A full plate today. An invitation, Professor Mainero’s new job, the prickliness of campaign finance, the ongoing saga of the OC Fair, let’s throw in some composting and a Look Back on this day in history fifteen years ago, and we have a full plate.
The first piece is another Mickadeit column in the OC Register (their new font for their name will not copy). Frank mentions one of my “minions” (this must be “Socratic dialogue”), Professor Mario Mainero. The good law professor now focuses on helping Chapman Law School students in their efforts to pass the bar exam. Achieving an 81 percent pass rate should put a glow on Dean John Eastman’s face.
Professor Mainero was part of a team at Chapman that was responsible for the highest bar pass rate in the school’s history, a team that included Assistant Dean Jayne Kacer, Professor Rick Faulkner, several Legal Research and Writing Professors, and three outstanding members of County Counsel, Mark Batarse, Nicole Sims, and Nicole Walsh.
The bar pass rate was 81% for all Chapman first-time takers, and 82% for the class of 2009. This rate was higher than all other OC law schools, and a number of other California schools, including University of San Diego and Pepperdine, and was just a few points lower than Loyola and UCLA.
The Professor teaches a for-credit bar prep course that discusses the substantive law and essay writing in each of 15 bar subjects, and helps coordinate the supplemental bar prep program, where a team critiques students’ essays as they prepare for the bar and also conducts sessions on taking the multiple choice portion of the bar exam. And my office gets to have some of his precious time as a part-time policy advisor. Congratulations to all.
One area that Professor Mainero has been focusing some time is on TINCUP (Time is Now, Clean Up Politics), which passed as a ballot measure in the late 1970s. Even during my candidacy for Treasurer in 1994 I was asked to violate a portion of TINCUP in order to make it a test case to address its unconstitutionality. I didn’t have time for this maneuver, as running a practice and running for office were plenty at the time, thank you. But, that unconstitutional provision is still in the ordinance. Shirley Grindle agreed that certain provisions should be modified. My office worked with her and we provided two ballot measure proposals to address the issues. The first provided clean up language, which was critical. The second offered the voters a review panel because there seemed to be no active enforcement of TINCUP, other than one compulsive Shirley Grindle. My colleagues on the Board voted the ideas down with a 3-2 vote. Soon thereafter, the OC Grand Jury reviewed TINCUP and issued a report with revision recommendations very similar to the ones we had proposed. As Chair, I established a committee to address the topic.
Shirley Grindle doesn’t talk to me much because I was quoted as calling her “prickly” in the press. Well, she is prickly. Maybe too prickly. And she doesn’t show the signs one would like to see for the potential of mellowing out. You’ll see what I mean in the second article, in this week’s OCWEEKLY, on what the good Professor and County Counsel Ann Fletcher are receiving for all of their patient and diligent work on this topic.
Some thirty years after the passage of TINCUP not one Board of Supervisors has voted to put a measure on the ballot to repeal it. Maybe they realized that it would fail? My office took the approach to fix it. So much for trying.
Another columnist for the OC Register weighs in on the current OC Fair Board and does her community service in holding individuals accountable. This is one episode during my tenure as Supervisor that has made me ill with grief. The sooner the Governor’s office puts the RFP process out of its misery, the better. Barbara Venezia’s piece is the third article below.
The fourth and last article comes from the Long Beach Press-Telegram and provides an update on the composting issue. In our congenial lunch meeting in my office two months ago, we agreed to wait for Major General Harrel (also a member of the California Attorney General’s staff) to complete his legal review of the contract. The assurance did not seem to be digested well by the Mayors subsequent to the meeting and they have decided to put on a full-court press.
Please come to our Third Annual Christmas Open House on December 16th, from 3 to 5 p.m.
10 Civic Center Plaza
333 West Santa Ana Boulevard
Fifth Floor, Second District
(Park in the lot off of Ross Street)
To RSVP, please call Margaret Chang at 714-834-3220
Finals bring tense times to Chapman Law
By FRANK MICKADEIT
Countless drafts of legal writing and research, 414 pages of civil procedure and 320 pages of torts later, we stare into the face of the beast. I sit now on the patio outside Kennedy Hall with my laptop and cigar, having just left the last lecture of the semester, crafting this column before I take a carrel inside Rinker Library and narrow my entire bodily focus to the singular goal of smiting the beast, The Law School Final Exam. They begin next week.
