MOORLACH UPDATE — Seal Beach Response — October 16, 2011

Those who know me know that I believe in a day of rest.  Forgive me, but this Sunday I am making an exception. 

Yesterday morning I participated in a fund raising effort on behalf of the families of the victims of this past week’s senseless mass shooting in Seal Beach. 

If you are out and about today and happen to be in or near Seal Beach or Los Alamitos, please visit the Pavilions on PCH and 10th or the Vons at 11322 Los Alamitos Boulevard.  There are donation boxes available to drop off a contribution.  Vons will match contributions made in these two stores today, up to $25,000.  This means whatever you contribute is doubled. 

If you have no plans for today, then please visit Seal Beach and lay a flower down at the Salon Meritage, off of PCH at 5th Street.  Please bring a box of tissues, as the memorial is powerful.  I visited yesterday morning and it makes my eyes well up just thinking about it and this tragedy.  It is a proper way to show our respect.  Then take a quiet moment and walk the Seal Beach Pier and enjoy walking Main Street.  Seal Beach is a wonderful coastal community.  Please visit and give the locals a big hug.

There were plenty of volunteers helping bag groceries, so I assisted willing shoppers by emptying their shopping carts.  I engaged in a conversation with a 46-year resident of Seal Beach and, in spite of the somberness, found a reason to laugh during our conversation.  The OC Register caught the moment below.  The first piece is from the LA Times and the second is from the OC Register, which was also posted on the website.  Please keep the impacted families and the residents of Seal Beach in your thoughts and prayers.

The third article is in today’s OC Register and provides a perspective on a staffing change at Brandman University that occurred this past week.  Professor Fred Smoller believes that there were outside pressures on Chancellor Brahm and the University’s Master of Public Administration (MPA) program.  Professor Smoller is widely quoted and has proffered many public sector ideas.  Consequently, he has been in a number of my recent UPDATES; see MOORLACH UPDATE — Daily Pilot — March 16, 2010, MOORLACH UPDATE — Green Bay — April 13, 2010, MOORLACH UPDATE — MAP — September 2, 2010 (which features our joint editorial submission “Compare Municipalities Side By Side”), MOORLACH UPDATE — Sunday’s Dailies — April 12, 2010, MOORLACH UPDATE — PA/PG — February 4, 2011 (which features his editorial “Why Orange County Should be One City”), MOORLACH UPDATE — Jefferson County — August 8, 2011 (which features his editorial “With O.C.’s cities, less is more”), MOORLACH UPDATE — Venezia Column — August 13, 2011, MOORLACH UPDATE — Filing Closes — March 13, 2010, and MOORLACH UPDATE — Costa Mesa — April 10, 2010.

I have known Professor Smoller for the last 16 years.  Subsequent to the County’s bankruptcy protection filing, he would have me speak to his students on occasion about the circumstances surrounding this historical event.  Professor Smoller also serves with me on the Orange County Council of Governments (OCCOG) Board as an alternate representing higher education.  He is fun, engaging, and thoughtful and has a deep concern for the OC community.  My office was informed late this week that the changes at Brandman University have been very upsetting to Professor Smoller.  Consequently, I would like to ask you to also keep him in your prayers.


Seal Beach mourners frustrated at possibility of insanity defense

Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty against Scott Dekraai, charged with killing his ex-wife and seven others. The Orange County D.A. has said he would not be surprised by an insanity plea.

By Tony Barboza, Los Angeles Times

A day after Scott Dekraai was charged with killing his ex-wife and seven others in a shooting rampage at a Seal Beach beauty salon, friends and mourners reacted with frustration and anger to the suggestion by prosecutors that the defendant could mount an insanity defense.

"No matter how mental you are, you should not be killing people," said Nighat Afreen, 55, of La Mirada, a onetime customer of Salon Meritage who stopped by Saturday to leave flowers and candles for her former stylists. "He was a mad dog. He should be killed."

Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty against Dekraai, 41, who is being held without bail and in protective custody — a single jail cell away from other inmates, an Orange County Sheriff’s Department spokesman said.

Dekraai, who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as the result of leg injuries from a 2007 tugboat accident, on Friday postponed entering a plea to eight counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in order to assemble a legal defense team. Attorney Robert Curtis asked for a medical order for Dekraai to receive anti-psychotic medication while in custody.

Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackcauckas has said he would not be surprised by an insanity plea.

