — Daily Pilot — August 14, 2010 August 14, 2010 John Moorlach (see LOOK BACKS)

MOORLACH UPDATE — TIN CUP — July 27, 2010 July 27, 2010 John Moorlach

MOORLACH UPDATE — Voice of San Diego — June 4, 2010 June 4, 2010 John Moorlach (see LOOK BACKS – 2000)

MOORLACH UPDATE — OC Register — January 13, 2010 January 13, 2010 John Moorlach

MOORLACH UPDATE — OC Register — January 6, 2009 January 6, 2010 John Moorlach

MOORLACH UPDATE — Mainero — December 4, 2009 December 4, 2009 John Moorlach.




Grizzled government watchdog Shirley Grindle has long displayed a talent for getting under people’s skin.

The 80-year-old is gearing up for one final battle, a 2016 ballot measure establishing a commission that would keep officials looking over their shoulders long after she’s gone.

“My last hurrah is getting this ethics board,” said the longtime Orange resident. “This is the most important thing in my life right now.”

There are plenty who wish the county’s best-known government whistleblower would just go away.

“She’s a busybody who’s very vindictive,” said Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff for District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. “The community would be better off if Shirley Grindle focused her atten- tion on 53 cats.” Schroeder followed her telephone assessment with a series of emails, including one with the subject line “Shrill Grindle.” Another read “Separated at birth” – it had a photo of Grindle and one of the “Bewitched” TV character Gladys Kravitz, a nosy neighbor.

Schroeder did not mention that Kravitz had a basis for her suspicions of the Stephens household, given that the wife was a witch.

Grindle’s suspicions have been frequently validated as well.

The county’s 1978 campaign finance ordinance establishing contribution limits – dubbed TINCUP for “Time Is Now, Clean Up Politics” – was written by Grindle, who was outraged by developers pouring thousands of dollars into county supervisors’ accounts whenever they had a project that needed approval.

Grindle has since become a one-woman wrecking crew of enforcement, perusing campaign reports, filing complaints and winning judgments against candidates who stray from the law. She hopes voters will cement her legacy next year by approving a county commission to take over and expand the job she’s been doing.

One reason for the mission, she says, is Rackauckas’ reluctance to pursue political prosecutions. She says the district attorney plays favorites.

Schroeder levies the same accusation against Grindle.

The bitter grudge goes beyond the two women, revealing a Hatfields and McCoys-type political divide among some of the county’s most established officials.

For instance, Grindle’s most steadfast supporter on the Board of Supervisors is Todd Spitzer, a former deputy district attorney fired by Rackauckas for allegedly bullying underlings and otherwise abusing his authority. Spitzer is one of Rackauckas’ biggest critics – and Schroeder one of Spitzer’s.

Grindle also filed two campaign finance complaints against disgraced former Sheriff Mike Carona, who was long backed by prominent Republican donor Mike Schroeder. Schroeder, married to Susan Kang Schroeder until their recent divorce, has been Rackauckas’ campaign chairman since he was elected in 1998.

No charges were filed by Rackauckas against Carona, although the state fined the sheriff for violations stemming from Grindle’s second complaint. In 2009, the U.S. Justice Department prosecuted the sheriff for witness tampering and won a 66-month sentence.

“Had Tony Rackauckas looked into my complaints regarding the money laundering, it might have nipped these other problems in the bud,” Grindle said.


Grindle’s gruff, combative persona falls away in her garage, where she’s surrounded by the toys and tools of her hobbies.

She fires up the Megatouch MAXX Emerald 2 touchscreen video game’s tennis program, effortlessly returns the volley and cackles with glee as her visitor repeatedly struggles to get a racket on the ball.

There’s also a stainedglass workshop in the garage and a batting practice apparatus. Her 70-and-over softball league is very competitive, she says, but the 75-and-over league is just “warm-up.”

The retired aerospace engineer describes the fondness she’s developed for her overwhelmingly male teammates.

“When I started playing softball, I met a much nicer group of people,” said Grindle , who manages both teams she plays on. “It’s much nicer than playing hardball with the politicians.”

She demonstrates her swing with a $300 carbon composite bat, smacking the practice-device ball squarely with a full and hearty stroke.

But it’s nothing compared with her impact in the political arena.

“Shirley Grindle is the nonelected person who’s made the greatest difference to Orange County politics,” said Fred Smoller, a Chapman University political science professor and part of the team Grindle assembled to help establish an ethics commission. “Without her, big-money interests would dominate politics even more.

“People think twice about their campaign contributions because of her. They worry about what she’s going to say about them. She’s increased transparency. She’s incredibly bright, incredibly tough and has incredible staying power. She’s a powerhouse, and the public should be indebted.”


Both Grindle and the county grand jury have repeatedly but unsuccessfully urged the Board of Supervisors to establish an ethics commission.

Grindle is still developing her proposal, but she promises something similar to those in place in most of the state’s other large metropolitan areas. It will include a full-time paid director to oversee campaign and gift disclosures, monitor the county lobbyist registry and provide training to candidates on TINCUP requirements. It also would receive and forward complaints about other ethics issues.

The biggest hurdle is getting it on the ballot.

Grindle complains that past supervisors resisted because they didn’t want the additional scrutiny. Some of those supervisors, in turn, complained that her proposal was a redundant, unnecessary expense.

Former Supervisor Chris Norby said candidates do a good job in making sure their opponents obey TINCUP, noting that violations typically generate negative headlines.

Norby and state Sen. John ‍Moorlach, another former supervisor, say the district attorney and the state Fair Political Practices Commission have the job of responding to complaints – although the FPPC can only pursue violations of state law, not local laws like TINCUP.

Schroeder, Rackauckas’ chief of staff, added that if anybody has problems with how the district attorney does his job, they should file a complaint with the state attorney general.

Supervisors tried to quell calls for a county commission last year, when they put a measure on the ballot calling for the county to contract with the FPPC to enforce TINCUP as well as state laws.

It was overwhelmingly approved by voters but resulted in no change in enforcement. That’s because the FPPC is not empowered to enforce local campaign laws and a bill to give it that authority died in the Legislature.

“Why are they so opposed to a local ethics commission?” Grindle said. She noted that the current system usually requires someone to file a complaint for there to be enforcement and pointed to numerous violations that never would have come to light if she hadn’t flagged them.

Among them is a 2002 complaint that led to Norby being fined $10,000 by the state for not including occupations and addresses for some campaign donors – a penalty he says was disproportionate to the violation.

Contributing to supervisors’ resistance to a local commission is Grindle’s brusque and often unyielding personality.


‍Moorlach recounted forming an ad hoc committee in a failed search for common ground on an ethics commission. Grindle was regularly goaded by two adversaries on the panel and would get angry, ‍Moorlach said, rather than simply letting the antagonism pass and focusing on ways to make progress.

“I think she’s always been well-meaning,” ‍Moorlach said. “She has a very unique passion. What she does is beneficial. But the delivery of the message has always been so harsh, it never sounded like it made sense. When I tried to work with her, it was difficult.”

Grindle is hoping the current Board of Supervisors will break with its predecessors and put her ethics board proposal on the ballot. Besides Spitzer, she has been working with Supervisor Shawn Nelson to come up with a measure the board will find palatable.

If that’s unsuccessful, she and the small experienced team she’s assembled say they’re prepared to raise $200,000 to employ petition circulators and gather the 62,000 valid signatures needed to put the measure on the ballot themselves.

And if the ethics commission is established?

“I doubt I can walk away,” she said. “I’ll train the executive director. And I would probably continue to do it myself, on my cards.

“And I would play ball.”

CONTACT THE WRITER: mwisckol; @MartinWisckol

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MOORLACH UPDATE — SBX1-9 — July 18, 2015

Due to the date of the special election, March 17, I was sworn in after the due date to submit legislation for consideration in the current session. With the Governor calling for two special sessions, legislators are permitted to submit new bills. I have my first bill! It’s SBX1-9. provides the news below.

The seed for my proposed bill can be found at MOORLACH UPDATE — Caltrans Sunshine? — September 27, 2014 September 27, 2014 John Moorlach. I would highly suggest that you reread it.

How can Sacramento ask you to pay more in taxes for road and transportation improvements, when Caltrans is badly mismanaged? It shouldn’t. Let’s improve Caltrans first. How can Sacramento tell us to run our lives with another tribute tax, when Caltrans can’t even run itself properly?

The bill includes two thrusts. The first is that should Caltrans receive any new funding, including bond proceeds, those funds may not be used to pay for salaries and benefits of existing staff. Use the money for roads, not to grow an already bloated bureaucracy.

The second component is to use more outside engineering and architectural firms. Currently, Caltrans only uses them for ten percent of their projects. The bill mandates that this threshold must increase. This is an approach that I tried to pursue while a County Supervisor (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Missed Outsourcing — July 24. 2014 July 24, 2014 John Moorlach, MOORLACH UPDATE — Questioning Outsourcing — July 23, 2014 July 23, 2014 John Moorlach, and MOORLACH UPDATE — Outsourcing Measure — July 21, 2014 July 21, 2014 John Moorlach). Let’s direct our tax dollars towards roads, not additional staffing and the resulting high pension costs. Phasing this approach in while our workforce is retiring out makes great sense.

As a bonus, I’ve provided the text of the bill at the bottom of this UPDATE. Here are some of the justification highlights:

(a) Over the next 10 years, the state faces a $59 billion shortfall to adequately maintain the state highway system in a basic state of good repair.
(b) The 21st Annual Highway Report by the Reason Foundation, published in September 2014, found the following:
(1) California has 50,462 lane miles of highways under the administration of the Department of Transportation (Caltrans).
(2) Overall, California spent $501,136 per state mile of highway, more than three times the national average, yet California’s state highway system ranks 45th in overall performance and cost effectiveness.
(3) California spent $102,889 per state mile of highway specifically on maintenance, nearly four times the national average.
(4) California spent $48,754 per state mile of highway specifically on administration, more than four times the national average.
(c) Proposition 35, approved by voters in 2000, allows Caltrans, without limitation, to contract for architectural and engineering work. Currently, Caltrans only contracts for 10 percent of this work, while 90 percent is completed by permanent state staff, resulting in an inability to adjust staffing levels as workload fluctuates.
(d) Hiring permanent state staff with limited-term or one-time funding is fiscally imprudent and leads to structural funding deficiencies.
(e) According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, in the Capital Outlay Support Program Review report issued in May 2014, the Capital Outlay Support Program is overstaffed by approximately 3,500 full-time equivalent positions, at a cost of more than $500 million annually.

MML - Mother Lode Round-Up

Wide Range Of Transportation Proposals

Written by BJ Hansen

Several ideas are emerging at the state capitol that proponents say would improve California’s roads and transportation infrastructure.

Yesterday six Republican Senators introduced bills in preparation of Governor Jerry Brown’s requested special session on transportation. California has several roads and highways that are in need of repair, but there is not a consensus on how to fund the fixes. For example, Mother Lode Senator Tom Berryhill is authoring SB 11, which he says would exempt road repair and maintenance projects on existing right-of-way from CEQA review. SB 9, authored by John Moorlach, would move the state toward awarding more private contracts for transportation projects, as opposed to the current practice of employing many full-time Caltrans employees through temporary bond funds or loans. SB 13, introduced by Andy Vidak, calls for the creation of a new Transportation Inspector position to look for waste, fraud and efficiency problems with Caltrans and the High Speed Rail Authority. SB 10, authored by Pat Bates, calls for more local control of the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), and to streamline project approval.

