MOORLACH UPDATE — Sunday’s Dailies — April 12, 2010

Your real estate property taxes are due today.

I had two mentions in yesterday’s Sunday papers.

The first article below was in the LA Times and it discussed, ironically, how someone in the OC was “LA-centric.”

One thought.  I have not endorsed in the Orange County Sheriff’s race.  In fact, I have not endorsed in several races.

There are a multitude of reasons.  Sometimes friends run against friends.  Sometimes I just choose to be neutral.

In many cases, I haven’t made up my mind. 

Endorsing is a difficult business.  Sometimes you do get burned in the process.  And I have been.

I could go on, but this is still a fluid area for me.  I came close to having a clinical checklist.  But, it’s more of an art than a science.

I voted for Sandra Hutchens to fill the vacancy of Orange County Sheriff-Coroner. 

And I try my best, with a rare exception or two, to “support” my appointed and elected department heads.

The second article is a repeat, but it added a paragraph that was not present in its first iteration.

It appeared in the OC Register’s Travel section.

I have a John Wayne Airport e-mail tree.  Anytime JWA is on the Board’s agenda, I forward these items to those on this e-mail tree.

On the free WiFi, I received a number of responding e-mails with excellent questions.  The reporter included one of them at the conclusion of his article.

‘L.A.’ is an epithet in a race in O.C.

As Sheriff Sandra Hutchens faces her first election campaign, opponents seize on her ties to the neighboring county

By Raja Abdulrahim

After Orange County’s sheriff was indicted on corruption charges on 2007, supervisors made a point of looking beyond the county limits to find a replacement who was free of the cronyism and scandal that had tainted the office.

A retired Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department division chief, Sandra Hutchens was lauded by one Orange County supervisor for being "removed from the political machinations in the county" and was seen as a welcome breath of fresh air in a department that had been led for decades by politically connected lawmen.

But now, facing her first election bid, Hutchens is fighting criticism that she’s too much of an outsider, a career cop from Los Angeles who just doesn’t understand Orange County.

As sheriff, Hutchens shook up her command staff, threatened to rescind concealed weapons permits handed out by former Sheriff Michael S. Carona and struck an independent tone that rubbed some county supervisors the wrong way, at times leaving them out of the loop or having to ask questions after decisions had been made.

Critics called it her L.A. style, a derisive term in Orange County’s political sphere, where Los Angeles is seen as being too liberal, a place where headstrong and overly autonomous leaders reign.

Hutchens’ opponents in the June election have made political ammunition out of her L.A. roots, hoping to end her tenure.

In deriding Hutchens’ proposal to house federal immigration detainees in two county jails, one of her opponents, Anaheim Police Department Deputy Chief Craig Hunter, wrote, "That is how they balance budgets and fight crime in Los Angeles County, from where our current sheriff arrived."

In an interview with www.redcounty.com, a conservative blog, Hunter complained that Hutchens has "a very L.A.-centric law enforcement and political style."

Retired Orange County Sheriff’s Lt. Bill Hunt, who ran against Carona four years ago and is seeking the job again, told a small crowd at a recent fundraiser: "We have an appointed sheriff who came down here with Los Angeles values. Is the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department the model we want [for] our Sheriff’s Department?"

Hutchens, who will face a November runoff if she doesn’t win a majority in June, views the L.A. label as a political tactic, "a convenient sound bite."

"I do not even begin to apologize for coming from L.A. L.A. Sheriff’s is a very fine department. . . . It’s all about best practices and borrowing ideas from other agencies," she said. "I think it’s meant to evoke some kind of negative image, but I certainly reject that."

The sheriff said she and officials from other jurisdictions across the country proposed housing federal inmates to bring in needed revenue during tough economic times. She said she has also asked people to reapply for concealed weapons permits as a good-practices policy and has increased communications with supervisors.

Fred Smoller, a political science professor at Chapman University in Orange, said Hutchens is unlike her predecessor, who was a politician first and a law enforcement officer second.

