MOORLACH UPDATE — OC Register — March 26, 2010

The OC Register’s Watchdog column usually hits their website first and maybe makes it to their hardcopy a day or two later.

This story was on their website for some time and appeared in today’s Local section.

The opening two paragraphs may have been a bit of journalistic license by Teri Sforza.  But, I did ask a simple question of county staff to prepare a “white paper” on the merits of a merger before my first Vector Control meeting last January.  Let’s just say that the reaction was not a warm one.

The county finally released a “white paper” that became much more extensive than it needed to be, as a result, I believe, of Gerard Goedhart calling the county every week on its status.  He would also attend Board of Supervisor meetings nearly every week.

His misdiagnosis of board member motives came to a crescendo when he once again misinterpreted a Vector Control Board member’s inquiries.  (We have 35 members on the board, all 34 cities and the county are represented.)

Instead of determining the nature of the inquiry, Goedhart saw it as a personal affront and set his retirement plans in motion.  Now they appear to be moving ahead of schedule.

Mosquito agency exec’s employment is exterminated

Register Columnist Teri Sforza

The beginning of the end for Gerard Goedhart may well have been about one year ago, when a tall, bearded CPA/county supervisor took a seat on the Orange County Vector Control District’s board of trustees.

John Moorlach marched in to the quixotic $11 million-a-year agency with a question: Why is Vector Control a separate little government unto itself? Would it make sense to merge it with, say, the county, or some other arm of government?

The presence of folks like Wendy Leece of Costa Mesa and Robert Ming of Laguna Niguel made things tougher for Goedhart. They questioned why he gave out raises while the economy was tanking; and why more couldn’t, say, be outsourced to private pest control companies; and why Goedhart marked his communications to the board “confidential” when they were  clearly matters of public record.

Things got increasingly tense after Ming, an attorney, released one of Goedhart’s “confidential” memos for the world to see,  saying, “As an elected representative of the public it is my responsibility to represent their interests, not conceal matters from them.”

Last week, the Vector Control District’s board met in closed session to discuss Goedhart’s job performance. When the board emerged, it gave Goedhart the boot (as first reported Monday by our colleagues at The Liberal OC).

Goedhart earned a base salary of $146,000, with a benefits package worth $52,766, bringing total compensation to $198,766 (about the same as county supervisors). The district has about 54 employees.

Turns out that Goedhart’s contract allows for separation with six months’ notice. “The board elected to take advantage of the six month notification to terminate the general manager’s employment, based on his contract,” said district spokesman Mike Hearst.

It’s unclear precisely when Goedhart’s last day will be – and if he will go quietly. He declined comment to The Watchdog, but said he will tell his side of the story when the time is appropriate.

Liberal OC tells us that Goedhart had sent a letter to the board on March 15, announcing his intent to resign in 13 months unless several demands were addressed. Writes Liberal OC’s Chris Prevatt :

“In his letter Goedhart wrote; ‘the best solution to this situation is a negotiated settlement. I have given President Anderson a list of demands to settle this matter on an amicable basis.’ I’m not going to detail Goedhart’s demands, rather I will simply say that the number one thing a District Manager should remember is that he or she works for the board, and not the other way around.”

Vector Control’s mission is to keep the county safe from rats, mosquitoes and other nasties that carry disease.

Board members were mum on precisely what was said in the closed session – given that that’s the law and all – but Ming did offer this: “I’m looking forward to the next chapter, making a smooth transition, and would love to see ways to improve the organization.”

At a committee meeting Monday – Goedhart was not there – officials decided to pursue a partnership with private pest control companies – something Goedhart had argued passionately against.  The idea will go to Vector Control’s full board at its April meeting.

Board president Joe Anderson of San Clemente said he plans to present a succession plan to the board at that meeting as well.

Stay tuned.

FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS

March 27

2000

The OC Register had an editorial, weighing in on the tobacco settlement revenues that were forthcoming to the county, titled “How to inhale the tobacco fund?”  This editorial sets up the internal battle that was brewing in 2000 over the use of these funds.  Here are the concluding paragraphs of the editorial:

During an Editorial Board meeting on Wednesday, county Chief Financial Officer Gary Burton and health care agency director Michael Schumacher argued against an inflexible initiative approach that locks in health spending and creates long-term programs that are dependent on a funding source that will not always exist.  Specific percentages of the proceeds are tagged for certain uses.

                It’s best, they say, to use the money to clear away the county’s major debt problems, which would then leave more general fund dollars available for health care and other uses.

That plan is now backed by county Treasurer John Moorlach, who previously had challenged it.  When the county plan was introduced last fall, he argued that it would be wrong to leverage the tobaccos settlement funds too quickly, given that any number of developments can affect the windfall.  If tobacco use declines—one of the stated purposes of politicians, attorneys and activists who have targeted tobacco firms with lawsuits and new taxes—so will settlement revenues.

                But Mr. Moorlach told us he now is content with the current county plan, which takes more of a go-slow approach.

“My overriding burden is to get rid of this bank debt,” he said, which would “free up more money in the budget.”  But he suspects that the medical community’s mom-and-apple-pie initiative will pass, which he says is “really a money grab” for the medical community, which isn’t “doing as well as they used to be doing.”

                There are no strings attached to the settlement money.  There’s no correlation between better health and more spending on government health programs, as a recent USC study underscores.

                And there’s no reason that one special interest should grab the full share of a major new revenue source.  The medical community will have to do some surprising convincing before we would opt for its plan over the county’s.

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