Roads and highways are a growing concern in the state because gas tax revenues over recent years have been falling short of revenues, notably due to a rise in fuel efficient cars. The Governor has noted that gas taxes are generating $2.7-billion annually, but around $8-billion is what’s really needed.



An act to add Section 14009 to, and to add Article 2.6 (commencing with Section 14140) to Chapter 2 of Part 5 of Division 3 of Title 2 of, the Government Code, relating to transportation.


SB 9, as introduced, Moorlach. Department of Transportation.
(1) Existing law creates the Department of Transportation with various powers and duties relative to the state highway system and other transportation programs.
This bill would prohibit the department from using any nonrecurring funds, including, but not limited to, loan repayments, bond funds, or grant funds, to pay the salaries or benefits of any permanent civil service position within the department.
(2) Article XXII of the California Constitution grants to the State of California and all other governmental entities the choice and authority to contract with qualified private entities for architectural and engineering services for all public works of improvement.
This bill would require the Department of Transportation to contract with qualified private entities for architectural and engineering services with respect to public works of improvement undertaken by the department, with a minimum of 15% of the total annual value of these services to be contracted to qualified private entities beginning on July 1, 2016, and increasing each year to a minimum of 50% by July 1, 2023.

Digest Key

Vote: majority   Appropriation: no   Fiscal Committee: yes   Local Program: no  

Bill Text


SECTION 1.  The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:

(a) Over the next 10 years, the state faces a $59 billion shortfall to adequately maintain the state highway system in a basic state of good repair.

(b) The 21st Annual Highway Report by the Reason Foundation, published in September 2014, found the following:

(1) California has 50,462 lane miles of highways under the administration of the Department of Transportation (Caltrans).

(2) Overall, California spent $501,136 per state mile of highway, more than three times the national average, yet California’s state highway system ranks 45th in overall performance and cost effectiveness.

(3) California spent $102,889 per state mile of highway specifically on maintenance, nearly four times the national average.

(4) California spent $48,754 per state mile of highway specifically on administration, more than four times the national average.

(c) Proposition 35, approved by voters in 2000, allows Caltrans, without limitation, to contract for architectural and engineering work. Currently, Caltrans only contracts for 10 percent of this work, while 90 percent is completed by permanent state staff, resulting in an inability to adjust staffing levels as workload fluctuates.

(d) Hiring permanent state staff with limited-term or one-time funding is fiscally imprudent and leads to structural funding deficiencies.

(e) According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, in the Capital Outlay Support Program Review report issued in May 2014, the Capital Outlay Support Program is overstaffed by approximately 3,500 full-time equivalent positions, at a cost of more than $500 million annually.

SEC. 2.  Section 14009 is added to the Government Code, to read:

14009.  The department may not use any nonrecurring funds, including, but not limited to, loan repayments, bond funds, or grant funds, to pay the salaries or benefits of any permanent civil service position within the department.

SEC. 3.  Article 2.6 (commencing with Section 14140) is added to Chapter 2 of Part 5 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code, to read:

Article  2.6. Architectural and Engineering Services

14140.  The department shall implement Article XXII of the California Constitution by contracting with qualified private entities for architectural and engineering services, as defined in Section 4529.10, with respect to public works of improvement undertaken by the department, as follows:

(a) A minimum of 15 percent of the total annual value of architectural and engineering services required by the department shall be contracted to qualified private entities for the fiscal year beginning on July 1, 2016.

(b) A minimum of 20 percent of the total annual value of architectural and engineering services required by the department shall be contracted to qualified private entities for the fiscal year beginning on July 1, 2017.

(c) A minimum of 25 percent of the total annual value of architectural and engineering services required by the department shall be contracted to qualified private entities for the fiscal year beginning on July 1, 2018.

(d) A minimum of 30 percent of the total annual value of architectural and engineering services required by the department shall be contracted to qualified private entities for the fiscal year beginning on July 1, 2019.

(e) A minimum of 35 percent of the total annual value of architectural and engineering services required by the department shall be contracted to qualified private entities for the fiscal year beginning on July 1, 2020.

(f) A minimum of 40 percent of the total annual value of architectural and engineering services required by the department shall be contracted to qualified private entities for the fiscal year beginning on July 1, 2021.

(g) A minimum of 45 percent of the total annual value of architectural and engineering services required by the department shall be contracted to qualified private entities for the fiscal year beginning on July 1, 2022.

(h) A minimum of 50 percent of the total annual value of architectural and engineering services required by the department shall be contracted to qualified private entities for the fiscal year beginning on July 1, 2023, and in subsequent fiscal years.

MOORLACH UPDATE — AB 783 — July 16, 2015

The desire for the legislature to meddle in local affairs is a strong one. Wednesday morning at the Senate Judiciary Committee, two bills stood out. AB 504 on local planning found the author trying to do something to the City of San Diego that she couldn’t do in her previous position. The Chair of the Committee even asked her if she was wearing her Assemblywoman hat or her public employee labor leader hat. She said that she was leading with the elected position first and would follow up with the union hat next. The bill passed, over my no vote, even with literally the entire city of San Diego in opposition to the bill. It was an amazing sight to behold, watching someone use the legislative process to pursue a pet project that some observers have described as petty and vindictive.

Two bills later, we heard AB 783, on county auditors, where the only two speakers were the author and the Orange County Auditor-Controller. Another innocuous bill where there were no supporters other than two people, which is covered by the OC Register below. It’s former version was a trailer bill, SB 854, which was killed by joint-Budget Committee leadership because it was a policy bill (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Butt Out — June 13, 2015 June 13, 2015 John Moorlach). This tactic was used successfully last year by the author (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Fireworks — June 26, 2014 June 26, 2014 John Moorlach).

For an UPDATE on the current effort to have Orange County officials address this matter internally, where it belongs, see MOORLACH UPDATE — Supervisor Bartlett — December 3, 2014 December 3, 2014 John Moorlach.

Our state has major issues with which to focus our legislative attention. We need an economic competitiveness plan. We need to address hundreds of billions in unfunded liabilities. We need to upgrade our water, power, and transportation infrastructures. The seriousness of these looming needs makes efforts like those embodied in AB 504 and AB 783 seem to be a gross misallocation of time, energy, and taxpayer funds.

BONUS: You are invited to enjoy a beach fire ring experience with my staff on July 20th (see flyer below). Please RSVP @ Jacob.Ashendorf.

State bill to transfer auditing powers in Orange County passes committee


The battle within Orange County government over whether to overturn a key reform implemented after the 1994 bankruptcy has reached the state Legislature.

A bill by Assemblyman Tom Daly, D-Anaheim, that mandates Orange County remove auditing powers from an auditor appointed by the Board of Supervisors and give them to the elected auditor-controller passed the state Senate’s Governance and Finance committee Wednesday.

It applies only to Orange County – the only county in California in which the elected auditor-controller doesn’t supervise internal audits.

The 5-1vote – state Sen. John ‍Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, opposed – rejected a plea on behalf of supervisors who want the debate to stay in Orange County.

Supervisors unanimously voted Tuesday to oppose the bill, which is the latest attempt by Daly to restructure how Orange County reviews its finances, investigates misconduct complaints and assesses the performances of the departments and agencies that spend its $5.8 billion budget.

Auditor-Controller Eric Woolery, who was in Sacramento on Wednesday to support the bill, described the county’s internal audit structure as “makeshift” in a letter to committee Chairman Robert Hertzberg, D – Van Nuys, noting that it was meant to be a short-term measure after the bankruptcy, not a permanent change.

He also said the board “undermines the will of the voters” by not allowing him to do the work currently being done by Internal Auditor Peter Hughes, who was appointed by supervisors in 1999.

“The Orange County Board of Supervisors is telling me that this legislation is a violation of local control. I vehemently disagree with their characterization,” Woolery wrote. “I define local control as the will of the voters. The voters elected me as the County Auditor.”

Supervisors have lamented Daly for pushing the legislation, which they say he has not discussed with them despite how the county’s Audit Oversight Committee is in the midst of examining the issue.

“It’s really inappropriate for a legislator to represent a county and be doing something like this,” Supervisor Shawn Nelson said.

Todd Spitzer, board chairman, said at Tuesday’s board meeting that the issue is complicated.

“Some people feel that we can go backwards,” Spitzer said. But, “we should be very careful about just stepping back into how we used to do business.”

Daly did not respond to requests for comment submitted to his spokesman, David Miller.

His criticism of the county’s audit process began when he was the elected clerk-recorder and received a scathing audit from Hughes that concluded he’d mismanaged money. Daly called the audit a witch hunt.

Woolery, who was elected last year, has been trying to gain control of internal audits since before he took office in January.

Spitzer assigned the Audit Oversight Committee to examine the processes and recommend whether to change them, but Woolery said in his letter to Hertzberg that the committee’s proposal “marginalizes the duties of the elected Auditor-Controller” and calls for performance audits to be conducted by the internal auditor. (Supervisors in April fired Philip Cheng, who was hired as performance auditor in 2013 to replace Steve Danley, who now leads county Human Resources.)

Moorlach, a former supervisor, praised the committee’s work at the hearing in Sacramento.

“Let the local team deal with the local issue,” he said.

Not all Orange County lawmakers agree.

State Sen. Janet Nguyen, R-Garden Grove, voted in favor of Daly’s bill. She was one of two supervisors who last year supported giving more power to the elected auditor-controller.

The other was Pat Bates, who like Nguyen, was elected to the state Senate. The Laguna Niguel Republican is vice chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is to consider Daly’s bill next. A hearing hasn’t been set.

CONTACT THE WRITER: pmcuniff   On Twitter: @meghanncuniff

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Jack Wu — July 13, 2015

One of the final appointments I made as a County Supervisor was filling the Housing and Community Development Commission vacancy with Jack Wu.  He responded to an invitation to apply for the position in my UPDATE of December 2, 2014 (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Growing Up In OC — December 2, 2014 December 2, 2014 John Moorlach — P.S.  The featured article would win a journalistic award).

I had endorsed Michelle Steel’s opponent, former Costa Mesa Mayor and former State Assemblyman Allan Mansoor.  It was a tough choice and one you hope, as an elected official, you never have to make.  But I had known Allan longer.  Michelle has been a very gracious winner, and I had the opportunity to appoint Jack Wu, in part because he was a rather outspoken supporter of hers over Assemblyman Mansoor.  Wu seemed qualified and had strong support, and he would certainly be a trusted collaborator with Supervisor Steel.

While I am on the subject of Supervisor Steel, I want to heartily thank her and the other four Orange County Supervisors for voting to appeal the recent Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) ruling against Civic Openness in Negotiations (COIN) (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Seeking Independence — July 3, 2015 July 3, 2015 John Moorlach).

Jack Wu was an activist who had written columns for three different newspapers in the Newport Beach/Costa Mesa area and was recognized as a media representative when he was mentioned in articles and columns.  So I felt comfortable with his request to be appointed on his reputation and his relationship with my successor.  Little did we know that he would be yet another Orange County individual who was living a double-life.

By coincidence, he shows up many times in my UPDATES.  For a sampling of Jack Wu’s columns, in date order, that happened to make it to my UPDATES, see:

MOORLACH UPDATE — Redistricting — June 8, 2011 June 8, 2011 John Moorlach where he addressed the topic of redistricting.

