MOORLACH UPDATE — OC Register — April 1, 2010

I’m just back from the 32nd annual Maundy Thursday Easter Prayer Breakfast hosted by RBF Consulting.  My youngest brother, the Reverend Kent Moorlach, provided the invocation.  In his introduction the master of ceremonies said that “Rev K” is glad that his brother was no longer a “tax collector.”  (I liked being the Tax Collector!)

Reminder:  April 10 is fast approaching.

This is also April Fool’s Day.  But, I have nothing for you.  No gag.  No leg pulling.  But, I did make it to two pieces by columnists in the OC Register.  A little background may be helpful.

The first column, by Frank Mickadeit, I believe, makes a reference to me out of respect, but also out of an acknowledgement that my position cannot be as personally disruptive to your life as if you were to find yourself before a judge.

Maybe I’m Frank’s April Fool’s joke?  Surely, he does not love me?  (And what stories I could share about Judge Margaret Anderson and her slim victory for the seat many years ago against Debra Allen, of Allen Mullings & Allen.)

The second column, by Yvette Cabrera, raises a serious health issue, but is incomplete, because it only partially gives the County’s side of the story. Let me fill in some blanks for you.  Again, no April Fool’s spin here.  But, a tad candid based on what my office observed during this process.

As you may remember, last year, we discovered that Planned Parenthood had a $300,000 subcontract from the Coalition of Community Clinics, which had a contract with the County to distribute Tobacco Settlement Fund (TSF) health care money. That subcontract was to provide birth control (and abortion) advice to pre-teens and teens. This was not something the Board had been aware of, and was an expenditure that the Board did not support. The Board then directed the Health Care Agency (HCA) to directly negotiate with clinics and make recommendations to the Board on which clinics would receive  Tobacco Settlement Revenue funds, and for what services.

The HCA successfully negotiated with quite a few community clinics, and failed to reach agreement with only one—Planned Parenthood.

Prior to these negotiations, Planned Parenthood invited Board office representatives to meet with them and visit their facilities. Only one did so at the time, my then-Chief of Staff, Professor Mainero. At that visit, they proposed to him a Level II Breast Cancer Facility, to be solely funded by TSF money, whereby all such money would only go to the Breast Cancer Facility. Professor Mainero indicated to Planned Parenthood that, if that turned out to be their proposal, he would recommend that I support it, and he and I discussed such a proposal, and I agreed it would be a worthwhile, indeed critical, service that was an excellent use of TSF money.

However, when they came to the negotiations, Planned Parenthood did not bring such a pristine proposal. They were openly belligerent toward the HCA representatives. They (unlike all the other clinics) balked at the price we could pay for certain services, apparently expecting that the County would fund their proposal at a richer health care cost than other proposals. They also refused to guarantee a financial “firewall” between this service and their overall overhead or other operations. The problem with their position is that money is fungible. If the Breast Care Facility were solely funded by County funds, and County funds went only to that facility and nothing else, there would be no problem. But if County funds went to pay for services or persons that directly or indirectly contributed to Planned Parenthood’s other operations, then those funds would replace, or otherwise help pay for, services that the Board could not support, such as abortions, and pre-teen and teen birth control and abortion counseling.

Thus, Planned Parenthood seemed to deliberately provoke a fight here. Instead of bringing the proposal that they promised to Professor Mainero, they brought one that they knew would be unacceptable to the HCA, and did so belligerently, knowing that they would not get a contract, because it seems as if not getting a contract—and the accompanying publicity—were more important to them than the critical Breast Cancer services that they claim to want to provide.

And that, to a paraphrase on what radio personality Paul Harvey used to say, is the other side of the story.

Judicial ballot: one close race

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By FRANK MICKADEIT

COLUMNIST

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

fmickadeit@ocregister.com

Time for my biannual look at the most important but least-contested races in Orange County, the Superior Court judgeships. In terms of day-to-day impact on the lives of average O.C. residents, no elected official has more power than the 115 or so men and women who wear the black robe. Love Moorlach, but is he ever going to decide whether you can keep your kids or boot out a deadbeat tenant?

