MOORLACH UPDATE — Homelessness — February 14, 2013

Allow me to wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day.  It is supposed to be a day of romance, but allow me to also make it a day to show love for our fellow man, especially those without a home.

Every year the Chair determines which Supervisors sit on which Boards, Commissions and Committees. The Voice of OC reporter was in attendance at the January Commission to End Homelessness meeting and at the conclusion of the meeting, during my remarks, I informed the Commission that the Chair of the Board of Supervisors had not yet released his list of appointments to be voted on the following Tuesday.  I was aware, however, that Supervisor Todd Spitzer had expressed an interest in serving as the Supervisorial representative on both the Commission to End Homelessness and the Orange County Criminal Justice Coordinating Counsel, both of which I currently chair.  If Chair Nelson had decided later that day to switch us out, replacing me with Supervisor Spitzer on one or both of these bodies, then that January meeting would have been my last official meeting.  Therefore, I felt obligated, due to the uncertainty, to inform my fellow Commissioners.  Supervisor Nelson elected to keep me in place.  However, I did have a productive conversation with Supervisor Spitzer, extending the invitation for him to assume one or both of the roles at any time during the year.  This should set you up for the first piece below.

The Daily Pilot announces that Karen Roper will be the keynote speaker at next week’s Newport-Mesa-Irvine Interfaith monthly luncheon.  Karen is the Interim Executive Director of the Commission to End Homelessness and is an energetic and dedicate champion for the ending homelessness directive.  I am planning to be there to listen to Karen and enjoy a bonus in my District:  a tour of the new facilities at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church.  Consider yourself cordially invited.

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Moorlach Ready to Step Down As Chair of Homeless Commission

By DAVID WASHBURN

Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach is indicating that he is ready to step down as chairman of the Orange County Commission to End Homelessness and invited Supervisor Todd Spitzer to take his place.

"I would be happy to resign and let him fill the position," Moorlach said Monday. "I have two years left on my term and he theoretically has eight, so it would be good for continuity’s sake if he took over."

Moorlach pointed out that former Supervisor Bill Campbell afforded him the same opportunity in 2010 when Campbell was two years from stepping down from the Board of Supervisors.

Spitzer did not return a reporter’s phone calls, but he indicated through his spokesman a willingness to consider Moorlach’s invitation. "He is interested in serving on the Commission and is interested in a leadership role on the issue at some point," said Spitzer spokesman Justin Glover.

Spitzer, the newest member of the Board of Supervisors, is the most obvious choice to take over for Moorlach if for no other reason than that he highlighted the dire state of affairs for the county’s homeless in his swearing-in speech last month.

The reality that scores of homeless people regularly camp out at the Orange County Civic Center in Santa Ana because they have nowhere else to go is "really, really shameful," Spitzer said in his speech.

Since, Spitzer and his staff turned out in force for the "point in time" homeless count, which is mandated by the federal government and considered the closest thing we have to an annual census of homeless people. He has also mentioned a desire to follow in the footsteps of Supervisor Shawn Nelson and work to establish a year-round homeless shelter in his district.

Nelson was instrumental in the efforts to secure a site for a year-round shelter in Fullerton, which was approved by supervisors in January and would be Orange County’s first permanent homeless shelter.

Moorlach said a succession plan for the Commission will come into sharper focus later this month when its executive committee meets. He also said he could be open to the idea of someone other than a supervisor leading the commission.

"Maybe [the Commission] could be better served," Moorlach said. "I’m not saying that I’m doing a bad job, but maybe someone else would have a better intuition for it all."

Another item up for discussion will be the possibility of having a homeless or formerly homeless person serve on the Commission. That idea seemed to have a lot of support at the Commission’s last meeting and is something that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will likely be requiring of local homeless commissions in the near future, said Karen Roper, director of OC Community Services.

Please contact David Washburn directly at dwashburn@voiceofoc.org.

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Community & Clubs: Celebrating philanthropy, Italian style

By Jim de Boom

Homeless in Orange County

The Feb. 20 luncheon of the Newport-Mesa-Irvine Interfaith Council will feature Karen Roper, interim executive director of the O.C. Commission to End Homelessness, speaking on "Partnering with the Faith-Based Community in Ending Homelessness in Orange County." Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach chairs the O.C. Commission to End Homelessness.