MOORLACH UPDATE — Newport Beach Independent — September 16, 2011September 16, 2011 John Moorlach where he addressed the topic of local pension liabilities.

MOORLACH UPDATE — Daily Pilot — April 1, 2012 April 2, 2012 John Moorlach which provides one of Wu’s first Daily Pilot columns.

MOORLACH UPDATE — Swearing-In — January 7, 2013 January 7, 2013 John Moorlach which includes his final column for the Daily Pilot.

MOORLACH UPDATE — April 15th — April 15, 2013 April 15, 2013 John Moorlach where he comments on a Newport Beach City Councilmember’s efforts to fill a county wide elected vacancy.  (There’s also a great Look Back of one of my editorials regarding ever increasing taxes.)

MOORLACH UPDATE — The Current — May 20, 2013 May 20, 2013 John Moorlach for his perspectives on running for public office.

MOORLACH UPDATE — Second District One of the interesting aspects of terming out is that you get to observe who will be running to replace you. Yesterday another potential candidate announced his intentions and the Huntington Bea Scramble — July 25, 2013

July 25, 2013 John Moorlach provides one of Wu’s Orange County Register columns (I accidentally copied the first sentence into the subject line, making it the longest of my titles ever).

MOORLACH UPDATE — Hob-Knobbing with Homeless — February 14, 2012

February 14, 2012 John Moorlach has him mentioned as a bona fide member of the media.

And the next three mentions are about Wu’s involvement in the “Feet to the Fire” forums, see MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — Star Wars Day — May 4, 2014

May 4, 2014 John Moorlach, MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — Feet to the Fire — May 1, 2014 May 1, 2014 John Moorlach and MOORLACH UPDATE — Distinguished Alumni — April 5, 2014 April 5, 2014 John Moorlach.

The OC Register, in it’s Sunday edition, provided a rather in-depth article on Wu in the piece below.  Not to get too technical, but CPAs are the only ones permitted to do financial audits.  But, the title of accountant or bookkeeper is a common one.  So, forgive me for the disagreement with the State Board of Accountancy’s interpretations.

Former Dana Rohrabacher campaign treasurer’s accountant credentials questioned; owes back taxes


Embattled Newport Beach politico Jack Wu has for years portrayed himself as a savvy accountant whose expertise and connections earned him coveted columns in local newspapers and politically powerful positions on municipal boards and commissions.

But amid accusations of embezzlement lodged against him by U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, another unflattering allegation has arisen: according to the state of California, Wu isn’t actually an an accountant. And the business he’s long described as an accounting and tax firm, WuBell, is a spinoff of a corporation that has been suspended by two state agencies for the last 10 years and owes nearly $4,000 in taxes.

As the Orange County District Attorney’s Office continues to review Rohrabacher’s allegations for possible criminal charges, Wu’s history of financial transgressions raises new questions about the credentials of a man who gained control over the campaign war chest of Orange County’s most senior congressman and recently earned spots on three municipal boards and commissions while promoting himself as an accountant in newspaper columns, despite not having a certified public accountant license.

While Wu has never called himself a CPA, merely describing himself as an accountant without having a valid CPA license is enough to get the attention of state authorities. The first step is to mail the imposter a cease and desist letter, then, if the false portrayal continues, state authorities can ask the county district attorney to review the situation for possible criminal charges, said Liz Contreas, an enforcement technician with the state Board of Accountancy.

“We’ve done it to several people,” Contreas said.

After learning of his situation from a reporter, Sara Narvaez, a manager in the Board of Accountancy’s enforcement division, said Wednesday she planned to send Wu a cease and desist letter “to let him know we’re on to him.”

Wu, 44, denied any wrongdoing in a phone interview with the Register and said he’s found information through Google that says it’s legal to call yourself an accountant without a CPA license, including comments posted on the popular website Reddit.

“Google ‘can non CPAs be called an accountant.’ It’s the first thing that comes up,” Wu said. “I’ve never claimed that I was a CPA. Everything in my business has always been on the up and up. Always.”

The comments are Wu’s first public statements since Rohrabacher, a 14-term Republican from Costa Mesa, announced last month that he’d asked the District Attorney’s Office and state Attorney General’s Office to charge Wu criminally for allegedly stealing $173,500 from his reelection committee. No charges have been filed; representatives of both offices said this week they still are reviewing the claims. Rohrabacher’s lawyer, Charles H. Bell, Jr., told the Register he’s supplied the District Attorney’s Office with more information on top of the June 24 complaint.

Bell, of Sacramento, said he and Rohrabacher were “unaware” of Wu’s questionable accountancy background.

“Campaigns normally don’t do opposition research on people they have hired and have some reason to know and or trust,” said Bell, a longtime GOP player and general counsel to the California Republican Party. “And sometimes, people really abuse or misuse their trust.”


The allegations – which Wu declined to discuss – shocked Wu’s acquaintances in Orange County, where he’s long used his false status as an accountant not only in business, but also to gain access to government operations.

He listed his occupation as accountant on his applications for Orange County’s Housing and Community Development Commission and the Assessment Appeals Board. State Sen. John Moorlach nominated Wu for the commission when he was still a supervisor last December. Wu earned a stipend of $50 per meeting until his term expired June 30.

Supervisor Michelle Steel nominated Wu for the appeals board in May, but he hasn’t taken office yet and Steel will ask her colleagues to rescind his nomination at this week’s board meeting, according to the meeting agenda. The agenda report, prepared by Steel’s staff, said that prior to the theft allegation, Wu “had been a highly respected and trusted accountant and had been an appointee to the City of Newport Beach Finance Committee.”

Wu resigned from the Newport Beach committee last week. Councilman Marshall “Duffy” Duffield, who nominated him in January, told the Register this week he had no idea Wu’s business has a 10-year-old tax debt and that Wu wasn’t actually an accountant.

“There was nothing that would trigger me to suspect that,” Duffield said. “He had good, reputable people who said good things about him.”

Moorlach said Wu asked to be nominated to the board after Moorlach emailed him and others about the vacancy. Moorlach said he knows Wu is close with Steel, who was taking over his supervisor seat, and he felt good nominating someone he felt his successor would support, too.

“I sort of figured if Dana Rohrabacher was happy with Jack Wu, then I didn’t have to do any research, so shame on me for that,” Moorlach said. “But I’ve never had anyone come up to me in all these years and say ‘Hey, I had a bad business transaction with Jack Wu.’”


Moorlach, who’s been a licensed CPA since 1980, said he doesn’t see anything wrong with Wu calling himself an accountant without having a CPA license.

“I would say you’re still an accountant, but you’re not a certified public accountant,” Moorlach said.

The confusion can be found within Orange County government, too. County spokeswoman Jean Pasco cited county documents that state nominees for the appeals board must have five years of experience as “a certified public accountant or public accountant,” and Wu’s resume shows he’s held finance-related positions at five Orange County companies since 1995.

But state authorities insist that’s a distinction without a difference: someone can’t call themselves a public accountant without a CPA license.

Wu’s portrayal of himself as an accountant dates back to at least 2002, when he listed that as his occupation while unsuccessfully seeking election to the Irvine Water District Board. That evolved from his first campaign in 1998, when he called himself merely a bookkeeper during an unsuccessful bid for the Irvine City Council.

In both elections, Wu ran as a Democrat. But in 2006, he reemerged in Orange County’s political scene in a powerful new role: campaign treasurer for Rohrabacher, a former speechwriter and presidential adviser for Ronald Reagan and one of the region’s longest serving GOP politicians.

Wu told the Register he met Rohrabacher through his involvement in local politics, and they quickly became friends. “We both share a love of surfing,” Wu said. They’re also both fathers of triplets.

As Wu took over the Rohrabacher’s campaign coffers, he also set his sights on the Newport Beach City Council, this time as a Republican.

He lost the election, but his connections to Rohrabacher and his portrayal of himself as a financial watchdog helped propel him to prominence in the Newport Beach political arena. He began writing columns for the Daily Pilot, then the Orange County Register, in which he described himself as an accountant and “longtime Republican loyalist.” Moorlach said he became familiar with Wu through his columns.

Wu represented the Register as a moderator during a forum for state Assembly candidates in April 2014. The newspaper last published a column by him in October.

He called himself an accountant in most of the columns and promoted his business, WuBell. State records show WuBell fell into trouble just before Wu reemerged in Orange County politics as a Republican.

In November 2004, the Secretary of State’s Office suspended the business because it hadn’t filed an updated business statement as required to do annually. Then the state Franchise Tax Board suspended it in July 2005 over unpaid taxes: $3,951.24 that’s still owed, according to an email from board spokeswoman Tami Grimes.

The suspensions mean WuBell can’t bring an action in court or defend itself, nor can it file claims or appeals or other state business. But Wu said he started a sole proprietary business called WuBell that is free from the restrictions.

Contact the writer: or 949-492-5122. Twitter: @meghanncuniff.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — AB 718 — July 8, 2015

Homelessness has many causes and takes many different forms. I served as the inaugural Chairman of Orange County Committee to End Homelessness for three years and have gained valuable insights into some of the causes and solutions to the problem. I believe it’s essential that we try to help those in need. But every community is different, and has unique needs in how best to help the homeless. Sacramento’s appetite for absolute control and rule by mandate doesn’t help the situation. In fact, a one-size-fits-all Sacramento approach handcuffs local community leaders, and actually may hurt the plight of the homeless. I make that case in the Daily Pilot column in the first piece below, regarding Assembly Bill 718.

AB 718 was heard this morning in the Governance and Finance Committee, on which I serve, and it received enough votes to move forward. I decided to abstain, as the amendments made by the author were handed to me while he was testifying in front of us. The amendments appeared to resolve many of my concerns, but neither the Republican Caucus staff or my own staff had a chance to thoroughly review them.

Consul General Alejandra Garcia Williams and her husband have been a real treasure to the County of Orange during their years of service while they were assigned there (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Credit Ratings — October 12, 2012 October 12, 2012 John Moorlach and MOORLACH UPDATE — Daily Pilot — February 26, 2011 February 26, 2011 John Moorlach). My wife and I enjoyed a number of social occasions where the four of us were together. I have a high admiration for both of them and had a chance to share my praise when she came to the Senate Floor on Tuesday. I extolled her intellect, her mastery of multiple languages (including Dutch!) and her excellent record. I concluded by wrapping all of that experience into my exclamation that she’s “hot” — a compliment meant to reinforce her excellence in linguistics, career and life. Unfortunately, a reporter interpreted my comments differently in the second piece below. We’ve since communicated with the Sacramento Bee reporter, and they’ve been gracious in their understanding and response, just providing it on their website . In any event, I include their story below as an FYI. I also want to thank the Consul General for her years of service to Orange County and wish her a successful stint here and I hope that she enjoys this assignment for many, many years.

Daily Pilot

Venezia: Should homeless people be allowed to sleep in their cars?

A new bill being proposed in Sacramento "prohibits local governments from penalizing, by impoundment or other method, the act of sleeping in a lawfully parked motor vehicle."

Assembly Bill 718 basically paves the way for the homeless living in cars or other vehicles to park on city streets for an undetermined amount of time.

More importantly, critics say it could tie the hands of local governments and law enforcement.

In Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, you can’t park a vehicle on the street for more than 72 hours.

Parking in some neighborhoods is sparse to begin with. Having someone living in a car indefinitely raises health and safety concerns.

So how do you balance the needs of the homeless living in vehicles with taxpayers who don’t want their streets turned into campgrounds?