Over the last few weeks, I have felt the tension on the Chapman law school campus growing almost daily, particularly among fellow first-year students. Smokers are smoking more. Questions of professors have more of an anxious quality. Professors’ office hours are booked solid, with students jostling to make it onto the sign-up sheets on office doors, and then, upon not getting a slot, imploring the professor to add more.
The hornbooks – very thick versions of undergraduate Cliffs Notes, if you will – are coming out. Vendors of these aids and of last-minute exam-prep courses lurk in hallways and the law-student lounge, where the queue at the foosball table is shorter than it was in October. Is it worth $399 for a two-day essay-writing course by a guy who claims he made law review? These things we ponder.
There’s almost a paranoia about the flu. Hand-sanitizer dispensers abound, and two weeks ago we all trooped to the student health center, where under an awning in the parking lot nurses administered the seasonal and H1N1 vaccines as if it were Guam 1942, and we were lining up outside an Army tent to be inoculated against yellow fever. We know the reality: Go down now and there’s no mercy. Might as well just asked to be shot and left on the side of the road like a lame Army mule.
Professors instill varying degrees of fear and hope. One, informing my class how we did on a practice essay exam a few weeks ago, said, “I have to tell you: It wasn’t good.” She said she actually hoped we had not studied, implying that if we had, it meant that as a group we weren’t very bright. I mentioned this to one of the deans, who said: “Sounds like she’s right on cue” – implying that this prof tells her 1L’s that every fall to scare them into studying harder. It’s working.
Another professor looked out on a sea of haggard faces in torts class one day after several students had to pass on engaging him in Socratic dialogue (unheard of until then), stopped the session cold and took pity. Trying to put into perspective the place that all law students find themselves in the last few weeks of their first semester of their first year – even presumably an Oxford and Stanford man such as himself – he said in his British accent: “You are at the grimmest point of your law school experience, these next few weeks. It doesn’t get any worse than this.” That helped.
My method of study is fairly typical. I take the entire semester’s notes for a class – maybe 100 pages – and first condense them to an outline of maybe 30 pages. I check those against the hornbooks and outlines upperclassmen have passed down. This takes a day or three. Then I take that down to about 15 pages. Then I convert that to handwritten color-coded index cards. I spend hours going through those. Along the way, I practice writing essays based on old exam problems. In the car, I listen to lecture CDs my daughter gave me.
The finals are closed book, closed note. One requires knowing the names and holdings of maybe 60 cases and 20 other laws numbered by code. That’s just the memorization. Application is where the points are.
I visited the third-floor campus office of Mario Mainero, the Moorlach aide who is also a Chapman professor with the main task of ensuring graduates pass the bar exam at a high rate. He was crowing about the Class of 2009’s just-released numbers: 81 percent,11 percent higher than the statewide figure.
Mainero walked me through his techniques, handed me a couple of practice exams and told me – pretty much ordered me – to stop writing columns for a bit. Taking orders from one of Moorlach’s minions is anathema, but I’m going to obey. Haven’t decided whether to take my editor’s advice and get more flu shots.
Mickadeit writes Mon.-Fri. Contact him at 714-796-4994 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Shirley Grindle Runs Out of Patience With TINCUP Reform Committee
By SPENCER KORNHABER
Published on December 02, 2009 at 1:03pm
· John Gilhooley
Shirley’s got your campaign finance right here
TINCUP More Than Half-Empty?
Grizzled watchdog Shirley Grindle runneth out of patience with the committee responsible for reforming the county’s campaign-finance law
For a few hours nearly every month this past year, you could go to the Orange County Hall of Administration in Santa Ana, take the elevator to the third floor and watch Shirley Grindle fume.
In an over-air-conditioned conference room, a committee appointed by the Board of Supervisors has been trying to rewrite the county’s law limiting the influence of money in campaigns for office. Grindle, a 74-year-old former aeronautics engineer and one-term planning commissioner, wrote and lobbied for the passage of that law—referred to as TINCUP, short for Time Is Now, Clean Up Politics—in the late 1970s. Monitoring its enforcement has been her No. 1 pastime ever since. But, as Grindle likes to say, “I won’t be around forever.” In July 2008, supervisors appointed a committee that would update the law—partly in preparation for the day when Grindle isn’t able to serve as a watchdog.