The luncheon, which is open to all faith communities and the public, will be held at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church, 2046 Mar Vista Drive, Newport Beach, beginning at 11:45 a.m., with registration followed by lunch, the presentation by Roper and tour of the new house of worship facilities of Our Lady Queen of Angels. Lunch is $12 with a reservation, $15 without a reservation. Reservations can be made by emailing nmiinterfaith@aol.com. All attendees will receive a free copy of the 2013 Faith Community Directory for Costa Mesa, Irvine and Newport Beach, which includes a listing of resources for homeless in the local area. For more information, visit http://www.nmiinterfaith.org.

FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS

February 15

2008

Acting Sheriff Jack Anderson provided an idea that has great merit in a piece by Stuart Pfeifer and H. G. Reza, with assistance from Christine Hanley, of the LA Times, titled O.C.’s acting sheriff calls for jail shake-up – He proposes replacing the deputies in the scandal-plagued system with career correctional officers.”  This is an idea that continues to be debated today, especially from an employee bargaining unit territorial standpoint.  Here is the piece in full:

Orange County’s acting Sheriff Jack Anderson on Thursday proposed pulling hundreds of deputies from the state’s second-largest jail system and replacing them with career correctional officers.

The move, which would dramatically change the way Orange County jails are operated, would create a new career path in the Sheriff’s Department: employees who are permanently assigned to the county jails. For decades, deputies have spent the initial portion of their careers — sometimes eight years or longer — in the jails before moving to patrol or other assignments.

The proposal comes amid a number of scandals — and a grand jury investigation — involving management of the jails. The county recently agreed to pay $600,000 to resolve a lawsuit filed by the family of John Chamberlain, an inmate who was beaten to death in 2006. The lawsuit alleged that a deputy falsely told an inmate that Chamberlain was in custody for child molestation, prompting inmates to attack him, and that deputies ignored Chamberlain’s cries for help.

In January, The Times reported a second case in which a video showed Orange County deputies apparently hitting a prisoner on the head while he sat passively on a bench, then repeatedly shocking him with a Taser after he was handcuffed, even after the inmate had been strapped into a restraint chair.

A county grand jury has been hearing testimony about the department’s management of the jails for several months, focusing particular attention on Chamberlain’s death, according to several sources familiar with the investigation.

Anderson said his proposal was motivated entirely by the cost savings that could be achieved by replacing deputies with professional jailers, not allegations of misconduct within the jails. Because correctional officers will be paid about half of what deputies are paid, the proposal would save the county $26 million to $34 million per year, he said.

"How could you not support it? We’re saving tens of millions of dollars a year," Anderson said.

Anderson can expect strong opposition to his proposal from the deputies union.

"I challenge the acting sheriff to show how hiring less-qualified, less-trained personnel, and personnel with questionable backgrounds, will make our custody inmates safer and the surrounding communities safer," said Wayne Quint, president of the Assn. of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs. "Public safety is going to be negatively impacted. You get what you pay for. We’ve had some incidents in our jails, but overall our jails are among the safest in the country."

The Sheriff’s Department deploys about 775 of its 1,900 sworn deputies in its jails, which hold roughly 6,400 inmates. Only Los Angeles County has a higher inmate population.

If the Orange County Board of Supervisors approves the proposal, the department could begin hiring the first correctional deputies within six months, Anderson said. The department would for several years hire only lower-paid correctional officers, who would replace the deputies as they moved to patrol and other assignments, Anderson said.

The idea has worked in San Diego and Riverside counties, Anderson said. He said he’d assembled a committee to study how the transitions were done in those counties. The challenge for the department will be finding quality recruits willing to work for salaries far less than deputies are paid, he said.

Board of Supervisors Chairman John Moorlach said he had grown concerned about allegations of misconduct by sheriff’s personnel in the jails. Supervisors recently voted to create an Office of Independent Review, which would monitor investigations of alleged misconduct by deputies.