Costa Mesa residents have already raised concerns with their council members about the rising rate of property crimes in neighborhoods. Would passage of this bill add to these numbers?

And what about sanitary conditions for those living in vehicles?

I called state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) to talk about the local impact.

Moorlach reviewed AB718, which recently came before the Governance and Finance Committee, on which he sits.

As a former Orange County supervisor, Moorlach is sensitive to the homelessness issue. He participated in the annual county homeless count and told me there were times, while walking the streets at 5 a.m., that he’d see people sleeping in their cars with makeshift coverings on the windows.

Moorlach said "we were not permitted to knock on car windows" to see how many people were in those cars. For that reason, he feels the county’s homeless count was understated.

As a longtime Costa Mesa resident, Moorlach has also seen city leaders grapple with ongoing homelessness.

Opposed to AB 718 in its current form, Moorlach offered modifications that he hopes will be considered when the bill comes back to his committee this week.

He said there should be places where the homeless can park and not be bothered — like city-owned lots, the Orange County fairgrounds and government building parking lots after working hours.

Moorlach explained that these areas have lighting and security that would offer those parking overnight some level of safety and confidence that no one would shoo them away.

Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff, who serves on the county’s Commission to End Homelessness, thinks Moorlach’s ideas make sense.

And he would not be opposed to bringing the concept to Newport council members, provided there were time restrictions on parking in the city lots.

During a recent count, the commission counted 45 cars with people living in them in a five-block area around a Walmart in Aliso Viejo.

In talking to some of these folks, Kiff said, he found out that they moved around and didn’t opt for parking on residential streets, preferring more-commercial areas at night.

He said the commission works to get the homeless into "rapid rehousing" and provide them with social services.

Moorlach has a larger issue with AB 718, saying he’s "frustrated with Sacramento dictating to local municipalities."

Costa Mesa Mayor Steve Mensinger agrees.

"Once again Sacramento, which operates in a vacuum, is dictating how local governments address issues that affect our communities," Mensinger told me.

Mensinger and I talked about how Costa Mesa has been proactive with its homeless task force. He tells me social workers have helped folks with jobs, housing and counseling, but there isn’t a magic bullet.

Mensinger said, "We have restated our interest in dealing with these issues individually and addressing safety concerns associated with the homeless sleeping in their cars to Sen. Moorlach."

Moorlach suggested I read the bill analysis from his committee meeting, which I did.

Advocates of the bill say it doesn’t limit local municipalities’ parking restrictions and thus does not tie their hands entirely.

But would it leave city leaders no other options than banning overnight parking on residential streets or allowing parking only by permit?

That would be a huge inconvenience to residents.

"We don’t need more laws passed by bureaucrats in Sacramento who want to institutionalize homelessness," Mensinger said.

He plans on bringing the issue to the City Council in the hopes that its members will all get on the same page and send a letter to Sacramento voicing their concerns.

Kiff personally likes Moorlach’s idea of using city parking lots after hours, but ultimately it would be up to Newport’s council, though he too isn’t a fan of Sacramento intervention.

"There needs to be a balance," he said. "Every city needs to take some big steps to solve our homelessness problem."

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at bvontv1.

California senator calls new Mexican envoy ‘hot’

Latest in a long line of male politicians commenting on females colleagues’ appearance

By Alexei Koseff


The California Senate this week welcomed Sacramento’s newly-appointed Mexican Consul General Alejandra Garcia Williams with praise for her previous experience in Orange County…and her looks.

“All I can say, as politely as possible, is Alejandra is hot,” said Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, who also noted that Williams speaks Dutch.

Standing nearby, Williams shook her head and smiled, while Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León laughed and applauded as he walked to the microphone to speak next.

Tim Clark, Moorlach’s chief of staff, said the senator didn’t mean the comment in a sexist way. He said Moorlach considers Williams an old friend and is impressed by her ability to speak Dutch.

Moorlach is the latest in a long line of male politicians who’ve used a public forum to comment on their female colleagues’ appearance.

In April 2013, President Barack Obama drew criticism for calling California Attorney General Kamala Harris “by far the best-looking attorney general in the country” at a fundraiser in Atherton.

After the remark swept through the national news cycle, Obama’s spokesman apologized for "the distraction created by his comments.”

In May 2011, women legislators and legal groups blasted former Assemblyman Charles Calderon for what they said were inappropriate references to California Supreme Court Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye.

At an Assembly Judiciary Committee hearing for a bill to decentralize control of the California courts, the Whittier Democrat said he wasn’t targeting Cantil-Sakauye.

“It isn’t ‘Is she nice?’ ‘Cause she is,” he said. “‘Is she smart?’ ‘Cause she is. ‘Is she attractive?’ ‘Cause she is. It isn’t about that.”

Cantil-Saukye later said she was “troubled” by the remark, which she found offensive “in the context of a very serious hearing.” Calls for an apology, however, fell on deaf ears.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Seeking Independence — July 3, 2015

Allow me to wish you a Happy Independence Day! I hope your 4th of July weekend is a relaxing one and that you have time to reflect on our nation’s 239th birthday and the supposed freedoms that we enjoy.

Freedom is a very precious asset to acquire and hold on to. Being subject to a king or ruling force is not a pleasant thought. Unfortunately, when I became an elected official, it did not take very long to realize that we are not entirely free. In a democracy, we are subject to those who are in the majority. I have found, as a general rule, that local and state governing agencies are run by public employee unions through the candidates they have backed. Public employee unions are the ATM machine for Democrat candidates in California (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 128 — June 4, 2015 June 4, 2015 John Moorlach; MOORLACH UPDATE — Senator Steve Glazer — May 29, 2015 May 29, 2015May 29, 2015 John Moorlach; and MOORLACH UPDATE — New Political Split — April 24, 2015 April 24, 2015 John Moorlach).

On my first day as a County Supervisor, I insisted on having the ability for the County to read and review the annual audited financial statements for the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs’ Insurance Trust. This simple request, and one requiring changes to their retiree medical plan, started our tense relationship. AOCDS did not want me to become a County Supervisor and spent plenty for my opponent in the 2006 campaign with their independent expenditures. AOCDS and the other county bargaining units want control, have garnered it through the electoral process, thus insuring that Orange County residents are not truly free.

So, today’s headlines should not be a shock. The Voice of OC and the OC Register (which may print tomorrow or Sunday), respectively, provide the news that the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) Chief Administrative Law Judge ruled against Civic Openness in Negotiations (COIN). As the old line from the movie "Casablanca" goes, "I’m shocked." A union judge is opposed. Really? Especially with his history of trying to obstruct other similar reforms around the state?

I believe the Administrative Judge is wrong. The next story will be whether the new Board of Supervisors will appeal. I have my doubts. Two of the new members were the beneficiaries of $150,000 each in AOCDS independent expenditures. The current Chair bends over backwards to assist AOCDS. So much so, that a recent Orange County Grand Jury report addresses the blatant nonsense of kowtowing to AOCDS.

This Grand Jury report, titled"ORANGE COUNTY SHERIFF MEDICAL INSURANCE: COUNTY FAILURES IN NEGOTIATION, DOCUMENTATION, OVERSIGHT, AND TRANSPARENCY," does a scholarly job of addressing the joys of negotiating in closed session and the virtues of COIN (also see MOORLACH UPDATE — Butt Out — June 13, 2015 June 13, 2015June 13, 2015 John Moorlach; MOORLACH UPDATE — COIN Modifications — July 18, 2014 July 18, 2014July 18, 2014 John Moorlach; MOORLACH UPDATE — Minting New COIN — June 25, 2014 June 25, 2014June 25, 2014 John Moorlach; MOORLACH UPDATE — COIN and VBM — June 23, 2014 June 23, 2014June 23, 2014 John Moorlach; and MOORLACH UPDATE — Maximus COIN — June 17, 2014
June 17, 2014June 17, 2014 John Moorlach).

I voted against the AOCDS MOU last year for the reasons cited in the report (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Pythons’ Tightening Grips — July 15, 2014 July 15, 2014July 15, 2014 John Moorlach and MOORLACH UPDATE — Homeless Shelter, et al — July 16, 2014 July 16, 2014July 16, 2014 John Moorlach). And I proposed COIN as a necessary method of stopping the nonsense that occurs behind closed doors.

The Grand Jury report can be read at:

Allow me to provide you with a few selected portions of the report, which concludes with recommendations that are in COIN. You’ve got to love the ironies.

Executive Summary:

". . . a lack of transparency that sometimes serves to undermine the collective bargaining process."

Page 19

The 2012-2016 MOU adopted by the Board of Supervisors (at Section 8.E), potentially exempts some of those County employees included in the "55 safety formula" (e.g., Sheriff employees) from having to pay any ARC contribution as of July 1, 2015. Their ARC would, over time, be reduced from 3.6% of their base salary to as low as zero.

As of July 1, 2015, County employees who are not "55 safety formula" employees will essentially be paying the entire cost of the monthly County retiree contributions paid to the AOCDS Trust for Sheriff employee medical coverage. This change clearly results in a significant difference between what is required of Sheriff employees and those who are not Sheriff employees.

The Grand Jury was informed that the MOU provisions leading to the elimination of the ARC for Sheriff employees was added to the MOU in a closed session of the Board of Supervisors. This session was held after the formal negotiations had been concluded by the negotiating teams representing the County and AOCDS, and effectively prevented review and comment by either of the negotiating teams before it was ultimately adopted by the Board of Supervisors.

Page 22

One observer of this closed session indicated that as soon as the proposal was made, two other Board members almost immediately concurred with the proposal that would place on the County significant additional long-term financial responsibilities for retired health care coverage for Sheriff employees. It was further reported to the Grand Jury that the ensuing discussion of the matter was "brief" and no further study of the potential implications of the new proposal was considered by the Board before a vote was held on an MOU containing the new proposal. Had the County just decided to negotiate against itself? After all, had not all five Supervisors agreed in April to go to mediation to avoid this exact outcome? What had happened in the intervening two months?

It was reported to the Grand Jury, based on the dialogue observed between the five Supervisors, that the manner in which the new provisions were proposed resulted in two Supervisors opposing final approval of the MOU. The MOU, containing these terms, was ultimately approved by a 3-2 vote of the Supervisors at the regularly scheduled Board of Supervisors meeting on July 15, 2014. Therefore, based on the information provided to the Grand Jury, the Grand Jury has concluded that greater transparency is called for in the MOU negotiation process.

Page 22

Something positive may actually have come as a result of all of this. Following Costa Mesa’s lead, one of the two Supervisors who had opposed the new AOCDS MOU proposed adoption of a County ordinance that would require transparency for employee contract negotiations. The ordinance (Sec. 1-3-12.), titled "Civic Openness in Negotiations" (COIN), was adopted by a 5-0 vote in August 2014.

Page 23

Adoption of the COIN ordinance appears to be a very positive development. However, COIN is only an ordinance, which is always subject to repeal or sunsetting by a majority of the Supervisors. As a matter of fact, during the debate on whether to first adopt the COIN ordinance, one of the Supervisors proposed that the ordinance sunset in 2016, the year the current AOCDS MOU will expire. The proposed sunsetting provision was rejected.

If COIN remains intact, the Supervisors and the public will certainly have an opportunity, in the next year, to assess whether the ordinance is having its intended effect, as the current County-AOCDS MOU expires on June 30, 2016.

