MOORLACH UPDATE — New Option — May 4, 2013

Those members of the media covering the County have this weekend to scrutinize the next possible County Executive Officer. All they have so far is a lawsuit. The County’s review of the case’s charges was just made available to the Supervisors by our County Counsel on Thursday afternoon. The first piece is the OC Register’s review of the publicly available information, with perspectives from the Supervisors.

The second piece is from the Sacramento Bee, but is also in the San Luis Obispo Tribune and Fresno Bee, and addresses next year’s gubernatorial outlook as candidates are stepping up to the starting line. The Sacramento Bee contacted me for their piece and provides a good perspective at this moment in time. However, the final piece below, from the Daily Pilot, provides a new twist to my potential journey. Allan Mansoor has practically grown up in the Second District. He has served on the Costa Mesa City Council, which means he is familiar with the Board-type form of governance, and is familiar with negotiating with collective bargaining units. He’s also a former Orange County employee, so he is very familiar with the County and its functions and structure. As a sitting Assemblyman, he will make a formidable candidate to be my replacement. However, he can only run for one office next June. If he runs for Supervisor, that leaves his Assembly seat open and provides me with another option to consider as I near the conclusion of my listening tour. (Today’s LOOK BACKS below provides a menu of what many constituents are looking for in a candidate for a crucial county office.)

County CEO frontrunner subject of proposed legal settlement

County attorneys have reached a $350,000 agreement regarding a suit against Mike Giancola, although a county investigation cleared him.

By MARTIN WISCKOL

The county’s waste chief, slated to be appointed Orange County CEO on Tuesday by the county Board of Supervisors, is the subject of an outstanding retaliation lawsuit that county attorneys have tentatively agreed to settle for $350,000.

Two supervisors countered that the proposed settlement was not an indication of wrongdoing and that an independent review cleared the CEO candidate, Mike Giancola. Board support appears to remain strong for Giancola’s appointment.

"I’m seeing a good kid who worked his way up," said Supervisor John Moorlach. "I’m seeing it as a positive story."

Giancola started with the county as a parks groundskeeper 34 years ago, and has been touted by supervisors as a model employee and executive. But Kathleen Tahilramani, former human resources manager for the waste department, alleges Giancola demoted her for refusing to break county recruitment policies and for his handling of a sexual harassment case.

Four of the five county supervisors have said they were satisfied that the allegations were unfounded, as county attorneys have told them. Moorlach said that the county sometimes settles cases simply to avoid further legal costs. Settlements typically include a disclaimer that stipulates no finding of wrongdoing.

"It can be cheaper to settle than to go through with the case," Moorlach said. "I see Kathleen as a disgruntled employee and I’m not going to let that bring down a dedicated, long-term public servant."

Supervisors would have to approve the proposed settlement for it to be paid. Tahilramani’s lawyer, Stephen Dial, said the agreement was reached Aug. 16. It has not yet been scheduled to go before supervisors. Moorlach said he had not heard of the proposed settlement until Thursday afternoon. Supervisor Todd Spitzer said he had not heard of it until a reporter contacted him Friday morning.

"If there is a settlement pending out there, the board should be discussing it," Spitzer said. "A settlement and a finding of no wrongdoing are potentially inconsistent."

Supervisors have been told by county attorneys that an independent county investigation found the allegations against Giancola were unsubstantiated. The report had not been seen by any supervisors until Friday, when at least three received copies.

The investigation was conducted after the August settlement hearing.

"That may dramatically change any opportunity for settlement or change the settlement amount," said Spitzer, while acknowledging he’d not yet had a chance to read the report.

Supervisors Pat Bates and Janet Nguyen said Thursday they had not seen the report but were satisfied with county attorneys’ assurances that the investigation had turned up no improper actions by Giancola. Both said that attorneys did not go into details of the report’s findings.

"I remain comfortable that he was exonerated by a neutral third-party review," Bates said. "We did all we were required to do and more."

Spitzer and Board Chairman Shawn Nelson said they intended to read the report before Tuesday’s meeting, and Moorlach said he would "probably want to read the report."

Nick Berardino, head of the Orange County Employees Association, said he was happy to see supervisors’ preference for someone who came up through the ranks, but that supervisors needed to look closely at the investigative report on Giancola.

"We’re going to stay neutral until we have a better sense of what’s in that report," Berardino said.

Giancola had no comment on proceedings leading up to Tuesday’s vote, said waste department spokeswoman Julie Chay.

Giancola is not the supervisors’ first choice for the CEO job, which became vacant when Tom Mauk resigned on Aug. 3. After an executive search, supervisors settled on Santa Barbara County CEO Chandra Wallar. But the deal fell apart when Wallar asked for a $290,000 salary and some supervisors said they would not more than Mauk’s $254,000.

If selected, Giancola’s base salary is slated at $245,000.

Orange County is the state’s third largest county, while Mauk’s salary was the 11th highest among county CEOs. Base salaries for counties closest in size to Orange County – San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino counties – range from $313,000 to $331,000.

"We have a salary arms race and it’s out of control and we have to address it," Bates said.