But most incumbents run unopposed and the "race" for their office never makes the ballot. Of those judges who retire, a fair number do so in the middle of their terms, which allows the governor to appoint a successor. In any given election, fewer than 10 seats might actually go before voters.

Deputy D.A.’s sort out among themselves who is going to run for which seat and often line up the outgoing judge’s endorsement, which chills potential competition from public defenders and the private bar, since "Deputy District Attorney" is an almost unbeatable ballot title.

The June 8 ballot is fairly typical: Three deputy D. A. s are unopposed and are guaranteed seats. One deputy D.A. has drawn an opponent from the private bar and, in what will be the closest race, a court commissioner is running against a juvenile court referee. The easy ones first:

•Deputy D.A. Scott Steiner will win retiring Judge Margaret Anderson’s seat. Steiner, the son of former Supervisor Bill Steiner, had Anderson’s endorsement locked up two years ago.

•Deputy D.A. Nick Dourbetas will win the seat held by retiring Judge Donna Crandell, whose name tops his list of judicial endorsements.

•Deputy D.A. Cheri Pham will win the seat now held by Judge Peter Polos, who is returning to private practice. Polos presided over the trial that broke my heart: the Angels-name-change debacle.

The big race is for the seat currently held by retiring Judge Randell Wilkinson, who has had the burden of presiding over the Minutemen lawsuits. Court Commissioner Lon Hurwitz and Juvenile Court Referee Julian Bailey are the candidates. Each has experience and endorsements.

Hurwitz’s endorsers include well-known judges such as Francisco Briseño, James Rogan, William Froeberg and Nancy Wieben Stock; Democratic and Republican politician-lawyers such as Dick Ackerman and Joe Dunn; and attorneys with such diverse practices as Wylie Aitken (personal injury) and Carl Holmes (criminal defense).

Bailey, who spent about five years in the D.A.’s office before going into private practice, has fewer total endorsements but several important ones, including those of Tony Rackauckas, Dana Rohrabacher and the deputy D.A.’s union.

Their ballot designations probably cancel each other out. Court commissioners are permanent employees hired to preside over the more routine matters, ranging from traffic infractions to small claims to misdemeanor hearings. Juvenile referees are magistrates in the juvenile court and until last year were permanent employees. Budget cuts eliminated the positions, although Bailey continues to work pro bono, as well as taking criminal-defense cases.

So that leaves campaigning and how much money each is willing to spend. Bailey said he will spend $150,000 but expects to still be outspent by Hurwitz.

In the other contested race, Deputy D.A. Andy Manssourian faces a last-minute challenge from veteran family law attorney Gerald L. Klein. Manssourian endured a bit of angst waiting for a seat to open, which finally did, when Judge Frank Fasel announced his retirement. Manssourian looked likely to walk into office, but on the last day to pull nomination papers, Klein jumped in.

Manssourian does not have Fasel’s endorsement listed, but he has those of an impressive list of judges, legislators, lawyers and law-enforcement officials, including both Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and Rackauckas.

Klein has been sitting as a judge pro tem in Los Angeles County courts for five years. Before that, he was a pro tem in O.C. He does not have the volume of high-powered endorsements Manssourian does but he does have those of judges Michael Naughton and Francisco Firmat, the current and immediate-past chiefs of the family law section.

Mickadeit writes Mon.-Fri. Contact him at 714-796-4994 or fmickadeit@ocregister.com

Can we live with 300 deaths?

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By YVETTE CABRERA

COLUMNIST

REGISTER COLUMNIST

ycabrera@ocregister.com

When it comes to breast cancer, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who isn’t willing to wave the pink ribbon.

After all, who would be against helping a breast-cancer patient? Against finding a cure and resources to help women (and some men) get access to the services they need to save their lives.

The answer, it turns out, might be our very own county bureaucracy.

Next Monday, the county’s Health Care Agency will begin a series of meetings with people who run local medical clinics to sort out how to use low-income medical funding slated to come to the county over the next year through tobacco settlement revenue. The idea is to figure out which groups should get funding that’ll be used to provide basic medical care for the poor and uninsured – a population that has mushroomed in Orange County over the past two years.

