Today’s Hot Off The Press Update — Your Thoughts?

Hot off of the press, here is the Rancho Santa Margarita Patch article on today’s deliberations at the Board of Supervisors meeting regarding the Performance Audit Department’s Report on the Human Resources Department.  The discussion was frank and professional.  The Board will address the findings in a thorough and disciplined manner.

The subtitle is inaccurate, as most executives did not receive raises.  There were some who did, but Human Resources failed to provide adequate documentation to substantiate the raises.  The good news is that the County has a Performance Audit Department that is unafraid to provide the Board with the information that it compiles from its efforts.  This work gives us, the Board of Supervisors, a platform from which to improve the County’s procedures and policies.

The LOOK BACKS give me a chance to commemorate the fifth anniversary of my election win, allowing me to enjoy this stewardship position.

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Audit: O.C. Executive Pay Raised Without Cause; ‘In-Crowd’ Benefits

While other county workers received pay cuts and furloughs, most executives received raises with no justification, says a performance audit of Orange County’s human resources department that was debated today.

While many county workers were given pay cuts and furloughs, managers and executives working for the County of Orange got pay raises and promotions without justification, according a report discussed this morning by the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

A five-member ad-hoc committee was created today to address the problems detailed in the internal audit.

And what are those problems? The audit, led by Orange County performance audit director Steve Danley, details 50 areas in need of improvement, the most serious of which involve executive pay. They include:

  • Unresponsiveness to criticism: Over the last decade, the human resources  department has been studied 14 times by both public and private groups. But the department is still "underperforming in many areas," according to this audit. Also, the earlier studies have not been presented to the board.
  • The human resources department lacks a compensation philosophy.
  • The department has failed to keep consistent records of salary increases.
  • Using the human resources director as lead negotiator for labor bargaining has harmed the county’s ability to make internal improvements.

Also, executives are much less likely to receive a performance evaluation than non-executive employees, according to the audit. In 2010, 94 percent of non-management employees were given performance evaluations, vs. only 29 percent of executives.

And when managers are evaluated as meeting job expectations or below expectations, their written evaluations lack any criticism, the audit found. In the text of the audit, Danley reasons that when a manager scores a 2 or less out of a possible 4 points, "areas for development/improvement should be identified and documented."

Instead, no criticism is found in the files of county managers who show low scores.

"If one were to read the comments without knowing the rating, one would assume that the employee had received a performance rating of at least 3 [exceeds expectations] or higher," Danley said in the report.

Systems analyst Frank Eley with Orange County Public Works said the audit shows systemic problems.

“It’s not like this is just one aberration," he said. "It’s not like just a few raises got through the cracks. Ignoring rules has become a way of businesses. Raises and promotions for certain in-crowds—while others are being furloughed, doing more with less—that’s the way business is being conducted.”

Michael Mestas is a county social worker laid off in January 2009. He said his 5-year-old daughter asked if the family would lose its home.

“When I read the executives and managers were getting promotions and raises while my family was going through all of this, to tell you the truth, it made me mad,” he said.

County Executive Officer Thomas Mauk said it is important to temper the comments of angry employees with some facts about the study. He said the study covered 75 positions, and that some of the raises dated back to 2005, meaning some of the workers studied received raises and promotions before the recession.

"The testimony you heard today is important; it’s heartfelt, it affects me," Mauk said. "But there’s a much broader framework around it that I think we need to get to.”

Reading the audit was like "getting punched," said Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman John Moorlach. He said the audit showed a failure to comply with policies and procedures on behalf of the human resources department.

The ad-hoc committee organized to address the 50 points of concern will include county supervisors Pat Bates and Shawn Nelson, along with Mauk, Danley and human resources director Carl Crown.

FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS

1996

June 4

After many months of intense work and effort, the County finally had a headline that was welcome:  “Troubles may be over for Orange County – Bond sale will allow government to pay off debtors.”  It was by Casey Wian of CNN‘s Financial Network.  Here is some of the good news:

If all goes well Wednesday, the largest municipal bankruptcy will be history.  Orange County, Calif., will sell $900 million in bonds and will use the proceeds to pay bondholders, vendors and employees – allowing the county to emerge from Chapter 9 bankruptcy 18 months after its investment fund collapse.