Giancola previously attracted the spotlight in August 2011, when the contractor hired to build a $3.6 million office building at the Prima Deshecha Landfill was a year late and still not finished on a project that was supposed to take 19 months to build. The contractor, Horizons Construction Company International, had its contract terminated by supervisors.

Despite the troubles, Bates and Nguyen said they were impressed by Ginacola’s handling of the issues.

"He definitely stepped up to the plate," Nguyen said. "He told us immediately when he found out there was a problem."

Moorlach said he’d probably give Giancola a "B" on his role with the project.

"This low bidder was a farce – he was somehow determined to be qualified and he wasn’t," Moorlach said. "I got the sense that Mike was overruled in some of the decisions he wanted to make. I felt that Mike had to bite his lip."

Contact the writer: 714-796-6753 or mwisckol

Maldonado’s long-shot bid for California governor may help GOP — even if he loses

By David Siders – dsiders

Since announcing several weeks ago that he is considering running for governor, Abel Maldonado has raised a tiny sum of money, established a Facebook page and started mocking incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown online.

He has also become a prolific contributor to Twitter, where his profile – "I am running for governor" – suggests he has left consideration behind.

He has certain challenges to overcome: After being appointed lieutenant governor by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2010, the former state lawmaker and farmer from Santa Maria has failed in his last two campaigns – first to retain his lieutenant governorship and then for a seat in Congress.

Maldonado’s support for temporary tax increases while in the Legislature alienated conservative members of his party, and he is starting his gubernatorial campaign from a fundraising disadvantage.

Still, for many Republicans who have watched their party’s registration fall below 30 percent and who believe their chances of unseating Brown are dim, the prospect of fielding a moderate Latino candidate for governor – even one who is likely to lose – is not without appeal. The GOP has failed for years to connect with California’s growing number of Latino and independent voters, and Maldonado or a candidate like him could represent an opportunity.

Maldonado "could say all the right things," said Rob Stutzman, a GOP strategist in Sacramento. "He could be progressive on immigration … do a lot of good for the party."

It is still more than a year before the primary election, and other Republicans will almost certainly enter the race. Among potential candidates are former U.S. Treasury Department official Neel Kashkari and Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach.

Before Maldonado expressed interest, however, the most recognizable Republican hopeful was Tim Donnelly, an assemblyman best known outside his district for his anti-immigration positions and for carrying a loaded handgun into an airport.

Matt Rexroad, a Republican political consultant and Yolo County supervisor, said that with Donnelly the party "would end up in a race in the wrong direction."

Tony Quinn, a political analyst and former Republican legislative aide, cited "a consensus" among GOP donors and elected officials "that they cannot just troop out another angry white male."

To many moderate Republicans, therefore, Maldonado is a measure of relief.

"Running an Abel Maldonado is a whole lot better than having a Central Valley Republican who’s going to be sort of ‘guns, God and immigration’ – Donnelly or whoever else could emerge," said Thad Kousser, a political science professor at the University of California, San Diego. "Abel Maldonado, Tim Donnelly – both are going to lose to Jerry Brown. But Maldonado’s going to leave the party in a better place."

Maldonado, 45, is unlikely to engage in the kind of anti-immigration rhetoric that defined the 2010 gubernatorial primary. Rather, at a Republican gathering this spring he offered support for the many Latinos he said "want people to fight for them to allow their grandpa and their grandma to have the opportunity to become a legal resident."

Donnelly has said he has not yet decided if he will run. Asher Burke, a Donnelly adviser, said the Twin Peaks Republican is aware of a desire by elements of the party to put up a candidate who might "appeal to the center potentially, but (Donnelly) doesn’t think the more conservative voices of the party should be shut out of the conversation."

Said Burke: "He wants to be part of the conversation. He wants to be part of the dialogue."

Brown, governor previously from 1975 to 1983, has not said whether he will seek a fourth term, but his political adviser, Steve Glazer, expects him to run. Brown has raised more than $7 million for the effort.

The governor’s public approval ratings are only middling, but he is a problematic opponent for many would-be challengers. He has access not only to labor unions that traditionally fund Democratic candidates, but to business interests that he has courted heavily while in office.

"The other side really could screw up, could give us an opportunity, but do I see that on the horizon anytime soon? No," Duf Sundheim, former chairman of the California Republican Party, said during a panel discussion in Sacramento last week.

Asked if the party should put forward a candidate for governor in 2014, Sundheim said, "A lot of things could happen between now and then, so yes, you put somebody up for governor. I think you put somebody up that represents your vision of tomorrow, that reflects the diversity of the state of California, that makes the arguments in a constructive and positive manner … for you to fight another day."

As of Thursday, Maldonado had recorded five large campaign donations totaling less than $100,000, including $5,000 from former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, a moderate who was defeated in the 2002 gubernatorial primary by a more conservative businessman, Bill Simon.

Simon went on to lose in the general election that year to the incumbent governor, Gray Davis, but the race was closer than many observers initially expected.

"There’s a long time between now and next year," Simon said. "It’s been said that a week is a lifetime in politics, and a lot can happen."