But one group likely to be absent will be officials of Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino counties. Last year, county supervisors voted to cut funding for Planned Parenthood because Planned Parenthood provides abortions. Never mind that the money the county once funneled to Planned Parenthood wasn’t used for abortions, and never mind that abortions are legal. The supervisors said they were morally opposed, and it happens their moral opposition was a winner with many voters.

So what, you wonder, does this past squabble have to do with breast cancer?

Turns out that Planned Parenthood, last April, submitted a proposal to the county to use $280,000 in tobacco money to open a Breast Health Care Clinic in Costa Mesa.

That’s breast health – as in breast cancer screenings and testing and advice for women who otherwise couldn’t afford or get access to those services. It’s not abortions.

The clinic almost certainly would’ve been viewed by health experts and others as a great way to help low-income, uninsured women under 40 – exactly the people medical clinics are trying to help.

The idea behind Planned Parenthood’s breast clinic was to "ease the burden" among Orange County health providers because "there’s such a shortage of people who can do this," says Stephanie Kight, senior vice president of community affairs for Planned Parenthood.

In the last fiscal year, Planned Parenthood provided breast health services locally to 18,000 clients through its local offices. Of those, about 300 exams resulted in some form of a breast abnormality. Coincidentally, about 300 women of all backgrounds die each year from breast cancer in Orange County.

That’s 300 lives — some of whom could have, in theory, been helped or possibly even saved if the county was willing to plug its nose and help Planned Parenthood do something most would agree is a good idea.

The county and Planned Parenthood have tried to make this work. But, last July, negotiations broke down. Planned Parenthood says part of the reason for the breakdown was that the county was willing to fund services at a rate of $76 a visit, even though the projected cost was $374 a visit.

The Health Care Agency denied my request for an interview with an agency official. Instead, the agency sent a short statement explaining that it had offered Planned Parenthood a reasonable agreement with fair rates of reimbursement.

Is $76 fair and reasonable? You be the judge. But you’d think that when we’re talking about a woman’s life the county would insist on returning to the negotiating table.

A year ago, when Planned Parenthood was pitching the breast health clinic, the local need among low-income and uninsured women was acute. Today, the service gap is even wider.

"We are in a much worse position than we were," says Lisa Wolter, executive director of the Orange County affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which for many years has worked with Planned Parenthood on breast health issues.

"Women have lost their jobs. There are more uninsured women. And the state has cut off the program that helped pay for diagnostics and screening," Wolter says.

The state program to which Wolter is referring is Every Woman Counts, which provides breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services for low-income women. Until this year, the program was offered to women starting at age 40. But to save money, the state raised the starting age to 50 – and suspended new enrollment in the program at least through June 30, a freeze that could extend if the state’s financial picture doesn’t improve, says Al Lundeen, spokesman for the Department of Public Health.

In the last fiscal year, 311,000 women in California used the state program, a demand that was so great that the program ran out of money.

So where will an uninsured woman turn if she feels a lump in her breast?

In Orange County, she’ll probably try to get help from one of the county’s 13 community clinics that offer breast health services.

But those clinics have been swamped of late, as rising unemployment has pushed an already overburdened health system to the brink.

Isabel Becerra, chief executive of the Coalition of Orange County Community Clinics, says Planned Parenthood’s proposed breast health care clinic could have been a huge help, by giving women more access to "a critical service in the community." The problem, Becerra believes, is that "politics got in the way of the issues."

Mario Mainero disagrees.

At the time Planned Parenthood and the county were talking, he was chief of staff for Supervisor John Moorlach. Mainero, who now is a visiting associate professor at Chapman Law School, says the clinic proposed by Planned Parenthood was an appropriate and necessary service.

He also says Moorlach, for one, would have voted to approve it had it come to a vote.

"There are some folks have said ‘You guys would never fund Planned Parenthood for anything’ (and that’s) absolutely not true," Mainero says.

"John and I had the discussion that he would in fact vote in favor of their Breast Cancer program if the Health Care Agency recommended it."

But a board vote never happened because negotiations broke down. And now, a year later — 300 lives later — we have no Planned Parenthood breast health care clinic.