Several dozen people who gathered quietly Saturday to pay their respects at a memorial of flowers, candles and photographs outside Salon Meritage seemed disappointed by that prospect.

"It’s not fair to the victims" to blame Wednesday’s attack on mental illness, said Patricia Eskenazi, 74, president of the Los Alamitos/Seal Beach Rotary Club, a friend and customer of two of the slain stylists.

Dekraai was known to be unstable and short-tempered, she said, but that should not be an excuse. "He killed innocent people. They didn’t deserve it, all these families that he broke up."

Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach, who represents the area, said there are many mental health services offered by the county and state that a person could access.

"I don’t know what more we could do to prevent this," he said. "Sometimes people just snap."

Moorlach was one of a group of elected officials and members of the Seal Beach Lions Club who met at the town’s Pavilions grocery store Saturday morning to help bag groceries and collect donations for families of the victims. The supermarket and a Vons in Los Alamitos have pledged to match up to $25,000 in donations made by customers in checkout lines over the weekend to benefit the Seal Beach Victims’ Fund.

An emotional Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach), who has represented the small beach town for more than 20 years, called the shooting "monstrous."

"The fact that something this horrible could happen in a wonderful place like Seal Beach shows you there are some evil forces in this world," he said. "And the good people have to stand together."

He welled up with tears as he hugged Suzanne Finamore, whose brother-in-law, salon owner Randy Fannin, died in the attack.

Finamore said her sister, Sandy Fannin, is "very, very fragile" as the family has struggled to understand what might have driven Dekraai to such violence. "We can’t wrap our mind around it. We can’t make sense of it. We’re just trying to pull together and pray as a family."


Seal Beach shooting aftermath: grief and support


SEAL BEACH – Several days after nine people were shot and eight killed in the heart of this small, seaside city, community members continued to come together to start the healing process and help the victims’ families.

Early Saturday morning, groups of mourners had already arrived to pay their respects at Salon Meritage, the site of the killings.

Authorities say Scott Evans Dekraai targeted the salon because it was the workplace of his ex-wife, Michelle Fournier. The two had been involved in a drawn-out custody battle concerning their 8-year-old son.

The impromptu memorial at the site has grown to take up nearly the entire sidewalk. The northern wall of the building has almost been completely papered over with messages of sorrow and condolence framed by heaps of flowers, and candles that burned all night.

"Oh Lord, please cover our town with your angels of care," one message reads. "Please heal through our grieving in the days ahead, and watch over the families that are left behind."

Another urged people to gather for a memorial and fundraiser scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Sunday at lifeguard station 8 at the local beach. The flier gave a compelling reason for the gathering: "To continue to show the world that Seal Beach is not the place of the shooting. It’s the place of healing."

While the crowd gathered, some salon employees boxed up their supplies, hoping to carry on their practice somewhere else while they decide whether to reopen the salon.

Jim Watson, who owns the shopping center where the salon is located, said he hopes it will return. He’s freed the businesses from the lease signed by salon owner Randy Fannin, one of the victims of the shooting, and spoken to the remaining employees.

"They’re devastated," Watson said, but early indications are that they want to stay together. "We’ve heard that if they were to reopen, there would be a lot of support. We support whatever the decision is."

At the nearby Pavillions supermarket, several government officials joined with the Seal Beach Lions Club and representatives of the Chamber of Commerce to raise money for a fund to benefit the victims’ families.

Several of them, such as Seal Beach Councilman Gary A. Miller, earned donations by bagging patrons’ groceries.

"It’s part of the healing process to support the families," Miller said.

"When something like this happens, people want to help out," said Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach, whose district includes Seal Beach. "This is a tragedy, and we’re responding in any fashion we can."

Pavilions representatives said donations will be collected at the Seal Beach location and at its Vons sister store in Los Alamitos. The stores’ parent company will match donations made up to $25,000.

As of 3 p.m. Saturday, donations neared $9,000 at Pavilions and $1,500 at the Los Alamitos Vons, a company spokesman reported.

City officials said the donations would go to the relief fund they set up, which can be found online at

Contact the writer: and 714-704-3796


Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach laughs with Seal Beach residents Harry and Connie Schmidt as the supervisor unloads their grocery cart at Pavilions during a fundraiser benefiting the families of the victims of the Salon Meritage shooting in Seal Beach on Saturday.

Professor who offended power elite resigns post

By Teri Sforza

Fred Smoller is gone from his post as head of Brandman University’s master of public administration program.