Page 24

R.1. The County should retain a qualified, experienced, and independent negotiator to assist in the next negotiations between Orange County and the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs and require that entity to prepare an internally consistent Memorandum of Understanding that, for example, makes it clear whether the Orange County contributions are to be used only for active employees. (F.1.)

R.2. The County should retain a qualified, experienced, and independent negotiator to incorporate clear terms in the Memorandum Of Understanding that define limitations on the use of Orange County contributions that become reserve funds, specify how to deal with over-funding, and resolve what is to become of the funds in the Premium Stabilization Fund if the Trust’s agreement with Blue Cross is terminated. (F.2.)

Page 25

R.9. The County should support and take full advantage of Orange County’s Civic Openness in Negotiations – "COIN" ordinance in future Orange County and Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriff’s Memorandum of Understanding negotiations and approval processes. (F.9.)

I am not deterred and will continue to fight for the taxpayers of Orange County and the state of California. We must be diligent in obtaining true freedom and not continue paying tribute to public employee unions who can obtain amazing salaries and benefits from those they put into office on both sides of the aisle. We must continually seek independence.

BONUS: You are invited to enjoy a beach fire ring experience with my staff on July 20th (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Fire Rings — April 24, 2013 April 24, 2013April 24, 2013 John Moorlach). The event is free. There may be a cost for parking. The flyer is provided below.

State Rules County Violated Labor Laws When Passing COIN

By Nick Gerda

A state agency has ruled that top Orange County officials violated labor laws last year by imposing new requirements on employee negotiations, without giving unions a chance to negotiate about the changes ahead of time.

In a proposed decision by the state’s Public Employment Relations Board, the county was determined to have violated state law when supervisors passed the Civic Openness in Negotiations ordinance, known as COIN.

“The County is found to have adopted a proposed ordinance, COIN, without prior notice to [the Orange County Employees Association], [Orange County Attorneys Association], and [International Union of Operating Engineers Local 501], and affording them an opportunity to meet and confer over the decision or effects of the proposed ordinance. Such a violation constitutes an unlawful unilateral change and a refusal to bargain in good faith,” states the June 16 ruling by Chief Administrative Law Judge Shawn B. Cloughesy.

If the ruling stands, the county would have to repeal four key sections of COIN, including public reporting of offers and counteroffers, disclosure of what took place during labor negotiation sessions, a 30-day non-negotiations period before supervisors consider opening proposals to labor groups.

The county would also have to put up notices for 30 days telling employees the county broke the law and is required to meet and confer with unions before making changes that affect their representation. The notices would also have to be emailed to county employees.

The county has until next week to appeal the ruling to the full labor board.

County spokeswoman Jean Pasco declined to comment on the ruling, other than to note that supervisors took no reportable action on the litigation during their closed session last week.

Meanwhile, the Orange County Employees Association, which represents two-thirds of the county workforce, applauded the ruling.

“We’re really happy that the administrative law judge recognized and upheld worker rights in his proposed decision,” said Jennifer Muir, the union’s assistant general manager.

Muir went on to say it shows the need to apply transparency across the board at the county, not just to employee contracts. She pointed to recent cost overruns and network outages stemming from the county’s contract with Xerox Corp.

"There’s just example after example after example about how that type of public scrutiny on those private contracts is just critical for the public,” she said.

Among other things, COIN requires public disclosure of offers and counter-offers on labor contracts, a more detailed financial analysis of proposed agreements and the posting of proposed agreements 30 days in advance of voting on their approval.

It was brought forward to the county last year by then-Supervisor John Moorlach, who argued that it will give residents a better chance to weigh in on proposed labor agreements.

Supporters, such as the conservative Lincoln Club of Orange County, also suggested the ordinance would help prevent labor costs from escalating due to benefit increases.

Labor groups, meanwhile, argued that COIN triggers a requirement to meet and confer with employees under the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act, which mandates certain types of communication between government agencies and employee groups regarding labor negotiations.

They also criticized supervisors for not having the ordinance cover all government contracting, especially with private companies that finance the supervisors’ political campaigns and account for more than half of the county’s spending.

In reaction to COIN, OCEA is spearheading state legislation that would require any local government that implements COIN to also follow a similar process for contracts with private vendors over $50,000.

That legislation, known as CRONEY, was passed by the Senate in May and was approved by the Assembly’s local government committee on Wednesday.

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

OC Register Logo

State attorney finds OC supervisors acted illegally in approving ‘COIN’ labor ordinance


Orange County leaders acted illegally when they failed to let unions try to negotiate new requirements imposed last year on county contract-negotiation processes, an attorney for a state agency has ruled.

The proposed ruling by an administrative law judge for the Public Employment Relations Board, issued June 16, could force the county to repeal key parts of the Civic Openness in Negotiations ordinance, dubbed COIN, which requires offers and counter-offers on labor contracts be publicized and requires more detailed analysis of the financial effects of proposed labor agreements, among other things.

The Board of Supervisors has not yet voted on whether to appeal the ruling.

If it doesn’t appeal and the ruling becomes final, not only would the ordinance be dismantled, but the county would be required to place notices that tell employees the county broke the law. The notices are to be displayed for 30 days, and each county employee is to receive one through email.

The ruling was prompted by an unfair labor practice filed last year by the Orange County Employees Association, the county’s biggest union.

County and union officials were not available for comment late Thursday.

The ordinance was introduced last year by state Sen. John Moorlach when he was a supervisor. A similar ordinance exists in Costa Mesa and is being considered in other cities.

Labor leaders cried foul when Moorlach introduced the ordinance, but Moorlach said the changes didn’t affect wages, hours and employment conditions so they weren’t subject to negotiation.

Human Resources Director Steve Danley agreed, saying the new law did not have a “significant and adverse” impact on wages or hours, according to the ruling.

The attorney for the labor board, however, disagreed and pointed to a list of past cases in which state officials established that ground rules for negotiations are a mandatory subject of bargaining.

“While the ground rules used during negotiations do not, on their face, directly affect employees’ wages, hours, or working conditions, the application of ground rules through the bargaining process would have a significant and adverse effect on wages, hours and working conditions,” according to the ruling, written by Chief Administrative Law Judge Shawn B. Cloughesy. “If a public agency is able to exercise overall control over the ground rules of bargaining, it can short circuit and frustrate bargaining to the point it ceases to be a bilateral process.”

The ruling will become final unless a party appeals within 20 days of service, according to the ruling.

Contact the writer: mcuniff or 949-492-5122. Twitter: @meghanncuniff.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Totalitarianism — July 1, 2015

I’ve been involved with legislation over the past 20 years in my two previous capacities. But, the bill that has received the most attention in the Capitol this year is SB 277 (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 277 — April 30, 2015 April 30, 2015 John Moorlach).

There may be two lessons to be learned from Sacramento’s insistence in mandating that California residents be forced to take a regimen of numerous vaccines. The first lesson is those who feel that their civil rights and liberties are being trampled on will react. Three weeks ago there were some two thousand taxpayers here in the Capitol to testify against the bill. They came from every corner of the state, including Orange County. Let’s hope they continue to enjoy the role of activists.

The second is that, with a few exceptions, this bill went along party lines. Consequently, the taxpayers now know who is forcing them to do certain things or face severe consequences. Absolute control by a governing body is the definition of totalitarianism. So, I didn’t hesitate to call it as such. Expect more of the same in the years to come and continue to stay vigilant.

The Governor signed the bill rather quickly and it had the Capitol spinning yesterday. City News Service’s story was picked up by, the Times of San Diego, and the Lake Forest Patch in the first piece below. The second piece is from the front-page story in the OC Register.

On a different note, it was an honor to recognize another business in the 37th Senatorial District for their support of a summer camp program for abused children. I was involved in summer youth camp programs early in my life and career and appreciate those who see its importance. The Daily Pilot covers it in the third piece below.



Lake Forest Patch
New law mandates vaccinations for kids, opponents claim ‘totalitarianism’

Despite charges of ‘totalitarianism’ from some opponents, almost all school children in the Southland and across California will be required to be vaccinated against diseases such as measles and whooping cough under legislation signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The controversial measure was co-sponsored by a Democratic state senator from Santa Monica, Ben Allen. Another co-sponsor was Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento. Pan is also a pediatrician. The legislation was prompted in part by an outbreak of measles traced to Disneyland that began in late December and ultimately spread to more than 130 people across the state. Cases were also reported in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Oregon, Utah and Washington state.

The legislation eliminates vaccination exemptions based on religious or personal beliefs. It will require all children entering kindergarten to be vaccinated unless a doctor certifies that a child has a medical condition, such as allergies, preventing it.

“I want to thank all of the parents, families and my colleagues and Governor Brown for their advocacy and thoughtful deliberation of this legislation,” said Allen, former president of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board. “Today is a good day for California.”

Brown, in a bill-signing message sent to the state Senate, acknowledged there was opposition to the bill, but said children’s health is important to protect.

“The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infection and dangerous diseases,” Brown wrote in his message. “While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.”

Brown noted that the legislation exempts children from immunizations if there are “circumstances, including but not limited to, family medical history for which the physician does not recommend immunization.”

Los Angeles Unified School District officials said last week they supported the bill’s intent of “boosting vaccination rates through the state,” adding that the requirement “will ensure a safer and healthier environment for our schools.”

Opponents criticized the bill as infringing on the rights of parents to make medical decisions for their children. Randy Thomasson, president of, said it “denies parents the right to exempt genetically susceptible brothers and sisters of vaccine-injured children, denies parents a religious exemption and denies conscientious objectors a public-school education.”

Although the Disneyland outbreak happened in Orange County, many of the county’s lawmakers opposed the legislation.

Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Tustin, who represents Anaheim, said he supports vaccination as a general rule, but he voted against the legislation because he felt it did too much to curtail choice among parents.

“I am a proponent of vaccines and I’ve got my kids vaccinated,” Wagner told City News Service. “I think by and large it’s the right thing to do from a medical and public health standpoint. However, there are people who have very legitimate concerns that are either religious or with their own particular children in the timing of the vaccines. I think it’s bad precedent to have the government run roughshod over those concerns, so my vote was to err on the side of freedom and liberty and parental choice.”

Assemblyman Tom Daly, D-Anaheim, said, however, the bill represents a “balanced approach.”

Daly said he voted for the bill, “after careful consideration of the views of my constituents, many of whom contacted my capitol and district offices, and of recent amendments that had been made to the bill. … It protects the overwhelming number of children in my district who are vaccinated. And it protects those who, based on the assessment of their doctors, cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.”

Sen. John Moorlach, R-Irvine, said he also does not oppose vaccinations in principle, but said he was concerned after hearing appeals from mothers who claimed their children were disabled or permanently injured by a shot.

“I’m not anti-vaccination. I’m just saying make sure the mothers are comfortable. Let them own the position. Once they understand it and once they’re convinced there’s no reactions” then they will support it, Moorlach told CNS. “I come from a place of freedom and liberty, and to be told I have to do something or face dire consequences, it just smacks of totalitarianism.”

Moorlach also said he has concerns about “big pharmaceutical” companies having an undue influence on the debate.

“When I was a kid it was three shots, then when my kids were growing up it was eight shots,” Moorlach said.

Moorlach said he was especially moved by the anecdote from Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Redding, who recounted on the Senate floor how his daughter suffered a frightening reaction to a vaccination.