The county has gone through a major belt tightening since its bankruptcy in 1994.  As part of the regrouping efforts, 2,000 jobs were eliminated.  John Moorlach, the county’s treasurer and tax collector, concedes that continuing on the road to financial recovery will not be easy for Orange County, but he said officials have already made great strides toward achieving their financial goals.

While Orange County should officially be out of bankruptcy next week, the story is far from over.  The county, its cities, schools and others will (sic) money in the ill-fated Orange County investment pool, are still hoping to collect from lawsuits totaling more than $5 billion that have been filed against former investment adviser Merrill Lynch and accountant KPMG Peat Marwick.  It will likely be awhile before the outcome of that legal action is known.  Officials say it could take years before the litigation is settled.

2006

June 5

Rick Reiff’s weekly column, “OC Insider,” in the Orange County Business Journal, had a headline that started with “Expect Supes Battle If Moorlach Wins.”

               

It shouldn’t take long for fireworks to begin if OC Treasurer John Moorlach withstands the last-minute public employees assault and gets elected to the board of supervisors this week. Supe Bill Campbell tells the Insider that with an untested treasurer (either Chriss Street or Pat Desmond) replacing Moorlach, it might be time for the supervisors to exert more oversight of the office. Campbell says he plans to suggest that the supes return to auditing the treasurer, instead of having the treasurer hire an outside independent auditor. And he thinks the supervisors should cut back on the treasurer’s ability to invest in certain types of bonds. Moorlach says both are bad ideas. In fact, he wants the county to move toward more, not fewer, outside audits. Both men say they look forward to a vigorous "philosophical" debate on these and other topics …

June 6

What really was the climate at the time of the June primary?  As you may recall, there was a gubernatorial recall in 2003, a Presidential primary and General election in 2004, and a special election in the fall of 2005 unsuccessfully pursued by our previous Governor.  Would this prove to be too much for the voters?  Maybe the second paragraph below, by Alicia Robinson of the Daily Pilot, should have concluded with the date:  October 2003.  Her title provides the context with “Not-so super Tuesday as poll fatigue sets in.”  One thing was for sure, the media clearly perceived that my race was not against an opponent, but against the public employee unions.

Another Tuesday, another election.

Today’s primary for state offices such as governor and assembly, and local races including sheriff and county supervisor, make up for some Newport-Mesa voters their fifth polling day since October.

The strain of so many elections, and the election date switch from March back to June, are both expected to affect voter turnout.

The last two primaries, in March of 2002 and 2004, each drew a little more than 41% of registered voters. Although Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley doesn’t usually try to predict turnout, he said Monday he expected today’s participation to be a little smaller than in previous primaries.

"There are a couple of reasons: one is because we’ve had so many elections. The other is because it’s the beginning of summer, people are starting their vacations — they’ve got other things on their mind," Kelley said.

And unless you care deeply who becomes state insurance commissioner or controller, there aren’t many races on the ballot to get excited about.

Local Democrats will likely be watching the contest between Steve Westly and Phil Angelides to become the party’s nominee for governor, but there’s not a comparable high-profile race to draw Republicans because no one within the party has challenged Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"The top of the ticket drives turnout, and the only thing on the top of the ticket is the Westly-Angelides race," Newport Beach political consultant Dave Ellis said, and that probably won’t make a major difference in GOP-dominated Orange County.

There are some attention-grabbing races; they’re just a little farther down the ballot. The second district Orange County Supervisor’s seat is a nonpartisan office, but it’s commanded Republican attention. Orange County Treasurer John Moorlach is vying with Stanton City Councilman David Shawver for the seat, which represents a district that includes Costa Mesa and Newport Beach.

Some have characterized the race as a choice between Moorlach or public employee unions, which have backed Shawver.

"I think for Republicans, the sheriff’s race and John Moorlach’s race are driving most of the activity," Orange County GOP Chairman Scott Baugh said.

Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona faces two challengers: Orange County Sheriff’s Lt. Bill Hunt and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Cmdr. Ralph W. Martin. Retired Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Alcaraz recently announced he was dropping out of the race, but his name will appear on the ballot.

Also on the ballot is a measure that would bar Orange County Supervisors from using eminent domain to acquire property and turn it over to private development.

For more information on today’s ballot or to find your polling place, visit www.oc.ca.gov/election.

June 7

I know the anticipation was killing you.  Jean O. Pasco and Christian Berthelsen covered the results for the LA Times in “Beset by Scandal, O.C. Sheriff May Be in Runoff – Michael S. Carona could face another sheriff’s official in November.  One of three supervisor races also appears to lack a decisive victor.”

