MOORLACH UPDATE — Voice of OC — May 7, 2013

It’s negotiating season. Today we get to enjoy whistles and sirens outside of the Hall of Administration. Let me assure you that the negotiating process with AFSCME and the County is moving along and there is no need to raise the rancor. But, it is negotiating season and headlines grab attention. The Voice of OC provides some of the fun we’ll enjoy during today’s Board meeting.

Union, Supervisor Battle Over Use of Welfare Funds

Union leaders representing over 1,000 Orange County social services eligibility workers are criticizing the county over the handling of $52 million in federal and state community and welfare funds.

The criticism is drawing a strong rebuke from County Supervisor John Moorlach, who says the public sector union is being irresponsible in its critique.

The two sides are expected to face off before Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, with an early rally scheduled for 8 a.m.

“The County of Orange is wasting federal revenues to the tune of $52 million – funds that are supposed to benefit the neediest OC residents,” the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Local 36 wrote in a statement on Monday.

The union claims that recipients of Cal-Works, food stamps, foster care, Welfare to Work and Medi-Cal “are being shortchanged” by the county, which they also allege keeps the eligibility department “severely understaffed.”

Their claims, which come as the union negotiates a new contract with county supervisors, is drawing a forceful rebuttal from Moorlach, who says their accusations are completely unfounded.

“There is no legitimacy to what they’re saying,” said Moorlach. “It’s disingenuous and it shows a little lack of scholarship.”

Moorlach and county spokesman Howard Sutter said that the $52 million figure is split between 14 funds across three different county departments, of which social services is just one.

Sutter said Monday afternoon that county Budget Director Frank Kim was tracking down how the money flows to the various funds so he can respond to the union’s claims.

Until Kim and Auditor-Controller Jan Grimes gather more details, Sutter said, “they don’t know who those funds belong to, how much is in each, what restrictions may be on those funds,” among other questions.

Sutter added that the $52 million is the fund balance for “community and welfare services,” as noted on page 158 of the county’s latest Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

The union, meanwhile stands by their claims, questioning where the money is going.

“If they don’t spend it on us or the community or the services, what are they spending it on? Because they have to spend the money,” said Sandra Fox, president of AFSCME Local 2076, which represents the Orange County eligibility workers.

Fox’s claims are sure to draw a reaction from supervisors on Tuesday.

Moorlach said Monday that the county is allocating the funds in accordance with federal requirements.

“It isn’t fair to her members, nor is it fair to the board,” said Moorlach.

The CAFR report says the special fund accounts “for the Orange County Workforce Investment Act, Welfare-to-Work, Shelter Care Facilities, In Home Supportive Services, Housing and Community Development, Substance Abuse Treatment, and Other Community and Welfare Social Programs.”

“Revenues consist primarily of Federal grants passed through the State, as well as State grants.”

You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS

May 7

1998

OC METRO “Viewpoint” columnist Hugh Hewitt decided to react to a recent LA Times article in “A Solid GOP – Beware when the Times writes about dissension.” For an excerpt of the 1994 LA Times’ “Letter to the Editor” that Hewitt refers to, see MOORLACH UPDATE — OC Register — June 6, 2009. Here is the second-half of the column, after Hewitt plugged Judge Anthony Rackauckas for District Attorney, Marshal Mike Carona for Sheriff, and Bruce Peotter for county assessor:

Every two years, the Los Angeles Times’ Peter Warren writes a story about how the Orange County GOP is wracked by dissent. Peter’s story then targets Tom Fuentes as the source of discontent among the troops and suggests that his long-running chairmanship could be threatened by the latest insurrection.

Of course it’s tough to find much credible evidence for this story, so Peter has to run around and hope to turn up a couple of new voices. After all, the Eileen Padberg-hates-local-GOP-lead is a little thin after a decade.

Well, Peter found that Orange County Supervisor Chuck Smith and the Fluors were the latest entrants in the lists of the GOP discontented, and presto, the story ran on the top of the Metro section (a day after the Register ran the same story flogging the same small band of critics.) Unfortunately, but predictably, Peter didn’t ask any of the anti-Fuentes crowd what exactly they want the party to do that isn’t presently being done. After all, the GOP continues to dominate local politics. Do the “dissidents” want to lose congressional seats? Do they want to elect Democrats to Assembly or state Senate chairs? Or do they want all those GOP leaders like Gov. Bush and Steve Forbes to stop coming to the county?

Perhaps Tome Fuentes has raised too much money for Republican candidates all these years? Or is it because Fuentes wants to lower taxes?

I understand the Times’ hostility to Fuentes. Fuentes is the only elected official to have a letter to the Times printed prior to the last Bob Citron re-election, a letter which warned of impending fiscal meltdown. This occurred close to the time that the Times endorsed Citron and exonerated him of the charges that John Moorlach and Tom Fuentes were making. So Fuentes got the most important news story of the decade right, and the Times blew it.

But what I can’t understand is the journalistic sloppiness that allows Peter’s vendetta to pass as reporting. Peter Warren is a fine reporter most of the time, but his anti-Fuentes bias is extraordinary. Warren simply does not convey the absolute, lock-down factual and objective truth that Fuentes is guaranteed re-election as the party’s chair if he wants the job. Why? Because the numbers are overwhelmingly on Fuentes’ side. In his seven terms, Fuentes has always been elected unanimously and can count again as rock solid votes the 17 automatic members of the Central Committee – the six party nominees for Congress, four for state Senate and seven for state Assembly. Any “reporter” can look at the rest of the ballot and count noses among the other 42 likely electees. With that little effort, it’s impossible to see Fuentes unseated. And it is disingenuous not to report as much in a “news story.”

Now if Peter Warren wants to become a columnist like me, or a letter writer like Mark Petracca, fine. But next time a story on the GOP runs with his byline, remember it’s not likely to be accurate, which is perhaps why the Times blew the bankruptcy: because it cannot get past its bias to get to the facts.

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