He’s not fired, as he has tenure, but the situation is a sticky one that raises thorny issues of academic freedom with critics.

“I was told city officials were upset with my involvement in the examination of city compensation and other things I’ve written regarding city consolidation, which they apparently found threatening,” Smoller told us.

“Academics are often criticized for living in an ivory tower. I’ve been criticized for trying to be relevant.”

That’s not quite the way that officials at Brandman (an independent part of the Chapman University system) see it.

“There is an unfortunate rumor circulating that Dr. Fred Smoller was dismissed from his position as Director of the Master’s in Public Administration program at Brandman University. This is totally incorrect,” said a written statement we received from Brandman spokeswoman Rita Wilds.

“In a meeting with Dr. Smoller on Monday, Chancellor (Gary) Brahm said that they left with the mutual understanding that Dr. Smoller was to continue as the MPA director and Brandman would hire a director of government relations, who would also serve as a member of the faculty to add depth to the program. Regrettably, on Tuesday, Fred offered his resignation as director. He will continue as a member of the Brandman faculty.

“Because this is a personnel issue, we cannot go into further detail at this time.”

‘Out of the mainstream’

More than a year ago, we told you about the grief Smoller was getting for allowing his students to chase down the (sometimes shocking) details of city manager pay in Orange County. Smoller had dispatched two of his public-administration graduate students to a political campaign that was assembling the facts on public administrators … which set off a storm of indignant outrage (and highlighted a maddening lack of transparency in local government).

Since then, Smoller has done a good deal of opining about government efficiency, the merging of some of O.C.’s 34 cities, online voting and other bits of what some might consider public-administration blasphemy.

Last year, folks from the local League of California Cities chapter marched into the office of Chapman President Jim Doti to complain about the compensation survey. And it doesn’t appear that their opinions of Smoller’s work have changed much.

“(T)he long-held assertions of Mr. Smoller regarding Orange County cities were clearly out of the mainstream,” Lacy Kelly, chief executive officer of the Association of California Cities – Orange County, told us by email.

“Indeed, the public continues to indicate that they have more faith in local government than any other form of government. This is likely because cities are closest and most accountable to the people, and are not expansive bureaucracies. Poll after poll proves this notion. …

“The ACC-OC believes that local control is the most responsive form of governance. That is why we continually fight against a top-down approach to public policy that inhibits a local city’s ability to create jobs, generate economic development and enhance local quality of life for its residents.

“Cities need flexibility to be responsive to their constituents. This is the essence of local control.”

Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach – a local-control type who has been doing some work on the city-consolidation concept himself – might disagree.

“There are police departments and fire departments in this county that are looking at merging,” Moorlach said. “If anything, Fred is not guilty of being an outlier – he’s guilty of being early.” Moorlach turned sarcastic. “When someone tells the truth and says the king has no clothes on, they should fire him,” said the man who was ridiculed for asserting that former O.C. Treasurer Robert Citron’s pre-bankruptcy investments were going south. “You can’t be telling the truth here in Orange County.”


Mark Petracca, longtime political science professor at UC Irvine, agreed.

“It’s outrageous,” Petracca said. “Fred was having students do research. He didn’t have an ax to grind here. Even the stuff he’s written about the county becoming a single entity is mainstream kind of thinking about how we deal with what Paul Peterson at Harvard called ‘proper city limits.’ What’s the optimal size for a governmental entity to be? …

“The fact that Chapman has historically been a tool for the county’s most powerful economic interests is well-known,” Petracca continued. “That has been the case for the entire 28 years I’ve lived here. You’d hope that with age would come maturity on the part of Chapman’s senior administration, but apparently that hasn’t happened. This is a pretty big violation of academic freedom, and it reflects badly on the leadership at Chapman.”

Chapman begs to differ.

“Professor Petracca’s opinion is a deeply disappointing characterization of Chapman University and its leadership,” spokeswoman Mary Platt said in a statement. “In fact, Chapman University is committed to academic freedom, vigorous inquiry and scholarly research. The university’s accreditation and national reputation bear witness to that commitment. Similarly, the university’s leadership requires an environment where personnel decisions are reached on the basis of objective merit.

“No one at Chapman is involved in Brandman University’s personnel decisions, and no one at Chapman had any prior knowledge or input into this particular decision. Brandman University, although owned by Chapman University, is a separately incorporated and separately accredited nonprofit education institution with its own management and Board of Regents. As such, Brandman makes its own personnel decisions in full autonomy.”