Here is their recap of election night in full:

Buffeted by scandal, Orange County Sheriff Michael S. Carona was flirting late Tuesday with a November runoff with one of his own lieutenants — a potential blow to his effort to win a third term outright and put the strife in his department behind him.

Carona had a wide lead over Lt. William Hunt and Ralph Martin, a Los Angeles County sheriff’s commander, but he needed to hang on to more than half the vote to close out the race. He lost the endorsement of the county deputies union and struggled to win the endorsement of the county Republican Party, but was backed by most local and state politicians.

Voters were even more conflicted in choosing a new supervisor for south Orange County, the most heated and expensive of three supervisor races. Though former Assemblywoman Pat Bates held a slight lead in early voting, a fall runoff appeared certain between Bates and Laguna Niguel Mayor Cathryn DeYoung, who set a county record by spending $2.5 million on her race — $2.15 million of it her own money.

That contest, whose two leaders live eight houses apart in Laguna Niguel, was bitter and centered at times on immigration issues — over which county supervisors have no authority.

"It’s great we’re right in there neck-and-neck," DeYoung said late Tuesday from her campaign party in Laguna Niguel, attended by well-wishers who danced to a live band. Winning outright would have "been nice, but it would have been a Herculean task," she said.

Voters were more decisive on their choices for the other two supervisor seats. Current Treasurer Tax-Collector John M.W. Moorlach was easily beating Stanton Councilman David Shawver, despite six-figure spending for Shawver by the deputies union.

Moorlach wasted no time renewing his attack on county labor contracts that sweetened pension and health benefits for retirees, saying the county can’t afford them.

"I think the union members have to do a little evaluation on how bright their leadership is," Moorlach said. "As far as I can tell, the unions want to make Orange County into France. And we’ve got to turn that around. The sense of entitlement, you know?"

Incumbent Supervisor Chris Norby appeared headed for a second term, seemingly having little problem holding off a challenge from La Habra Councilwoman Rosie Espinosa.

"I believe I’ve done a lot to serve the residents, setting good public policy as a whole," said Norby, who spent the evening with supporters at a Fullerton restaurant. "Ours has been an activist office, not just reactive."

In other races, Chriss W. Street — a protege of Moorlach — held a significant advantage to take over Moorlach’s treasurer’s job despite being investigated by the district attorney’s office. The county prosecutor is looking into complaints about Street’s six-year stewardship of a bankrupt trailer company.

Street, who spent the evening at Moorlach’s election headquarters, said his chances of winning were boosted almost immediately by support from the outgoing treasurer. "It’s fantastic to me that I can take his place and support him when he’s on the Board of Supervisors."

Incumbent Assessor Webster Guillory was easily outpolling two rivals, and Deputy Dist. Atty. Sheila Hanson was beating two rivals for a judgeship.

Local voters were handily approving a countywide ballot measure that would bar the Board of Supervisors from using eminent domain to take away private property for other private development.

For five incumbents, it was a night without drama. Auditor-Controller David Sundstrom, Clerk Tom Daly, Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas, Public Administrator John Williams and Supt. of Schools William Habermehl were all unopposed.

Clearly, the race of the night involved Carona, who backed away from a pledge that he would serve only two terms. He campaigned on a pledge to continue his work on lowering the county’s crime rate and protecting against terrorist attacks.

Carona’s challengers were Hunt, in charge of the sheriff’s San Clemente operations; Martin, the Los Angeles County sheriff’s commander; and Robert Alcaraz, a retired Los Angeles County deputy. Alcaraz dropped out of the race last month and endorsed Hunt, but his name remained on the ballot.

All three men accused Carona of management and ethical lapses that seriously undercut departmental integrity and morale, including issuing badges and concealed-weapons permits to campaign contributors without proper training or background checks.

They argued that departmental deterioration could increase employee turnover and, eventually, crime rates.

But Carona overwhelmed his opponents with a campaign account exceeding $1 million, and pulled in endorsements from the governor’s office on down the line. It wasn’t enough, however, to shake off Hunt, who earned the endorsement of the Assn. of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs over his boss.

The deputies union got involved in two other races, pouring in money against Moorlach and his heir apparent, Street. The union opposes both men because they criticized the sweetened retirement benefits, approved by the Board of Supervisors, and said they would push for reform. Street was challenged by a county assessor’s auditor, Patrick Desmond.