“We took her in for shots and she had a seizure that night and we had to rush her into a hospital where they stabilized her and did an MRI” and found the coating around the brain had separated, Gaines told City News Service. “The doctors said we don’t want your child to have any more vaccinations for 10 years, so we were very careful with spreading those out. She’s vaccinated — she’s 13 now — so we had to take a very slow approach.”

Sen. Patricia Bates, R-San Juan Capistrano, said she supports vaccinations but opposed the bill.

“While the bill grandfathers in non-vaccinated children currently attending public schools, it does not apply to their younger siblings who have yet to enter school,” she wrote in a letter to constituents. “This would force parents to either violate their personal beliefs or take them out of public school.

“Simply put, SB 277 does not go far enough to ensure that non- vaccinated children receive equal access to the high quality public education that the California Constitution guarantees and therefore I cannot support it.”

Interim Los Angeles County Health Officer Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser countered that the recent measles outbreak “highlights the importance” of ensuring as many people as possible get vaccinated.

“Measles remains a serious health threat that is present in many parts of the world,” he said. “Attaining the highest vaccination rates possible in Los Angeles County will assure that our children and all residents are safe in the event that additional cases are imported in the future.”

County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl hailed the bill, saying it will protect “our children and our communities from a host of entirely preventable communicable diseases.”

Leah Russin, co-founder of Vaccinate California, an advocacy group that pushed for the legislation, said parents can now “breathe a sigh of relief knowing our children and others will be better protected from preventative diseases.”

Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction, said vaccination rates have dropped in schools in recent years, raising the risk of disease outbreaks.

“The bill protects the health of our children and our communities, especially those too young or too ill to receive vaccines,” Torlakson said. “The bill protects against the outbreaks of debilitating, crippling and costly preventable diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella and chicken pox. It will help keep students healthy so they can attend school, learn and succeed.”

City News Service

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After Disneyland measles outbreak in December, Gov. Jerry Brown signs one of stricter vaccine laws in the U.S.


With a declaration that the science on vaccines is “clear,” Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed a strict and controversial law aimed at boosting immunization rates in California following a measles outbreak that was ignited at Disneyland Resort.

The new law – which was hotly debated in the Legislature, drawing busloads of protesting parents from across the state – will make it harder for parents to dodge vaccines for children enrolled in public and private school.

“The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases,” Brown said in signing the measure, Senate Bill 277.

“While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.”

Two options will remain for children who are unvaccinated and partially vaccinated to attend private or public school. The unvaccinated may obtain medical waivers; the partially vaccinated may enroll as conditional entrants, meaning they are behind on their shots but intend to get them.

The new law takes effect in the 2016-2017 school year, but students’ immunization records will be checked only when they enroll in kindergarten and seventh grade and when they enroll in a new school.

So an unvaccinated first-grader who remains in the same school would have until seventh grade to catch up, and an unvaccinated eighth-grader could finish high school without getting vaccinated, unless switching schools.

With the Democratic governor’s signature, California now wields one of the toughest vaccine laws in the country.

“This is a great milestone,” said Dr. Marnie Baker, a pediatrician and Irvine mother whose 8-year-old son has a weakened immune system because of a heart transplant and relies on those around him to be vaccinated.

She said her colleagues at MemorialCare Health System greeted the news enthusiastically.

“It’s been a lot of, ‘Hurrahs!’” she said.

California was among 20 states that allowed for personal belief exemptions and among 48 that allowed for religious exemptions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. California now joins only two other states – Mississippi and West Virginia – in allowing only medical exemptions.

The tougher laws work, experts say, pointing to Mississippi, which has the highest rate – 99 percent – of vaccinated kindergartners in the country. West Virginia isn’t far behind.

Dr. Bob Sears, a Capistrano Beach-based pediatrician and a proponent of delayed vaccine schedules, said parents will be distrustful of a government that forces vaccinations. He expects many parents will take advantage of the option to delay vaccines or obtain medical waivers.

He and other opponents have questioned whether SB 277 would actually help contain outbreaks, pointing to the waning effectiveness of the whooping cough vaccine. For both adults and children who get the shot, high levels of protection decrease after the first two years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The governor went ahead and signed it basically operating under the general principle that vaccines are good, they save lives, and therefore any bill which makes them more mandatory should by default be a positive change for California,” said Sears.

The divisive debate about SB 277 touched on the efficacy and safety of vaccines and forced lawmakers to choose between the rights of parents who don’t believe immunizing their children is safe and the rights of parents to send their children to school without the risk of contracting diseases.

Opponents also said parents should have the right to make medical decisions for their children, and some epidemiologists said educating parents about the safety and efficacy of vaccines is a better approach than a tough mandate.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Glendale, said the bill won’t be effective, because unvaccinated children will still mingle with other kids outside of school, like when playing sports.

“Choosing to infringe on the right of students to attend school simply does not make sense,” he said.

Others feared a medical waiver would be difficult to obtain, particularly for siblings of children who have had severe reactions to vaccines, including seizures. Such side effects are very rare, according to public health officials.

SB 277 was introduced following an outbreak of measles at Disneyland in December. Public health officials said an infected park-goer spread the highly contagious virus to 131 people in California.

One of the earliest patients was hospitalized for three weeks with a breathing tube and mechanical ventilator, said the state’s top epidemiologist Gil Chavez. The patient – one of 20 who were hospitalized – developed multiple organ injuries, required renal dialysis, and at some points, was unresponsive.

But Sen. John Moorlach, a Republican from Costa Mesa, said the outbreak was “small” and used to “erode personal liberty and increase government meddling.” That, he said, “proves why there is no trust in the California legislative process.”

Of the 81 people in the outbreak whose vaccination status was known, 70 percent had not been vaccinated.

Last school year, about 10 percent of kindergartners in California and in Orange County were not fully up to date on their shots. Of those, about 3 percent of Orange County kindergartners obtained personal belief and religious exemptions, according to California Department of Public Health data.

But there were pockets, mostly in coastal South Orange County, where the rates of unvaccinated children are much higher, reaching 62 percent at Journey School in Aliso Viejo. These pockets, researchers have found, fuel outbreaks.

As much as 95 percent of a community’s population needs to be vaccinated in order to contain outbreaks, according to public health officials.

In the wake of the recent measles outbreak and with all of the attention on SB 277, Baker, the mother and MemorialCare pediatrician, said a growing number of her patients who were hesitant about vaccines have brought their children up to date on their shots.

“I think that some parents’ decision not to vaccinate was perhaps just based on a little bit of fear or misinformation,” she said.

Daily Pilot

Around Town: Karate studio owners honored for charity work

Bob and Barbara White, co-owners of Bob White’s Karate Studio in Costa Mesa, recently received a proclamation from state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa).

The couple were credited for their years of fundraising efforts for Royal Family Kids, a nonprofit that aids abused, neglected and abandoned children. The Whites, who received the proclamation Friday, also organize fundraising karate and golf tournaments.

"We are now working with karate studios all over the world to get them involved," Bob White said in an email. "Child abuse is everywhere, and the more we can do to spread the good work Royal Family Kids does, we want to do."

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Where’s Leadership? — June 27, 2015

A drought is defined as "a prolonged period of abnormally low rainfall; a shortage of water resulting from this." Then there is a man-made water crisis, a phenomenon that could have been avoided. California has a man-made water crisis. Fortunately, Orange County does not.

Last year, Keith Naughton, in a San Francisco Chronicle column, titled "California’s man-made water crisis," stated that water districts should "build water reclamation projects (clean the water and reuse it). California has enough water. The state could sustain itself through conservation and reusing what it has. And there is zero risk in that." Give the OC a gold star in this category.

The collaboration between the Orange County Sanitation District and the Orange County Water District to build and provide the largest groundwater replenishment system in the world is something every resident can be extremely proud. It’s worthy of a toast! The OC Register provides the details on yesterday’s dedication of the expanded facility in the first piece below, including photos. The second photo is in the plant and provides you with an opportunity to play "Where’s Waldo?"

In my remarks at the dedication ceremony, I reminded everyone of the old Chinese proverb, that the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. It’s a shame that California did not focus on providing more water retention decades ago. And the current leadership on the drought has been so dismal from the Governor and the Legislature.

Cramming a trailer bill through the Senate Budget Committee whose members, including myself, received it just minutes previous to its meeting is bad form. Imposing a top-down unilateral merging of water districts is an example of flailing and desperate leadership (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 88 — June 19, 2015 June 19, 2015 John Moorlach).

Even AB 91 was a sad and disappointing attempt at providing drought relief (see MOORLACH UPDATE — First Full Day — March 25, 2015 March 26, 2015 John Moorlach). The Wall Street Journal saw it the same way (see MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — Why I Won — April 2, 2015 April 2, 2015 John Moorlach). It’s rough having a front-row seat on this nonstop disappointment.

Remember when we had real leaders? On Monday, a statue of the only California Governor who would become President of the United States was dedicated in the Capitol’s basement rotunda. I was in attendance and photos were provided in the LA Times, Sacramento Bee, and OC Register. Thanks to the angles of the shots, I ended up in many of them. So, for another fun game of "Where’s Waldo?," see if you can find me in the next five photos.

Speaking of a man-made water crisis, we also have a man-made pension crisis. In the second piece below, provides another article on the budget that was signed this week. The woeful attempt at addressing the state’s pension deficits is another example of dismal leadership.

As I was leaving the Senate Floor after last Friday’s extra day of Session, the Associated Press photographer was hoping that I would be holding all of my binders. Staff came to my rescue, so he didn’t get what he was hoping for. But, he still got this shot and it was the lead photo of the Yahoo News website all last Saturday.

BONUS: To provide some direction, I released my thoughts on where the State’s budget should be focused and the graph included is provided below, just above the last photo (also see

DOUBLE BONUS: I was interviewed on the Budget by Phil Cowan of AM 1380 KTKZ and it is available at One of my points? California has not only drained its surface retained water, it has also drained its cash reserves.

TRIPLE BONUS: This past week Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon announced the Senators who will be serving on the special session committees. I have been appointed to serve on the Public Health and Developmental Services Committee (also see MOORLACH UPDATE — New Political Split — April 24, 2015 April 24, 2015 John Moorlach)

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Cathy Green, president of the Orange County Water District, and others toast with recycled water on Friday. ANA VENEGAS, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER


Officials unveiled an initial expansion of Orange County Water District’s wastewater recycling facility in Fountain Valley on Friday, bringing production from 70 million gallons per day to 100 million gallons.

With the $142 million expansion, the wastewater program provides enough recycled water to meet the needs of about 850,000 Orange County residents. The Fountain Valley plant is the largest of its kind in the world.

Another, final expansion of the Groundwater Replenishment System, which began treating water in 2008, would bring production to 130 million gallons per day.

At the water district’s facility in Fountain Valley, lightly treated wastewater from the Orange County Sanitation District that would otherwise be discharged into the ocean is pumped through a series of filters. The heart of OCWD’s advanced filtering process is when the water is forced through reverse osmosis membranes, which also can be used to take the salt out of seawater.

The water comes out ultrapure and is used to replenish groundwater stocks through recharge basins in Anaheim. It also is injected into wells in Fountain Valley to ward off saltwater that could penetrate the groundwater basin from the ocean.

Water agencies pump the groundwater out and distribute it as tap water to 2.5 million people in north and central Orange County.

As water supplies have tightened during California’s four-year drought, experts have looked to wastewater as a source that’s not dependent on rainfall.

“With the drought, this expansion has come on in the nick of time,” said Mike Markus, the water district’s general manager.