Others also see this as an attack on academic freedom – and a cautionary tale of what happens when the little guy tries to speak truth to power.

“It sounds like he got removed from his position for being politically controversial, and that’s always very disturbing,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of UC Irvine’s School of Law (who himself suffered some whiplash as UCI offered him the job, and then yanked that offer after local power-brokers complained that he was too liberal, and then reversed itself yet again and hired him).

“What happened to me is ancient history well-chronicled,” Chemerinsky said. “I’m not going to draw any comparisons at all. But it’s always troubling for someone to be fired or lose a position because of his views.”

Kogerman criticizes cities league

Cindy Smith, a student that Smoller allowed to intern with then-Laguna Hills City Council candidate Barbara Kogerman, announced the news on Facebook Tuesday evening.

“We all know that Fred put his heart and soul into developing this program! This news was shocking to me! … Fred, thank you for your hard work, integrity and loyalty to us, the students! You certainly don’t deserve this.”

Kogerman, whose city-manager compensation survey set a lot of this in motion, said this:

“Their ‘off with his head’ approach in muzzling academic freedom and engaging in political retaliation constitutes a gross misuse of public funds on the part of the League of California Cities, Orange County Division, and the Association of California Cities-OC.

“Dr. Smoller’s students … have received well-deserved accolades from organizations as diverse as the Orange County Board of Supervisors, OC Metro Magazine, and, which awarded them with their Service to the State award. They appeared several times on national television as a result of their efforts. Brandman University rightly publicly congratulated them and promoted their success.

“That the taxpayer-funded League of Cities and ACC-OC should take such measures to stifle public discourse is a disgrace. City Councils and taxpayers alike should question whether such activities serve the public’s interests and are deserving of continued public funding.”

Read more reaction to the Smoller development, and more Watchdog, at


October 15


Five years ago Supervisor Bates was enjoying the last few weeks of a runoff campaign against Cathryn “Cassie” DeYoung.  It was covered by Christian Berthelsen of the LA Times inSame Foes in Supervisorial Race, but Less Heat This Time Around—The hot race for a seat on the board has cooled. Measures address a transportation tax, eminent domain, term limits and slow growth.”  Supervisor Norby wanted to put a term limit measure extending the number of terms a supervisor could serve to three from the current two.  Having been a term limit advocate and supporter of Proposition 140 in 1990, one has to ask how well it has worked for us.  I believe it has dumb-downed the legislature in Sacramento.  It certainly puts the OC at a disadvantage with the supervisors of 57 other counties, especially if an OC supervisor wants to move up the chairs with the California State Association of Counties (CSAC).  We haven’t seen an OC supervisor as a CSAC officer since Harriett Wieder pursued a failed attempt to serve as its President.  Supervisorial candidate Cassie DeYoung wasn’t gaining ground in the runoff and decided that opposing the proposed term limit ballot measure would provide her campaign with some traction.  I placed a friendly message on her voice mail that she construed as threatening.  It was not and it was a non-story.  But, making the claim was about the extent of her unsuccessful campaign between June and November.  By one account DeYoung put $3,753,000 in her campaign for Supervisor.  Ouch.  However, because of her “threat” to oppose it, Supervisor Norby pulled his term limit measure from the ballot.

With election day just weeks away, one of the highest-profile races in Orange County this fall — the rematch between Patricia Bates and Cathryn DeYoung for the county’s 5th supervisorial district — is generating little of the rancor that characterized it in the first round this year.

At the end of September, DeYoung’s campaign had less than $40,000 in cash on hand, even after she lent $315,000 of her own money to the fund.

Bates, by contrast, had nearly $250,000 in cash, including a $100,000 personal loan. The biggest revelation so far has been DeYoung’s release of a voicemail message from Supervisor-elect John Moorlach threatening to endorse Bates if DeYoung campaigned against a ballot measure to extend supervisorial term limits (the measure was withdrawn; Moorlach endorsed Bates anyway).

Bates has cast herself as the experienced front-runner, a stateswoman with the knowledge and instincts that make her the better choice for the board that manages the county’s business. She has the endorsement of virtually the entire Republican establishment.

DeYoung has been the fiery challenger, confronting Bates on virtually every issue, and has poured millions of her own money into a largely self-funded campaign.

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