Kight, of Planned Parenthood, says if the rules are the same as last year, then there’s no point in Planned Parenthood applying for the funds. But if the rules are renegotiated, she says, the nonprofit would be willing to sit at the table and have a discussion.

And, for low-income or uninsured women who find a lump, the clock is ticking.

The situation is not a fair one, says Wolter, of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Wolter says her group hopes to raise $400,000 this year for a fund that helps low-income women pay for a diagnosis. Planned Parenthood’s clinic, she adds, would have been a great partner to battle the disease.

"(The controversy) was hooked on a misperception (about) the health care provider rather than the need of the community," Wolter says.

"And when you can’t set aside politics and perception for need and human life, then shame on you."

If the Health Care Agency and Planned Parenthood do come to the table again this year to talk numbers, at the end of the day there’s just one number that truly matters: 300.

at ycabrera@ocregister.com, or 714-796-3649, or http://twitter.com/Ycabreraocr

FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS

April 1

1990

Twenty years ago I wrote a regular column on employee benefits and their impacts on nonprofit organizations.  During my practice days I had large nonprofit clientele.  So the bi-monthly publication, Christian Management Report, gave me great national exposure.  I had two entries in the April/May 1990 issue.  One titled “Rabbi Trust,” which discussed a unique deferred compensation strategy.  And the other, titled “Employee Benefit Update – 1989 Revenue Reconciliation Act,” provided a income tax legislative updates, in particular the repealing of Internal Revenue Code Section 89, which I had become quite proficient in.  The “Update” allowed me to address modifications to previously printed articles, titled “Accidental and Health Plans,” “Group-Term Life Insurance,” “Cafeteria Plans,” “Child Care Assistance Programs,” “Group Legal Plans,” and articles on Section 89.  This may give you a hint about my passion and background on qualified and unqualified retirement trusts.

1995

The OC METRO had an article, titled “The Man Who Became Treasurer,” that had the subheading “John Moorlach first brought to public attention O.C.’s impending financial disaster.  Now, he is in position to do something about it.”  The story was written by Jim Callahan.  Jim did a nice job on this lengthy feature article.  I’ll provide the first few paragraphs, and portions of two sections, to give you the flavor of the piece.

                The Costa Mesa Rotary Club meets every Wednesday in the dining room of the Mesa Verde Country Club, overlooking the trees, hills and fairways of the golf course.

                Shortly after noon, a tall man with dark brown hair and beard walks in.  He is meticulously groomed.  His suit and tie are dark, set off by the stiff white dress shirt.  The eyes are bright, but hard; the overall appearance makes it look like this is a dour man.

                The impression fades quickly.

                The new arrival is spotted by one of his Rotary brethren.  In the grand tradition of American professional service organizations, he is greeted loudly and his arm and hand pumped.

                The man’s face brightens, he smiles warmly and laughs lightly.  He announces a greeting of his own, grabbing the fellow’s loose arm as he does it.

                A couple minutes later the man queues into the lunch line.  Someone turns around and asks:  “Is this the famous John Moorlach?”

                He was then and he is now, Orange County supervisors unanimously named him the county’s new treasurer-tax collector March 17.  OC Metro spent parts of three days with him shortly before the appointment.

                Fame

When [the bankruptcy] happened, Moorlach suddenly became a celebrity, one of the few people in Orange County to have actually predicted the catastrophe.  If every other official at the county and municipal level became a dolt, Moorlach was suddenly smart.  If media in Orange County were deaf, at least he shouted at them ahead of time.

At the moment of collapse, he refused to allow his ego to bask in the sunshine and focused his comments on the tragedy and trying times ahead.  Citron remains the butt of criticisms for the folly of the investment strategy.  Zings at the obtuseness of the supervisors and media continue.  But there is no gloating, no personal ego-building on being a prophet.  Instead, Moorlach says he couldn’t have fully understood the problems with the investment fund without the help of a kitchen cabinet of other financial analysts in the county who volunteered their time and expertise to help him research it—and come up with the alarm.

Democratic society relishes grays and hates absolutes.  Human beings look for the frailties in others so that these might absorb their own frailties.  Moorlach suddenly appeared to be a mirror reflecting back the awfulness of the error that occurred in the system.

Politics hates that.