With its final meeting scheduled for early next year, that committee is approaching the end of its task. And Grindle isn’t happy with the results. “I avoid thinking as much as possible about that stupid committee because every time I think about it, I get very upset,” Grindle says. “My advice to the board would be drop the whole damn thing.”
TINCUP isn’t popular among Orange County’s elected officials and the people who help them get into office. The law caps the amount that any one donor can give to a candidate at $1,600. To many conservatives, the contribution limit is tantamount to an assault on the First Amendment. “In Sunday School, I learned it is a blessing to give,” County Supervisor Chris Norby said during a hearing on TINCUP in February 2008. “And yet the whole purpose of these restrictions on free speech and political giving make it a crime to give and a blessing to receive.”
Supervisor John Moorlach, though, wants TINCUP reformed for different reasons. Portions of the ordinance have been struck down as unconstitutional, while others don’t take into account realities of modern campaigns: the rise of the Internet, lawsuit challenges and debt financing. For her part, Grindle has been lobbying for an overhaul of the way the law is enforced. For decades, she has tracked campaign finance in the county using index cards in her Orange home—one card per donor, listing every contribution that donor has made since 1978. If anyone violates TINCUP by donating too much money to one candidate, Grindle telephones that candidate, and usually, the money is quietly returned.
The power to prosecute those who willingly break the law lies with District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. But TINCUP has never been invoked in any of that office’s criminal or civil prosecutions. Historically, the DA’s office has declined to prosecute campaign-finance complaints due to lack of evidence or, in some cases, referred them to the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission—which will punish violations of state laws but not local ones such as TINCUP. Grindle points to those facts as evidence that Rackauckas is unwilling to enforce the ordinance.
The DA’s office disputes such characterizations, saying that none of the complaints filed over the years warranted prosecution. “Shirley Grindle and her nine cats don’t know what [TINCUP] says,” declares DA’s office spokeswoman Susan Kang Schroeder. “If Shirley or anyone in this world would file a complaint, and if there’s evidence to support it, there’s going to be a criminal filing.”
To take the burden of monitoring the law off Grindle and the DA, Moorlach proposed in February 2008 the establishment of an unelected, apolitical commission that would monitor and prosecute TINCUP violators. The Board of Supervisors, though, rejected that idea by a 3-2 vote. Three months later, the grand jury urged them to reconsider. In response, Moorlach proposed the creation of an ad-hoc committee, which would be staffed with two appointees per supervisor. “I was hoping to clean up the ordinance and make it a little more user-friendly,” he says. “Let’s put together a team, and let’s hammer this out.”
From the beginning, Grindle thought the committee was a “stacked deck.” Among its members are prominent county Republican campaign consultants John Lewis and Adam Probolsky, as well as Phil Greer, the go-to elections attorney for many in the GOP establishment. All three make money from campaigns; it stands to reason, Grindle says, they would profit from a loosening of TINCUP’s restrictions on campaign fund-raising. The presence of supervisorial staffers on the committee also worried Grindle: Three of the supervisors have already voted against an update to TINCUP, and it’s unlikely, she says, their aides would vote differently.
Lewis laughs off accusations of a conflict-of-interest. “You could exclude all campaign consultants, all campaign treasurers, anybody who has a professional involvement in a political campaign,” he says. “But then you’d have a really poor understanding of the practicalities of everything you’re trying to do.”
Grindle believes the majority of committee members are more interested in weakening TINCUP than fixing its deficiencies. Committee-meeting minutes show that the discussion has often centered on whether there should be a county campaign law at all. In a straw vote, a majority of members said they thought TINCUP should be repealed. Members have also lobbied to raise the law’s contribution limit to the level for state legislative candidates: $3,900.
One provision being considered would allow candidates to establish a “defense fund” to pay for representation in legal challenges. Some members—elections lawyer Greer among them—have said there should be no cap on donations to such a fund. “Makes me sick to my stomach,” Grindle says. “Don’t tell me for a minute that some guy who gives $300,000 to you, an elected official, that you aren’t influenced by that when the guy’s project comes up.”
Similarly, a provision about “slate mailers” has proved controversial. In 2002, the Board of Supervisors enacted an ordinance regulating mailed “slates” of endorsements after Lewis allegedly abused a loophole in state and county law while running Norby’s supervisorial campaign. Now, Lewis and others have tried to lessen the slate-mail restrictions in TINCUP, while Probolsky has said he wants to do away with them altogether.