"As we go through the process of picking a new sheriff, I think the winning candidate should be prepared to make some cultural changes in the jail," Moorlach said. "The Chamberlain case shows something different has to be done."

He said Anderson’s proposal made sense, in part because it would mean that the jails would be staffed with employees who wanted to be there, rather than with deputies waiting years for patrol assignments.

The use of correctional officers has worked well in San Diego and Riverside, officials in those counties said. Sheriff’s departments in those counties have used correctional officers for 20 years or more.

Lt. Phil Brust, a San Diego County sheriff’s spokesman, said correctional officers go through a three-month detention academy as opposed to the six-month program for patrol deputies.

"They are specifically trained in dealing with inmates and keeping the jail running," Brust said.

The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department has used correctional officers for 28 years, said spokesman Sgt. Dennis Gutierrez. He noted, however, that 30% of the jails’ staff are deputies, who spend about three years on jail duty before transferring to patrol. The academy training for correctional officers is geared toward running the jails.

Jail consultant Allen Beck said a difference in training received by correctional officers versus deputies could lead to fewer confrontations between staff and inmates.

"There are two major differences in the culture of deputies and correctional officers. One’s a catcher and the other’s a keeper," said Beck, who has consulted for the U.S. Department of Justice and counties nationwide.

"The role of deputies from their training is how to be a law enforcement officer. That training ends when they bring someone to jail.

"Correctional officers need to know behavior management and how to classify people when they are brought to jail. They are specialized by job function, but all of them will be managing behavior. If [Anderson] is going in this direction it’s the right way to go because it raises the professionalism of his staff."

Orange County is in the midst of a nationwide search to hire a replacement for former Sheriff Michael S. Carona, who resigned in January while awaiting a federal corruption trial. Anderson is serving as interim sheriff until the Board of Supervisors appoints Carona’s successor.

Moorlach said he would not be opposed to Anderson, as acting sheriff, implementing such a significant change in the department.

"If it’s a good idea, why wait?" he said.

Norberto Santana and Tony Saavedra of the OC Register covered the story in Interim sheriff proposes to staff jails with new officers – Plan to have correctional officers instead of deputies in jails would save up to $80 million annually.”  Here is the second half of the piece:

The initiative is part of a trend of county officials seeking to trim the costs of law enforcement. County Supervisor John Moorlach recently convinced his colleagues to file a lawsuit seeking to trim some of the pension benefits provided to current Sheriff Deputies. Moorlach has stated that the lawsuit, which has already cost the county more than $500,000 in legal fees, could save taxpayers $187 million. The lawsuit has been bitterly opposed by the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, the union representing deputies.

Anderson noted that his plan could achieve as much as the Moorlach effort by freeing up finances to deal with the heightened cost of deputy pensions.

While Anderson noted that the plan would create a new class of jail employee, he said he didn’t see it necessary to negotiate with the deputies union over the change.

"We’re not going to negotiate on this," he said. However, Anderson said he wasn’t looking for a fight with union officials and had asked them to participate in the preparations for the new plan.

Deputies union officials are opposed to the change, saying it would result in less-qualified officers at the jails and less safety.

"Deputies have their hands full now," said Wayne Quint, president of the AOCDS.

Quint also said that this new plan could not be unilaterally imposed and instead had to be brought up with "contract negotiations" which do not start till October 2009.

Yet the new plan also may involve other unions beyond the deputies.

Nick Berardino – who heads the county’s largest and most politically active union, the 17,000-member Orange County Employees Association – confirmed he had been contacted by Sheriff’s Department officials. OCEA does represent several categories of workers within the jails and Berardino said despite Anderson’s desire to avoid negotiations, such a change would trigger state laws requiring a "meet and confer" process.

While Berardino said his group’s involvement would depend on how these new jobs are classified. But he noted, "It’s always a privilege to represent county employees."

He also sounded a careful note on the new policy adding, "We applaud ambition but it needs to be tempered with analysis and consensus building."

Yet Berardino said Anderson’s approach was far better than Moorlach’s.

"At least the plan is proactive as compared to Moorlach’s, which is reactive and stands on incredible shaky legal ground."

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