With a final expansion planned sometime in the next decade, officials hope to eventually treat and recycle all the water produced by the sanitation district, which serves 2.5 million people in north and central Orange County.

Current plans would treat only about 70 percent of the water generated by the sanitation district.

“Hopefully, that 70 percent can increase,” said Tom Beamish, chairman of the board of directors at the sanitation district. “We are committed to making that final expansion a reality.”

To complete the final expansion, the sanitation district will have to figure out how to transport water from its treatment plant in Huntington Beach to OCWD’s system in Fountain Valley. The water district is already recycling all of the water generated by the sanitation district’s Fountain Valley plant.

Advances in membrane technology have made reverse osmosis systems cheaper to operate. Other advances lower energy costs by reusing the pressure that forces water through the membranes.

As part of the initial expansion, the water district built two 7.5-million-gallon storage tanks to hold some water during the day and run it through the filters overnight, when the sanitation district isn’t producing as much wastewater.

The Groundwater Replenishment System is in a category called indirect potable reuse, which means there’s a buffer between the recycled water and those who drink it – in this case, the groundwater aquifer.

In the coming years, water experts predict direct potable reuse – wherein recycled wastewater is pumped straight into pipes destined for homes – will become common.

Some water officials lament that it isn’t common already. “It’s a shame we have to put it in the ground in order to use it,” said Philip Anthony, a member of the water district’s board.

Orange County politicos spoke at Friday’s event, including Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Rep. Loretta Sanchez, State Sen. John Moorlach, Assemblyman Matthew Harper and Assemblyman Travis Allen.

Contact the writer: aorlowski. Twitter: @aaronorlowski





Sculptor Douglas Van Howd, left, and Douglas Elmets, chairman of the Ronald Reagan Centennial Capitol Foundation, unveil the 8-foot-tall bronze statue of the former California governor and president during ceremonies at the Capitol in Sacramento on Monday.

Former Secretary of State George Shultz poses in front of a statue of his former boss, President Ronald Reagan, that was unveiled at the Capitol on Monday. The 8-foot-tall bronze statue of California’s 33rd governor and the 40th president was created by sculptor Douglas Van Howd and is on display in the lower rotunda of the Capitol.

Legislature passes record $117 billion budget

Josephine Djuhana

On Monday, the California Legislature passed a $117 billion state budget on a 52-28 vote, meeting the June 15 deadline to send the bill to Governor Jerry Brown. The Legislature’s version of the budget allocates $117 billion in expenditures and sets aside $5 billion in reserves. Crafted by Democratic legislators on a conference committee, the budget proposes $2 billion more in spending and $3.2 billion more in projected revenue than Gov. Brown’s May Revise.

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 10.56.49 AM

Democrats in Sacramento praised the approval of a “balanced” and “on-time” budget. A prepared release from Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, says Assembly Bill 93, the budget bill, will “pay down debt, build reserves and restore funding to schools.”

“I want to thank our Budget Chair, Dr. Shirley Weber, our subcommittee chairs, the members of the Budget Committee and our conferees for performing an incredible amount of work, which is shown in the budget we voted on today,” said Speaker Atkins. “The stability from the years of hard choices gives us an opportunity that has been rare in recent years – the chance to focus on a budget that builds a stronger and brighter future for the people of California.”

Assemblyman Mike Gipson, D-Carson, released the following statement on the passage of AB93:

“I’m proud to support a balanced budget that prioritizes education, health care, and poverty reduction in California. By strengthening social programs to assist the disadvantaged, such as early education and the Earned Income Tax Program, more Californians will have the freedom to follow their own path to success and happiness. This budget will also help create healthier communities by restoring funding cuts to critical Medi-Cal programs. … Overall, these policies outline the virtues of a society concerned with creating the broadest opportunities for all of our citizens.”

Senator Connie Leyva, D-Chino, also commended the budget approval, calling it a “forward-looking budget that continues to strengthen California’s diverse communities … throughout the state.”

Democratic legislators highlighted the importance of investment in the Earned Income Tax Program, health care and Medi-Cal, state education at all levels of learning, public safety, child care and other programs. Senator Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, said the budget “reflects the Legislature’s priorities of investing in the people of our great state … while paying down the state’s long term debt and setting aside more resources for our rainy day fund.”

But Republican legislators fear the budget does not do enough to meet the needs of California’s unfunded pension and retiree health care liabilities.

balanced budget

Senator John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, said on the Senate floor that the budget “departs from Governor Brown’s call for fiscal restraint” and does not “make a dent in our $72 billion in unfunded retiree medical costs, or the over $100 billion [plus] in unfunded pension liabilities.”

Senator Patricia Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, said the budget “gives a false sense of security to Californians.” Despite providing more resources for education, “it creates new and additional spending in other areas, which is simply unsustainable” and “may lead to higher taxes.” Her release continued:

“The undeniable fact is that this budget would spend a record $269 billion, which is $15 billion higher than last year’s budget. It also promises money that may never materialize as it assumes that the state will receive $3 billion more than what Governor Brown believes we will receive. That’s why he has not agreed to this budget. He recognizes that it repeats the foolishness of relying on rosy economic projections.

“Governor Brown has governed during times of both boom and bust, and I hope he will resist the urge to live beyond our means. By paying down more debt and smartly investing in top priorities such as education, we can avoid major problems down the road and secure a healthier future for all Californians.”

The Republican vice chairs of the Assembly and Senate budget committees, Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, and Senator Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, also sent a formal letter to the governor, calling the proposed budget a “political exercise” and saying adoption of the budget would be “fiscal malpractice”:

“The needs of the state are great and the urge to spend is strong. As you have noted, however, a moderate economic downturn could cut state revenue by $40 billion over three short years. In assessing the health of the state’s economy, economists have suggested that California is not even prepared for a moderate recession. While our work to build a Rainy Day Fund is commendable, the Fund is only projected to have a $3.5 billion balance as of next summer. We should not delude ourselves into believing that $3.5 billion would be sufficient to smooth the effects of a significant economic tremor.”

According to charts from the Department of Finance, actual expenditures for fiscal year 2011-12 were $86.4 billion. As state revenues increased, that number has ballooned to $96.6 billion in FY 2012-13 and $99.8 billion in FY 2013-14. The proposed budget for FY 2015-16 is $117.5 billion – that’s about $17.7 billion dollars more than just two years ago.

The estimated revenue for the general fund in FY 2015-16 according to the Gov. Brown’s May Revise is $113.3 billion, which is less than the Legislature’s proposal to spend $117 billion and save $5 billion.

Gov. Brown and the Legislature will continue to negotiate and work out any discrepancies until the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1. The proposal now goes to the governor to sign and approve.



State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, gathers his binders together as he prepares to leave the Senate after session at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, June 19, 2015. Both houses of the Legislature approved the $115.4 billion compromise spending plan and sent it to the governor.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, gathers his binders together as he prepares to leave the Senate after session at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, June 19, 2015. Both houses of the Legislature approved the $115.4 billion compromise spending plan and sent it to the governor.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

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MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 88 — June 19, 2015

A special Senate Floor Session was called for this morning, lasting more than five hours, to approve the new "junior" budget and thirteen trailer bills. This followed a five-and-one-half hours Budget Committee meeting yesterday afternoon.

The good news is that the Governor did not budge very much from his original May revise budget. The bad news is that the budget does not address unfunded liabilities as aggressively as it should (see MOORLACH UPDATE — The Budget Act — June 16, 2015 June 16, 2015 John Moorlach and MOORLACH UPDATE — Civilian Oversight — June 15, 2015 June 15, 2015 John Moorlach). Consequently, I voted to oppose.

I serve on the Budget Committee and, since I’m a victim of Trailer Bill abuse, thanks to SB 89 in 2011 (see MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — 34th Senate District — August 31, 2014 August 31, 2014 John Moorlach), I voiced my concerns and opposition Thursday afternoon and it was captured by the San Francisco Chronicle in the first piece below.

I’m just off of the Senate Floor and the San Francisco Chronicle covers it already in the second piece below. I vented my agitation one more time, stating that trailer bills are an inappropriate strategy for the Governor to use. If they are not related to the budget, then knock it off. SB 88 is opposed by just about everyone in the municipal arena and it is an amazing policy over reach. SB 88 was provided to the Budget Committee yesterday morning, just a few hours before our meeting. This "middle of the night" nonsense has to stop. So I reminded my colleagues that this is not rule by fiat and that this is not a monarchy (see MOORLACH UPDATE — The Budget Act — June 16, 2015 June 16, 2015 John Moorlach).

The Daily Pilot provides the good news that the Joint Legislative Audit Committee’s agenda had the Great Park audit of the audit dropped (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Butt Out — June 13, 2015 June 13, 2015 John Moorlach). Thank goodness for small victories.

Have a wonderful Father’s Day weekend!

File:San Francisco Chronicle logo.svg

Budget ready for vote, with officials’ pet projects slipped in

By Melody Gutierrez

With a state budget deal announced this week, details are emerging of last-minute policies tucked into the spending plan that will bypass the typical public scrutiny.

Lawmakers will vote Friday on the $115.4 billion general-fund budget deal and accompanying trailer bills for the 2015-16 year, which include wide-ranging new spending for lawmakers’ pet projects and several policy changes that have nothing to do with the state’s finances.

“There are decisions in these bills that have never been heard, and many that were publicly rejected, only to be put back in when no one was looking,” Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Temecula (Riverside County), said Thursday during a Senate hearing to review the budget bills.

For example, one non-budgetary provision would extend a deadline for an environmental review required for the planned Golden State Warriors arena in San Francisco, and another would grant the state new authority to force troubled water districts to consolidate with larger, better-funded ones.

A coalition of statewide local government organizations, including the Association of California Water Agencies and League of California Cities, opposes the water agency proposal, which they said should go through a normal public policy review instead of a fast-tracked budget bill. Several lawmakers agreed.

“That needs a lot more discussion than it will get being brought in this late,” said Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore (Riverside County).

In all, there are 13 trailer bills accompanying the state budget this year, and some of the provisions in the legislation enact anticipated, much-discussed proposals, such as the state earned income tax credit, or various parts of the budget deal announced Tuesday by legislative leaders and Gov. Jerry Brown.

Others were a surprise, even to the lawmakers voting on the measures.

The surprise provisions turn up as add-ons in trailer bills that commonly accompany the main budget bill. The entire budget package of legislation often includes more than a dozen bills that are voted on separately.

Lawmakers said they had just hours to review a drought trailer bill sought by the governor that included an exemption under the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, for local governments that want to place a moratorium on new wells.

The governor’s office included language in a trailer bill that would erase $8 million the state agreed to pay counties for land purchased for wildlife conservation and would make it optional in future years for the state to pay for such purchases. The administration said it intends to pay for future purchases and included $644,000 in the 2015-16 budget for land conservation purchases. But the state wants to wipe the slate clean on past purchases and ensure flexibility on whether it must make future payments when the funds may not exist.

Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, called the proposal a “real poke in the eye.”

“I think it’s shortsighted,” Wolk said to administration officials at a budget hearing Thursday.

Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa (Orange County), challenged Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, about whether the Warriors arena environmental review extension should be part of the budget bill.

“What does this have to do with the budget?” Moorlach asked. “Why not do this as a regular bill?”

Leno said he requested the environmental review extension for the Warriors when it appeared that the team would not be able to meet a deadline to get the environmental review finalized by Jan. 1, 2016.