Meanwhile, the issue of how to enforce TINCUP remains unresolved. While Grindle and a few committee members have supported the creation of a commission or the appointment of a “compliance officer” to monitor the law, the majority has advocated leaving that job with the district attorney.
Moorlach’s senior policy adviser, Mario Mainero, has been working with county counsel Ann Fletcher and county assistant CEO Rob Richardson to write a version of TINCUP that reflects the committee’s progress. A draft recently distributed to committee members shows that much of the law’s language has been smoothed out. But on the contentious questions, there’s only a list of the options favored by various committee members.
To Grindle, that means the entire exercise has been a waste of time: The very problems the committee was meant to help solve will be punted back to the Board of Supervisors. If they decide to weaken the law, they’ll need county voters to approve.
“The board has really put themselves in a terrible position,” Grindle says. “If they put this committee into place to solve a problem, then it backfired bigtime.”
Venezia: OC Fair Board should be removed
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Why isn’t anyone calling for the removal of the current Orange County Fair Board? Doesn’t personal responsibility matter anymore? When you take into consideration the collateral damage they’ve caused with this ridiculous self-serving shell game of buying the fairgrounds, every single one of them should be held accountable, including the two who were not part of the nonprofit shenanigans.
When I asked board member Julie Vandermost why she wasn’t a part of it, she emailed, “It’s a matter of not having enough bandwidth in my schedule.” David Padilla didn’t return my call; rumor has it he wasn’t even asked to participate in the nonprofit. If true, you have to wonder why.
I’m not buying Julie’s clever excuse and David’s non-response speaks volumes. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out they were probably the first ones who saw something hinky in this plan. Why didn’t they speak up? Was it because they didn’t want to rock the boat and lose the lucrative perks of being on the Fair Board? Or were they afraid of the blow-back speaking against powerful fellow board members could bring?
Does personal responsibility go out the window if you just keep your mouth shut?
This Fair Board’s questionable behavior should be enough ammunition to explore removal. Let’s not forget they were smack dab in the middle of the Mike Carona trial with board member Debbie Carona. Then there was the whole messy ticket/private dinner scandal that some argued amounted to “gifts of public funds,” perks estimated at approximately $40,000 plus. When this was taken away, tongues wagged that 50 percent of the board considered quitting.
Now Costa Mesa’s setting aside beaucoup bucks to create a plan B, (making a bid to buy the fairgrounds), should plan A, (getting the governor to rescind the sale), not work. This exercise in futility could’ve been avoided had the OC Fair Board done their job and not lobbied for the sale or formed their own nonprofit to buy it.
When is someone going to talk about the elephant in the middle of the room? It appears this board is not looking out for the best interest of the public. Politicians generally hate going after those who fund-raise and have political juice, but what if they’re out of control?
Maybe it’s a task for Supervisor John Moorlach; after all, accountability’s something his office has preached repeatedly. Sure his administration’s taken its lumps as they’ve gone after some sacred political cows like pension reform, but whether you agree with them or not, this group seems fearless. It would make sense for Moorlach and company to lead this charge.
But will he? He’s gearing up for a tough re-election bid. Going after political heavyweights on the Fair Board could cause a rift within his party; then again, being pro-active on this issue could give him a leg up with voters. Wonder if he’s a gambling man?
Costa Mesa, coupled with the OC Board of Supervisors, could accomplish rescinding the sale and requesting new board members. So who’ll have the chutzpah to stand up for personal responsibility? We all should.
Freelance writer Barbara Venezia’s opinion column appears online and in The Current every Friday. Email BV at email@example.com
Shore Patrol: Communities moving against compost at Joint Forces base
By Joe Segura, Staff Writer
The nudging is escalating into a firm push.
Seal Beach and several of its neighboring communities are pressing forward to halt a compost facility’s operation at the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos.
The city officials – from Seal Beach, Rossmoor, Los Alamitos, Cypress and Garden Grove – are strongly hinting at a possible lawsuit to stop the operation, contending it presents a number of noise and pollution problems.
The tough talk is somewhat new; it’s been heated before, but not with the clear warnings of legal action.
Last June, Brig. Gen. (Ret.) James P. Combs took the brunt of the heat, when he found himself under fire from Seal Beach, Los Alamitos and Cypress residents irked by large trucks rumbling through their neighborhoods.