By any “moral” standard—which naturally does not apply to politics in the first place—of behavior, Moorlach would have been appointed treasurer-tax collector because he was the person willing to stand for election and accurately explain what was about to occur.

Instead, as the crisis lurched three months forward following Citron’s December resignation, questions oozed out of the system that he might not be “professional” enough for the job.

When the excuses ran out, Moorlach was appointed treasurer-tax collector to fill the unexpired term of nearly four years.  His own coldly pessimistic evaluation ahead of time was that his chances were “less than 50 percent” based on the theory that the delay on the decision must signify something.

He says he didn’t lobby for the job.

He certainly didn’t take the bait and rocket back comments about why his appointment was being delayed, suggesting only at speaking engagements that the delay in the decision was “curious.”

Some background

If there is one place where he allows himself to alternately bask in acclaim and take a sharp needle, it is with the fellows at Rotary.  He clearly enjoys himself and they enjoy him.

“This is the best way to get to know your community,” says Moorlach.  “It’s been wonderful.”

Members recount that at meetings in recent months they’ve depended on Moorlach to give a short explanation of what they have been reading in the newspapers or seeing on TV to get a better perspective about the bankruptcy.

“I’m happy to see him vindicated,” says Waymann Carlson, a professor at Southern California College.  “We got backpacking together.  His son and I and another friend.  He’s a good man.”

“He has a lot of character,” says Ned Bundie, another Rotarian.  “A good man, a good personality and very intelligent and energetic.”

“He has tenacity,” says Ned Anderson.  “Do you know he has visited about all the historic monuments in California?”

2005

Ten years later, in the April edition of The Brickline (a quarterly publication for Bricklin SV-1 owners), John Martin did a very kind profile, titled “Dull CPA – A Look At Orange County’s Treasurer and Tax Collector.”  Below is the Update that I provided to my Treasurer-Tax Collector staff five years ago, along with the first paragraph of the article.  (Kids, if you want the rest of the article, just let me know – Dad.)

                As many of you know, I have owned a 1974 Bricklin SV-1 since my two oldest were small enough to lay comfortably in the back.  That makes it some 17 or 18 years.  I used to drive it every day when I first started working here.

Along with owning a unique vehicle comes belonging to a car club.  We have two, California Bricklin Owners and Bricklin International.  Both have produced some wonderful friends over the years.  Both have excellent magazines.  Bricklin International’s comes out quarterly.

John Martin, the author of this article, has been an incredible resource in helping me to restore and maintain my SV-1.  He’s also been a great counselor on my efforts, when I eventually get around to it, in selling it.  He even attended my 35th birthday party, so we go way back.

The recent Westways magazine ad got his juices flowing.  So I’m on the front and back cover of the latest edition.  It’s not on their website, www.bricklin.org/, but the front cover has me seated in my personal library and that photo is imposed over a nicely touched up photo of the front my car when it was recently being displayed at Road of Dreams Automotive Museum.  The back cover has me standing next to the owner/operator of the museum, Bob Teller, at its front door.

On the inside is another photo of me in a mission-style rocker in my living room, the Westways ad, and a copy of a January 1999 O.C. Register article, titled "John Moorlach’s Life Plan aims for more giving than taking."

I know.  More information than you wanted.  But, I’m excited!

DULL CPA — A Look At Orange County’s Treasurer and Tax Collector

By John Martin VIN 079 & 1973

Artwork:  Steve Daguerre

I first had the idea to interview this “Dull CPA” after reading a two page testimonial ad in Westways, the California AAA periodical magazine.  He was leaning against his Orange sports car, smiling at the camera through his full, slightly graying beard. His imposing 6’5” frame almost dwarfing the low sleek vehicle which he had driven for so many years on a regular basis.  Yes it was his faithful 1974 Bricklin that had indeed failed him twice in as many weeks.  It had suffered total power failure on two separate occasions, and this Dull CPA had to climb out the back hatch in a business suit.  He wrote a letter of thanks to Thomas V. McKernan, Jr., President and CEO of AAA,  pointing out how courteous and prompt the service people were, and that letter resulted in an ad being discussed and eventually printed the their November ‘03 issue. 

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

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

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

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