Term limits shaped two of the supervisor races. The Moorlach-Shawver race is to fill Jim Silva’s seat; the Bates-DeYoung race is to fill Tom Wilson’s.

DeYoung said early in the race that she was willing to spend what she needed to introduce herself to voters in the district, which stretches from Aliso Viejo to San Clemente. She was true to her word, lending her campaign $2.15 million and burying mailboxes with campaign brochures on a near-daily basis.

Bates spent far less money but benefited from her familiarity with voters through her eight years in the Assembly. She also scooped up most of the endorsements from area lawmakers.

*

Times staff writers Jennifer Delson and Kelly-Anne Suarez contributed to this report.

The Daily Pilot’s Alicia Robinson covered election night in “Moorlach out front.”  Alicia’s piece is also provided in full.  One sentence provides a prediction I made that has become eerily accurate:  “Union officials have argued that Moorlach is estimating the pension’s investment revenues will be low, creating an artificial crisis.”

Orange County Treasurer John Moorlach was in a good position to win the race for the second district county supervisor’s seat at press time Tuesday, with a lead of more than 45 percentage points on his opponent, Stanton City Councilman David Shawver.

As of 10:30 p.m., incomplete results from absentee ballots showed Moorlach with 72.7% and Shawver with 27.3%. Total turnout was expected to be about 40% of county voters.

If the early unofficial results bear out, Moorlach would be the first supervisor from Costa Mesa for some time.

The second district supervisor represents Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and nine other cities as well as some unincorporated county areas.

While waiting for results to come in, Moorlach and other Republicans celebrated under a light drizzle in the courtyard of a North Bristol Street office complex. Ice-filled tubs held bottles of beer and wine, a catering table offered Mexican food, and some of the guests wore Hawaiian shirts.

The early results pleased Moorlach, who said he didn’t expect such a big lead.

"I’d have been happy at 60/40, because I lost 60/40 to [Robert] Citron in my first contested race," he said.

Moorlach, 50, was appointed treasurer in 1995 and has been elected to the office three times.

While he was backed by the Orange County GOP and boasted a huge list of endorsements from local elected officials, public employee unions vehemently opposed his election and paid for mailers criticizing him and supporting Shawver.

Before the county’s 1994 bankruptcy, Moorlach warned officials about risky investments then-Treasurer Robert Citron was making, and he now says he’s alarmed by the county’s unfunded liability, which he pegs at $3.4 billion. Part of the problem, Moorlach has said, is the soaring cost of county employee pensions.

Union officials have argued that Moorlach is estimating the pension’s investment revenues will be low, creating an artificial crisis.

Moorlach said Tuesday that the county will be paying off the bankruptcy through 2016, so dealing with that and other debts will be his top priority if he wins.

"We have to figure out how to address this debt, how quickly we pay it down and how we make that all fit in our budget," he said. "If we put it off, it grows."

Early election results also showed Republican Huntington Beach Assemblyman Tom Harman ahead of Democrat Larry Caballero, a teacher from La Palma, in a bid for the open 35th District state Senate seat.

"It’s pretty much as expected. I’m happy and ready to go to the Senate," Harman said by phone from his Huntington Beach home. Depending on how quickly the election results are certified, he expects to be sworn in Monday.

At press time, Costa Mesa Assemblyman Van Tran had a healthy lead on fellow Republican Long Kim Pham in unofficial results. Tran had 70.9% of the votes, while Pham had 29.1%. If that lead holds, Tran will run against Democrat Paul Lucas in November.

Despite being dogged by accusations of fraud and a lawsuit, assistant county treasurer Chriss Street of Newport Beach was beating opponent Patrick Desmond, an auditor who works for the county, in the race for the treasurer’s seat.

Unofficial early results also showed former Assemblywoman Patricia Bates was leading three opponents in a race for the 5th district supervisor’s seat, which represents Newport Coast as well as Laguna Beach and nine other south county cities.

The OC Register had a cool headline that read “Moorlach looks like Winner; Norby Will Retain His Seat” by Norberto Santana, Jr.

                According to early vote tallies Tuesday night, Treasurer/Tax Collector John Moorlach appears to have won a long-cherished seat on the board he has spent the last three years bitterly criticizing for the rising cost of employee pensions.

                Moorlach – who is largely credited with ringing unheeded alarm bells before the bankruptcy – has made pension costs a hallmark of his campaign.