Combs decided to halt the operation – for now, saying the five-year pilot composting program would be reviewed by federal attorneys to assure that it’s not been selectively restricted by Seal Beach’s municipal codes, banning the use of trucks weighing more than 3 tons.
The commander’s decision was on the heels of the council’s unanimous vote in June to prohibit “gross weight vehicles over 3 tons” on Lampson Avenue, from Seal Beach Boulevard to the city’s east limits.
The base intended to have 15 to 18 semi-truck daily deliveries on Lampson – or about one truck every 30 minutes in an eight-hour work day.
Following the council action, Combs told the Press-Telegram he wasn’t sure if the vote constituted selective enforcement.
However, until there’s a legal review, the truck operations would be halted along Lampson, according to Combs.
“One of the things the military is good at is following the rules,” the general added.
In early October, after more than five months of effort, a West Orange County consortium of mayors announced it had been successful in working with the base brass to order a cessation of the composting project “until further notice.” The decision was outlined during a meeting Oct. 7 between the mayors of Cypress, Garden Grove, Los Alamitos and Seal Beach, base commander Major General John Harrel, Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach and Alfred Coletta, president of the Rossmoor Community Services District.
Harrel could not be reached for comment, nor could Capt. Harry Chang, who had been meeting with the mayors.
However, recent complaints about odors emanating from the composting facility occupying nearly 12 acres on the southeast section of the base have apparently crystallized the ongoing concerns, the mayors asserted in a recent letter.
Harrel’s statement supporting future discussions of the composting on the base were not enough.
A terse letter was sent to Harrel, and after a short period, a follow-up letter was sent Nov. 19 to his boss, John McHugh, the secretary of the Army, demanding the operating license be terminated immediately.
“Revoking the license is the only meaningful way to mitigate the significant and on-going adverse impacts from these composting activities,” the letter states.
The pushy part:
“To do so would be an appropriate gesture … particularly given the lack of transparency in the awarding of this license, and the lack of meaningful environmental consideration of composting activities undertaken prior to awarding the license.”
One key source, asking for anonymity, said court action would be a last resort, adding that Harrel will be replaced at the base early next year.
FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS
Fifteen years ago, today, it was a Sunday. The news kept coming out as reporters worked overtime on the biggest news story to hit the OC in decades.
The LA Times had a piece by Dana Parsons, perhaps his first including me, titled “Treading the Murky Waters of the Investment Pool Fiasco.” Parsons takes Citron’s “bunker defense,” both during the campaign and the last few days, to account.
I don’t know about you, but nothing makes me more panicky than someone calling a press conference and telling me not to panic.
[Citron] said virtually nothing at the press conference, then made himself unavailable to the media on Friday. If this is his idea of the way to stem a loss of public confidence, he’s wrong. He surely knows the markets much better than the average citizen, so why not explain to us why a skid of $1.5 billion is nothing to worry about.
Unfortunately, his attitude reflected the way he ran his campaign against Republican challenger John Moorlach in the spring. Moorlach was all over Citron for risky investments, and Citron, first elected in 1970, acted like the feudal landlord being questioned by a serf. That the serf actually may have known what he was talking about is now rather obvious, and you’d think Citron would give us Joe Six-Packs of Orange County at least a primer on his investment strategies.
The OC Register’s lead editorial in their Commentary section was titled “Mr. Citron’s gamble.” It also took Citron to account, along with a few others.
It is the upward thrust of interest rates that sent the fund’s value tumbling, as critics of the strategy – most notably Costa Mesa accountant John Moorlach – had predicted for months.
Supervisor-elect Marian Bergeson should set an example for her colleagues by pledging – today – that she will vote for no tax increases to cover any losses to the county because of Mr. Citron’s gambling.
We single out Ms. Bergeson because earlier this year when Mr. Moorlach was challenging Mr. Citron for the treasurer’s post, Ms. Bergeson ostentatiously withdrew her endorsement of Mr. Moorlach because of his criticisms of the Citron investment strategies. Ms. Bergeson thus became a leading spokesperson for the don’t-confuse-us-with-the-facts irresponsibility on the part of establishment politicians (read: all the sitting supervisors, with Tom Riley being the most vocal) that has helped lead to this impasse.
As a legislator in Sacramento, Ms. Bergeson has been known as a reliable vote for tax increases authored by the governor. Let’s hope she doesn’t adopt the same expedient in response to the county troubles.