Moorlach, the Orange County supervisor, is encouraged by that line of thinking. He is aware, however, of how deep blue California is outside his county.

"All the consultants I’ve talked to are like, ‘Hey, John, we really like you, don’t do this,’ " Moorlach said. "But someone has to carry, maybe, the Republican banner of good, you know, fiscal stewardship."

Maldonado’s chief strategist, John Weaver, said a "strong candidacy that’s able to break into new demographic categories" would be good for the party, but he said Maldonado will not run to lose.

"We think we can win," he said.

The primary election next year will be the first gubernatorial contest held under California’s new top-two primary system, in which the top two vote-getters in June will advance to a November runoff regardless of party.

No prominent Democrat has said he or she will challenge Brown, and the second-place finisher in June is expected to be a Republican.

It was Maldonado who brokered the legislative agreement in 2009 that put the top-two primary on the ballot, a concession he demanded in return for his vote for temporary tax increases.

Many conservatives have not yet forgiven him.

John W. Briscoe, the newly elected president of the conservative California Republican Assembly, said for the GOP to turn away from conservative candidates would only erode the party’s identity, resulting in a party of "Democrats lite."

Jon Fleischman, a conservative blogger and former state Republican Party executive director, said Maldonado "would be a disaster."

"We’d be putting our worst foot forward as some pseudo-outreach," Fleischman said. "It’s like saying, ‘Well, a warm body with a heartbeat is better than nothing at all.’ "

Call David Siders, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1215. Follow him on Twitter @davidsiders.

Mansoor mulls run for supervisor’s seat

Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa) said Friday that he is considering running for the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

If elected in June 2014, the former Costa Mesa mayor and longtime city resident would succeed Supervisor John Moorlach in representing the 2nd District — an area that includes Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and Huntington Beach — on the five-member board that oversees county government and some special districts.

"It’s important to many people from our community that we elect someone who has strong roots in Orange County and has lived in the district for a long time to succeed outgoing Supervisor John Moorlach," Mansoor said in a prepared statement sent to the Daily Pilot. "I’ve represented significant portions of the district for over 10 years and am considering a candidacy.

"I will be making an announcement about my decision in the coming weeks."

Surfside resident Michelle Steel, a member of the state Board of Equalization, officially declared her candidacy for the 2nd District seat in March.

Moorlach lives in Costa Mesa and was first elected supervisor in 2006. His term expires in January 2015.

Mansoor is a former Orange County Sheriff’s Department deputy who served on the Costa Mesa City Council from 2002 to 2010. He won his first Assembly seat in 2010 for what was then the 68th District. In November, he was reelected to represent the newly redrawn 74th District.

The OC Weekly was first to report that Mansoor is weighing a run for supervisor.

According to media reports, Moorlach is considering running for governor in a race against incumbent Jerry Brown.

—Bradley Zint

FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS

May 7

2008

Christian Berthelsen of the LA Times provided the flavor of the prior day’s Board meeting in “Supervisors hear comments on how to pick next O.C. sheriff – A public hearing provided an opportunity for those interested in the process to provide guidance, or just sound off.” When looking for a candidate, having someone who resides within the County was important. Having an insider who has worked for the County, thus providing a familiarity with the position, was also expressed.

Orange County supervisors last week asked for the public’s input on the selection of the next sheriff, seeking questions the board should ask of the candidates and criteria on which nominees should be evaluated.

On Tuesday, 23 people weighed in at an afternoon hearing.

Some were politicians or people with a vested interest in the outcome, some were regulars who frequently appear before the board, and some actually seemed to be members of the public interested in the issue.

Their comments went beyond mere questions and standards, instead advocating for and against specific candidates, citing biblical scripture as a guide to the process ("We need a Joshua") and, in one case, railing about run-ins with the law.

A preponderance of speakers said the candidate should be from, or familiar with, Orange County, even though the board expressly chose to conduct a nationwide search for candidates. The speakers were split on whether the sheriff should come from inside or outside the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

Several agreed that recent events, including the indictment of former Sheriff Michael S. Carona and revelations of wayward behavior by jail deputies, had given the department a "black eye" and that the overriding quality to look for in the next sheriff is one thing: integrity.

Some of their questions and suggestions:

"What are some examples of how [a candidate] emphasized principles over politics?"

"I think the next sheriff of Orange County must live in Orange County."

"How long has it been since they were on the street?"

"The person has to be a servant-leader, in my point of view."

"What experience do you have with a community-oriented policing program?"

"The next sheriff of Orange County should have integrity and should not be a politician."

"What is their history of volunteer work? How did they improve their community when they weren’t getting paid for it?"

"Demonstrate your commitment to real change by bringing in someone from the outside."

"What was your position on the Sheriff’s Department and the sheriff in 2006 [an election year] and what did you do about it?"

"What is their position on illegals in the county jails?"

"I think it would be nice if we could find a sheriff who was reasonably competent and reasonably honest. I know that’s a high hurdle to get over."

Board Chairman John Moorlach thanked the speakers for their suggestions. Nearly 50 candidates have applied for the position, and the board plans to narrow the field in the coming weeks, with a final decision in early June.

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