"Now you have a break from the past and now people aren’t so certain," Smoller said. "Everyone wants reform, but no one wants change."

Before Hutchens’ appointment, the state’s second largest sheriff’s department was led for nine years by Carona, who is currently appealing a felony witness-tampering conviction. His predecessor, Brad Gates, was a fixture as the county’s top lawman, holding the officer for 24 years.

Supervisor John Moorlach said former Supervisor Chris Norby, now an assemblyman, set the stage by deciding early on to make an issue of Hutchens’ missteps.

"It sort of came with ‘We’re going to go after her,’ so you throw the L.A. thing," said Moorlach, a Hutchens supporter. "I just think it’s a way to dig at somebody. It’s just a pejorative."

Norby says Hutchens proved to be uncooperative and seemed "to be playing a whole game of chicken with the board" concerning the budget, insisting that the department couldn’t be cut because it represented public safety.

At a board meeting in February, an assistant sheriff representing the department was grilled about 15 recent promotions in Hutchens’ command staff at a time when she was laying off employees to cut $19 million from the budget.

Hutchens met her budgetary goals, with the help of an extra $5 million allocated by the board, through layoffs, resignations and promotions without pay raises.

Supervisor Bill Campbell described it as a "bait and switch," and board Chairwoman Janet Nguyen, who voted for Hutchens’ appointment and described her as being "uniquely qualified" for the job, said the fact that the board wasn’t notified beforehand was a "power of disregard" on the sheriff’s part.

The supervisors voted to freeze all future promotions countywide.

In March, Hutchens released about 300 inmates in one day from the Theo Lacy jail in Orange but didn’t inform the city or county supervisors.

"Do we notify [the cities] or do they wait to read the newspaper?" an irritated Nguyen asked.

Hutchens said her office has increased communications with the board in the last two months.

Now a member of each supervisor’s office is invited to attend department head meetings.

Hutchens made it clear early that she would be a different kind of sheriff by rescinding many of the concealed weapons permits handed out by Carona and asking people to reapply. During Carona’s trial, witnesses testified that he had issued permits as political favors.

The move enraged gun owners and National Rifle Assn. members, as well as some of the politicians who had been close to Carona. The sheriff was branded as being anti-gun and — again — too L.A.

Hutchens said the change in permits was in keeping with the state law that requires an applicant to have good cause for a concealed weapon.

Early in her tenure, Hutchens said she would communicate early with the supervisors, but she stopped when information was leaked to the media.

She also said she was unaccustomed to dealing with supervisors interested in the minutiae of county departments.

"Here’s where L.A. and Orange County are different. . . . In Los Angeles. they were never interested in this level of detail about sheriff reorganization, particularly if it did not impact the budget," she said.

raja.abdulrahim@latimes.com

Free wireless Internet approved for JWA

By JEFF OVERLEY

County leaders have signed off on a plan expected to give travelers at John Wayne Airport free wireless Internet access by summer while also funneling tens of thousands of dollars into public coffers.

While John Wayne is somewhat late to the game in adding Wi-Fi, the decision to make the service free places it in more exclusive company; fewer than three dozen airports nationwide offer wireless Internet at no charge, according to AirportWiFiGuide.com.

"We are very excited to finally offer this service for passengers," said Jenny Wedge, airport spokeswoman. "Passengers will be thrilled to access Wi-Fi as early as this summer."

Orange County supervisors unanimously backed the proposal from FreeFi Networks, which will pay the county $40,000 during the first year of service, $50,000 for the second year and $60,000 for the third year, with options for additional years and similar payments.

FreeFi hopes to profit from the deal by selling advertising that will greet Wi-Fi users.

Before voting, Supervisor John Moorlach asked if measures will be in place "so small kids wouldn’t walk by" and see inappropriate content, and Airport Director Alan Murphy said a content filter is part of the service.

Contact the writer: 714-796-7952 or joverley@ocregister.com

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