                He wants pensions replaced by 401-k investment accounts.  Employee unions, in turn, have accused Moorlach of overstating costs and spent several hundred thousand dollars in independent ads against him.

Gordon Dillow, columnist for the OC Register, decided to weigh in on the tone of the campaign in “Negative campaigns an ugly reality.”  Here it is in full:

As I write this the polls haven’t yet closed on Election Day, so I have no idea which political candidates we have selected. But I already know that no matter who won, they are a dismal collection of dishonest, corrupt, venal, lying, greedy and utterly irredeemable rogues and knaves and scoundrels — and they’re all ugly, too.

And how do I know this?

I learned it from their opponents’ campaign ads.

As we all know, democracy is often a messy business. But nothing is messier about it than the campaign mailers and ads that jam your mailbox and fill your TV screen as Election Day approaches.

Oh sure, some of them are upbeat and positive, showing the candidate as a dedicated, good-looking Everyman happily posing with his smiling wife and their cute kids and their lovable family dog. But then you see what his opponents have to say about him.

For example, I got a campaign mailer that showed a grainy, unflattering black-and- white photo of Republican state Assembly candidate Mike McGill juxtaposed with a statue of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Another mailer in the same race dismissed community activist Dianne Harman — again with the black-and-white photo — as a politically inexperienced "yoga instructor." Yet another showed Jim Silva, a candidate for the same seat, as a "Labor Union Puppet" dancing on strings.

And then there’s county Treasurer John Moorlach, running for a county supervisor seat against Stanton Mayor Pro Tem David Shawver. In recent weeks I’ve been bombarded with ads telling me that Moorlach "wants to take money from the widows and orphans" of fallen cops and firefighters, that he’s a "career politician" involved in "backroom deals" with "cronies," and that he was "caught red-handed" misusing taxpayer money. And the dark, brooding picture they use of him makes Moorlach look positively Mephistophelean; all he needs is a pitchfork and a tail.

True, Moorlach and his supporters have given back as good as they’ve gotten — or at least almost. They’ve called Shawver a "union pawn" in their campaign mailers — complete with a picture of a pawn on a chessboard — and the photo they use of him makes Shawver look like he’s being featured on "America’s Most Wanted."

Now mind you, I’m not endorsing or opposing any of these guys, or any other political candidates. Nor am I commenting on the truth of (sic) falsity of any of the accusations about them.

No, my point is simply that all the negative campaign ads are depressing. And it makes me wonder why anyone would even want to run for elected office if all they’re going to get is insults and wild allegations and photographs of themselves that could be used to frighten small children. I mean, how do they and their family members handle that sort of constant public abuse?

In fact, I posed that question to the aforementioned and much-maligned John Moorlach — who, I should note, I have met a couple of times, and who isn’t nearly as ugly and scary-looking in person as he appears in some of the negative campaign mailers.

"We knew it was coming," Moorlach said of the negative campaigning, adding that while his wife and two oldest children simply slough it off, his 15-year-old son has had a little trouble seeing Dad relentlessly portrayed as the "enemy of widows and orphans" on TV ads. (In fairness, Shawver’s five kids probably don’t like seeing their dad called a "union pawn" either.)

"In every other area of life you couldn’t do this sort of thing," Moorlach said. "But in a political campaign you apparently can say whatever you want. … That’s the nature of the game."

And yet, Moorlach admits that it’s hard not to take it personally sometimes — and he wonders if negative campaigns make the hard business of governing even more difficult.

"When the personal attacks are so vile, how do you have relations (with your opponents) after the election?"

Of course, I realize that negative campaigning isn’t new in America, that it’s as old as our Republic. And I also realize that if it didn’t work — that is, if we the voters didn’t let it work — the politicians wouldn’t do it.

Still, as I said, it’s depressing to think that when we woke up this morning and saw who won, many of us probably weren’t able to feel very good about it.

Because based on much of what we heard and saw during the campaign, we’re left with the disturbing impression that no matter who won, they’re a bunch of bums.

Dillow’s opinions on local news appear every Wednesday and Sunday. A Register columnist for the past nine years, he was an embedded reporter with a Marine infantry unit in Iraq in 2003 and 2004. Dillow was a U.S. Army sergeant in Vietnam in 1971-72, and has a journalism degree from the University of Montana. Contact him at 714-796-7953 or GLDillow@aol.com .

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 cas

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