The extension, which also applies to a building in Hollywood, allows for large projects already deemed environmental leaders to be streamlined under CEQA. Under the trailer bill, the Warriors would now have until Jan. 1, 2017, to finalize the environmental review for the arena to qualify for the streamlined process.

Leno said that after the Warriors listened to the community and decided not to proceed with the original waterfront site, finding a new location at Mission Bay and building support has delayed the team’s ability to meet the deadline.

“If we didn’t extend the date, they would have been punished for doing the very thing I want to encourage projects to do — get public support,” Leno said.

Leno said including the extension in the budget bills will allow it take effect July 1 if signed by the governor, versus the start of the new year.

Melody Gutierrez is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: mgutierrez. Twitter: @MelodyGutierrez

California Legislature sends budget to Jerry Brown

By Melody Gutierrez

The California Legislature gave final approval Friday to a $115.4 billion general fund state budget that now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown, who helped negotiate the revised spending plan and has given it his support.

The record-high budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 received a handful of Republican votes as it passed the Senate 30-9 and Assembly 53-26.

The Legislature officially passed the state budget Monday, but did so with a party-line vote on a $117.5 billion spending plan that did not have Brown’s support. Instead of waiting for Brown’s veto pen, the governor and legislative leaders announced Tuesday they had reached a deal with $2 billion less in spending. The deal included some of the additional spending for child care and health care that Democratic lawmakers’ sought.

Lawmakers passed the amended bill Friday that reflected the budget deal as well as trailer bills, including controversial drought-related measures that give the state the authority to force small, troubled water districts to consolidate with larger, better-funded ones and an exemption under the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, for water recycling projects and for local governments that want to place a moratorium on new wells.

Many lawmakers criticized Brown for offering the language for the drought bill at the last minute.

“It’s a major policy change that has no business of being in the budget process,” said Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa (Orange County). “This is a cram-down.”

The state budget creates an Earned Income Tax Credit for the poor, sets aside $40 million for 170,000 children who are undocumented immigrants and whose families are low income to receive Medi-Cal benefits and $265 million to create 13,800 preschool and child care slots along with a rate increase for providers.

Under the budget, the state’s rainy-day fund will have a $3.5 billion balance by the end of the year, while setting aside $1.1 billion for an operating reserve and $1.9 billion to pay down debts and liabilities, including money borrowed from public schools during the recession.

Public schools will receive $3,000 more per student in 2015-16 compared with four years earlier as K-12 schools take in $60 billion in funding for the upcoming fiscal year that begins July 1.

“This budget strikes a responsible balance between strengthening our long-term fiscal foundation and investing in the economy of today and the workforce of tomorrow,” Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, said in a statement. “This budget focuses on bookend investments at the start and end of a California kid’s educational career, by adding childcare and preschool slots for working families and increasing access to higher education.”

Democratic lawmakers had hoped to restore Medi-Cal rates, further increase subsidized preschools and repeal a law that denies additional state aid to children born to parents who were already on welfare. Brown said there wasn’t enough money for all of the discretionary spending Democratic lawmakers sought.

Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said there is still much to be proud of in the budget.

“The nature of compromise is that no one gets everything that he or she wants,” said Leno, who chairs the Senate’s budget committee. Melody Gutierrez is a mgutierrez. Twitter: @MelodyGutierrez

Daily Pilot

Second request for Great Park Audit investigation is dropped

By Matt Morrison

A push to have the audit of the Orange County Great Park examined in the Legislature hit a second wall Wednesday when Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) abruptly withdrew her request before a meeting of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee in Sacramento.

Gonzalez had proposed an investigation at the joint meeting in April at the urging of construction design firm Gafcon, a Great Park subcontractor headquartered in her district. At that time, the item was denied approval, despite a 9-3 overall vote in favor, because the request did not have the required balance of at least four yes votes by both the state Assembly and Senate members of the committee.

In January 2013, the Irvine City Council approved conducting the audit of the Great Park work at an original budget of $240,000. A subcommittee of Irvine council members Christina Shea and Jeffrey Lalloway was charged with overseeing the audit. The final report was presented in March after more than two years and at a cost in excess of $1.2 million.

The audit report concluded that the construction of the park was rife with mismanagement and budgetary irresponsibility, noting that more than $200 million had been spent on the project between 2005 and 2012. Findings left the door open for legal action to recover money paid to contractors based on potential professional negligence, false claims or conflicts of interest.

Gafcon, Newport Beach public relations firm Forde & Mollrich and former Irvine Mayor Larry Agran, who oversaw the Great Park project for five of the seven years in question, are all central figures in the report. After 28 years as a City Council member, including three terms as mayor, Agran was voted out of office last November.

Gonzalez argued in April that the audit process may have been drawn out for election purposes and that Gafcon’s reputation and business suffered significantly as a result. At the same hearing, Gafcon principal Yehudi Gaffen testified that his company "lost millions" and "did not win one job in 2014 because of this so-called audit."

Exactly why Gonzalez dropped her second request at the June 17 committee meeting remains unclear. Attempts to reach the assemblywoman were unsuccessful, and a representative from her legislative office said only that Gonzalez will "continue to monitor the situation" and may still file a request for an investigation at a future joint meeting.

Legislators opposed to the "audit of the audit" have speculated that the item did not have enough support to pass, prompting Gonzalez to withdraw the request.

"All I know is she withdrew the item, and I’m gratified that she has," said Assemblyman Don Wagner (R-Irvine). "I thank Lorena for withdrawing the request."

Representing a delegation of Republican legislators from Orange County, Wagner wrote a letter to Joint Legislative Audit Committee Chairman Mike Gibson (D-Carson) urging that it deny the audit request.

The letter was co-signed by state Sens. Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel), Bob Huff (R-San Dimas), John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) and Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove), along with assembly members Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach), William Brough (R-Dana Point), Ling Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar), Matthew Harper (R-Huntington Beach ) and Young Kim (R-Fullerton).

Gafcon spokesman Paul Najar said the lobbying effort against the investigation is troubling. Najar said defensive efforts of Irvine Mayor Steven Choi and special counsel Anthony Taylor at the April joint committee meeting prevent transparency of the audit process.

An official statement issued by Gafcon said the audit is "riddled with falsehoods" and concludes: "We are perplexed as to why the City Council is spending so much additional public money to oppose a review by the non-partisan state auditor if they have nothing to hide."

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MOORLACH UPDATE — The Budget Act — June 16, 2015

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been providing you with graphs that show the continued growth of California’s annual state budget. In order to maintain spending levels, the state has borrowed from and depleted internal funds. Now it’s time to keep the budget level. Any revenues received above and beyond this fixed amount should be applied to the budget evenly in four areas: cash reserves to reduce the unrestricted net deficit, pension plans and retiree medical plans to reduce the unfunded actuarial accrued liabilities, and deferred maintenance to improve our transportation infrastructure.

Instead, it appears that the Legislature wants to create more child care jobs, allow those hired to unionize (when California is already one of the highest spending states for early child care in the nation), which will ultimately lock-in higher long-term costs and obligations to our general fund with what looks to be one time money. This ever spiraling course of action is unsustainable and increasingly jeopardizes the health of California’s finances. And, it will not be pretty. So I gave the Governor a few blue pencils to line-item veto this budget (#bluepencils).

The LA Times covers the fun in the first piece below. The Sierra Sun Times printed quotes from various State Legislators, of which I am only providing mine. If you wish to read the others, please go to

Legislature approves new $117.5-billion budget as spending talks continue

Chris Megerian

California lawmakers passed a new budget Monday, but the debate over state spending is far from over in the Capitol.

Shortly after the approval of a $117.5-billion general fund, legislative leaders returned to negotiations with Gov. Jerry Brown in an attempt to reach a final deal.

“We’re close,” said Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego).

Lawmakers’ pay would have been docked had they not passed a budget by midnight. But the plan they approved is $2.2 billion larger than what Brown proposed, and the governor has repeatedly expressed concern that the Legislature’s ruling Democrats want to spend too much.

Based on higher revenue estimates than Brown accepts, Democrats added extra money to restore healthcare benefits cut during the recession, expand state-subsidized child care, pay more to doctors who serve poor patients and boost funds for public universities.

That funding remains in doubt as talks continue.

Brown has held the upper hand in budget negotiations in recent years, persuading lawmakers to pare their spending plans and employ more restrained revenue estimates. But state income has outpaced his projections, and on Monday some Democrats appeared ready to dig in their heels.

“This is not rule by fiat,” Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) said. “This not a monarchy.”

A new budget is required by July 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year, and the next steps are unclear.

Negotiations with Brown could produce new legislation for lawmakers to approve in coming days. Or the governor could use his veto power to strip from the Legislature’s plan any spending that he dislikes.

Brown declined to say what he’s planning.

“No, I can’t tell you that, because we’re in conversation with the Legislature, as you type, discussing these various matters,” he said at a Los Angeles news conference on climate change Monday morning.

Democrats would need help from Republicans to override any Brown vetoes, and GOP lawmakers are unlikely to provide it. Even though they supported some individual spending proposals, Republicans harshly criticized the approved budget as unsustainable.

“We can’t stay the course,” said Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa). “It will lead to a fiscal implosion.”

The Democrats’ plan relies on revenue estimates that are roughly $3 billion higher than those used by the Brown administration. Much of that money would be allocated under California law to schools and community colleges, the state’s rainy-day fund or debt repayment.

That leaves $749 million in discretionary spending for increased government services.

In a budget as big as California’s, that’s “a rounding error,” said Senate Budget Chairman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco). “But we use that rounding error to benefit Californians who are still struggling.”

Among other changes, the Democrats’ budget would eliminate restrictions that deny additional benefits to women who give birth while already receiving welfare. The change would cost $103 million in the next budget and potentially double that amount in future years.

Besides negotiating aid to the poor, more work needs to be done on other areas of the budget.

The governor and lawmakers have postponed the debate over how to use some revenue from the state’s cap-and-trade program, which charges fees to polluters.

About 60% of the revenue will be directed to the state bullet train project, affordable housing and other transportation programs. But the remaining 40% — almost $900 million — has not been allocated.

State law requires the money to be used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Brown wanted some of it for energy efficiency projects and drought relief; Republicans have sought to use it for road repairs.

Some far-reaching policy issues also remain unsettled.

Thousands of workers who provide state-subsidized child care would be permitted to unionize under the Democrats’ plan — a potentially significant victory for organized labor.

Brown vetoed similar legislation in 2011, saying it would have increased taxpayer costs.

In addition, the governor is pushing a budget-related proposal that would allow the state to require local water agencies to consolidate if they failed to provide adequate access to clean drinking water.

The Assn. of California Water Agencies and other organizations representing local governments oppose that legislation, saying such a change is unnecessary and too broad.

Atkins declined to say whether lawmakers support the proposal.

“We’re still in discussion,” she said.


Twitter: @chrismegerian

Times staff writers Michael Finnegan in Los Angeles and Melanie Mason and Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento contributed to this report.

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Senate Republicans issued the following statements:

“The state is at a critical juncture, “an inflection point,” where the state begins to seriously address its unrestricted net deficit and unfunded liabilities or continue to hire more state employees who will pay more dues to the unions that appear to be running California. This budget before us departs from Governor Brown’s call for greater fiscal restraint. Instead, it takes the most fiscally optimistic revenue estimates and spends up to that line. And many expenditures are also optimistic, if recent trends continue. Staying on this current course will lead to a fiscal implosion. The time to change course is now. I stand opposed to AB 93,” said Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa).

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