The Bond Buyer picked up the “MOORLACH UPDATE — Gov. Moorlach? Not — June 10, 2013” (the original UPDATE title said April 10, but don’t ask me why) and provided its perspective in the first piece below. A small clarification: Countywide elected offices do not have term limits. The Seal Beach Sun chimed in with the second piece below.
Happy Flag Day!
BONUS: On April 9th the Board of Supervisors approved the designation of the Orange County Crime Victims’ Memorial at Mason Park. The Board approved a design competition concept and that each Supervisor appoint two members to the judging panel that will determine the winner of the design competition (see Cammy.Danciu) know.
Moorlach Stays Out of California Governor’s Race
Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach, a Republican, won’t throw his hat in the ring for California governor.
by Keeley Webster
In an email to his mailing list, Moorlach said that given the concentration of Democrats in the state, it would be a tough race for any Republican to beat popular incumbent sitting Gov. Jerry Brown.
He added that he decided that he did not want to put his family through what would be a grueling race.
"After spending a good five months looking at what I should be doing next, I have taken a potential run for the office of Governor of the State of California off the list," Moorlach wrote.
Moorlach rose to prominence after predicting the Orange County bankruptcy during an unsuccessful election challenge to incumbent Orange County Treasurer Robert Citron. After the bankruptcy, he was appointed to the treasurer’s office and held it until term limits prevented him from running again.
He then was elected as a county supervisor, where he is again facing a term limit, prompting questions about his plans.
"Consequently, I am making my official announcement: I am not running for governor of the state of California," he said. "Hopefully, this will stop the inclusion of my name in news reports of potential Republican candidates who don’t have a chance of beating Governor Jerry Brown."
Supervisor decides against gubernatorial runBy Charles M. Kelly
Orange County Second District Supervisor John Moorlach [announced] that he won’t run for governor of California [on] Monday, June 10. Moorlach, whose term expires at the end of this year, made his decision public in an email “Update” that he sends to his constituents in place of a formal newsletter.
“After spending a good five months looking at what I should be doing next, I have taken a potential run for the office of governor of the state of California off the list,” Moorlach wrote in his update. “A component of the campaign strategy would have been to do a statewide ballot measure, providing better name identification and media attention on pension reform, for the 2014 General Election. This ballot-measure-strategy is one that former Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado is currently trying to pursue. Consequently, I am making my official announcement: I am not running for governor of the state of California. Hopefully, this will stop the inclusion of my name in news reports of potential Republican candidates who don’t have a chance of beating Governor Jerry Brown.”
Moorlach first announced he was considering what he had called a Big Hairy Audacious Goal earlier this year.
“‘What are you doing next?’ This is a personal-management principal that was deeply ingrained into my psyche by my mother’s parent tape,” Moorlach wrote. “A parent tape is something that your parents say over and over again in order to drill something into you. -Eat over your plate.’ ‘Don’t eat in front of others.’ ‘If So-and-So jumps off of the bridge, does that mean that you have to?’ You get the drift. My mother, when she tried to get us to do chores and found us sitting around, would say, ‘Don’t just sit there, ask me what you can do next.’
“The consensus from my listening tour is that California is definitely a Blue State and will be for a long time,” Moorlach wrote. “As one of my dear Democratic friends politely asked, with this known fact, ‘why go on a suicide mission?’ Well, one would do it to get a fiscal message out. But, would the massive investment of time really make a difference? Fortunately, the public and the media are very conscious of the fiscal concerns that I’ve been expounding on for more than a dozen years. So I can count on that message being articulated without having to put an incredible strain on my family.
While Moorlach has finally announced what he will not do next, his “Update” did not say exactly what he will do next, which apparently means he hasn’t decided yet.
The options include running for another office or returning to private practice.
Supervisor Moorlach’s Orange County district includes the cities of Seal Beach, Los Alamitos, Cypress and Huntington Beach (including the annexed Sunset Beach community), as well as unincorporated communities such as Rossmoor. Moorlach’s website does not mention any of the unincorporated communities in his District 2.
Locally, Moorlach is known for his efforts to move Orange County’s unincorporated “islands” into their nearest incorporated city neighbors. To date, the county’s efforts to move Rossmoor into Los Alamitos have met aggressive resistance. As a matter of California law, any attempt by Los Alamitos to annex Rossmoor would have to face a vote by residents. To date, Los Alamitos has made no effort to annex the entire Rossmoor community. There has been discussion of annexing the so-called “fourth corner” of Los Alamitos Boulevard and Katella Avenue—Rossmoor’s only business district, which generates roughly a quarter million a year in sales tax revenues for the Rossmoor Community Services District.
Moorlach has supported the annexation of the business district, arguing that it is the county’s to give to Los Alamitos. Rossmoor officials argue that it would be illegal to annex Rossmoor piecemeal.
FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS
Steve Lowery of the OC WEEKLY recounted the week in “Diary of a Mad County.” If you want to reflect on the Civic Center a decade ago, then here was the stream of consciousness for Tuesday, June 3rd:
The Board of Supervisors and Orange County Social Services—the folks who put the heart in heartless—raise the hopes of the Very Good People at the La Habra Family Center, apparently because that makes dashing their hopes a lot more fun. The Family Center, a nonprofit providing 2,000 low-income families with medical and dental services, counseling and tutoring, lost out on a $225,000 grant because its grant request was four hours late. The center had what most people with warm blood believe is a good explanation: its grant writer, Cheryl Snowdon, had cancer spread to her cervical spine, leaving her incapacitated and unable to finish the 465-page proposal. Family Center staffers and Snowdon’s husband rushed to pick up the slack and did finish by the Feb. 13 deadline, albeit at 9 p.m., four hours after Social Services had closed. Because of that, Social Services said the Family Center would not be eligible for one of the 10 grants for which 14 centers applied. The agency’s Maritza Rodriguez-Farr, whose disdain for tardiness is outweighed only by her revulsion for human feeling, says, "What I know is that they didn’t make the deadline and others did." Eat that, cancer lady and poverty kids! Without the $225,000—and the $180,000 state grant tied to it—the Family Center will likely close in September. This morning, one of the center’s supporters tells the supes that without the center, "our youth will turn to gangs and violence." But threats don’t work with the board—unless you’re Grand Jury eye candy/District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. He threatened to cut 18 prosecutors and 17 investigators if he didn’t get a $5 million boost in his budget. The supes, announcing their 2003-04 budget last week, gave Tony a $4.4 million raise—that’s showing him who’s boss—and then announced they were cutting health care, probation and social services by $43 million. Rackauckas’ windfall was so big that the county could have, if it wanted to (it doesn’t), given all 14 agencies the $225,000 grants; could have given the misbegotten La Habra Family Center its money; and still spent less than a third ($1.35 million) of Rackauckas’ raise. Of course, if they took that out of Tony’s pot, it would leave only about a $3 million increase, barely enough to cover four-figure drink tabs, wrongful-termination settlements and wrongful-incarceration settlements, not to mention defending yourself—again—in front of the Grand Jury. Supervisor Chris Norby, whose staff attempted to get the Family Center its money, told me the week before there was little that could be done since the deadline was like a binding contract, that if the board were to allow the Family Center an exception they would leave themselves open to other excuses and the inevitable lawsuit. I don’t know. If somebody else wants to go to the trouble of dashing off a 465-page grant proposal while incapacitated by cancer, I say the county can handle the business. The supes disagree. County Counsel Benjamin de Mayo tells them a "deadline is a deadline" and that’s that. No money for the Family Center … Beyond dwindling revenue streams and state budget cuts, one of the reasons Orange County has to be so tight with its cash is that bankruptcy it went through years ago. Remember that one? The one created by County Treasurer Robert Citron and investment firm Merrill Lynch that cost the county $1.6 billion in losses, $873 million of which it still carries as debt? The one for which Citron went to jail, Merrill Lynch paid $437 million to resolve lawsuits and an additional $30 million to avoid criminal prosecution and the county cut $43 million from health care and social services? That one? So guess who’s OC’s newest broker-dealer? Did you say Merrill Lynch? At the same meeting where supervisors say they can’t risk easing deadlines for the La Habra Family Center, they vote to jump back into bed with the company that cost them more than a billion. County Treasurer John Moorlach says Merrill Lynch will save the county money. In a rare—lone?—moment of lucidity, Supervisor Jim "Bumpy" Silva says, "If we save $1 million a year by utilizing Merrill Lynch, in another 873 years we’ll be back even." Sweet line, though some observers claim Silva’s lips didn’t sync up to the words. Anyway, Norby says that if Merrill Lynch can do the best job, then the county needs to forget the past and move on. "Things do change," he says. "It’s a different world." Let’s see. Monday, media billionaires get what they want. Tuesday, brokerage billionaires get what they want. Tuesday, small nonprofit to alleviate the suffering of the poor takes it up the wazoo the same day House Majority Leader Tom DeLay says he will not consider restoring a tax credit for poor families, this after granting giant corporations every possible break. DeLay, in a bit of Maritza Rodriguez Farr-like reasoning, says, "They had their chance. There’s a lot of other things that are more important than that." At last, a man who speaks the truth.
Nathan Wright of the Dana Point Times covered the story of the week and the hometown hero in “Dana Point’s Sandra Hutchens is Orange County’s first female sheriff.”
“It’s a tall order for what I see as an extremely capable, strong and committed individual who is dedicated to a great job,” said Supervisor Pat Bates, who voted for Hutchens along with Janet Nguyen and John Moorlach.
The editorials and columns on the OC’s new sheriff just kept coming. The Long Beach Press-Telegram provided an editorial with a great headline, “Finally, a new sheriff – Integrity in Orange County benefits the entire region.”
After a long, miserable haul with former Sheriff Mike Carona, our neighbors in Orange County have a promising new leader in Sandra Hutchens. What a refreshing change.
Carona had set a new standard for loutishness, crookedness and cronyism, if you believe half of what’s said in evidence against him in his indictment by federal prosecutors. And the proven facts are bad enough: He gave guns and badges to campaign contributors; one of his assistants served time for lying to a grand jury and other misdeeds, and another, who got his job because of fat campaign gifts, had to resign because of a mess involving his son’s conviction on charges of sexual assault.
The criminal charges against Carona describe an energetic pursuit of cash, gifts and other illegal side benefits. As destructive as all that behavior may be, his operation of the department was worse. A grand jury investigation into the death of a jail inmate, John Derek Chamberlain, found he was beaten to death while guards nearby were busy watching TV or text-messaging friends.
But enough of past messes. Hutchens presents herself as a change agent, and she has the qualifications for the task. She retired as a division chief after 30 years with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, a police force twice the size of the Orange County department, and one with a reputation for principled leadership.
She’s the anti-Carona, said Supervisor John M.W. Moorlach, who cast one of the three votes that gave the job to Hutchens. And of course she offers far more than that.
It was a surprise to some that Hutchens beat out Santa Ana Police Chief Paul Walters, whose experience made him one of the top four or five candidates among the 48 recruited nationwide. Walters ran for election to the job in 1998, is respected in law enforcement and has leadership strengths where the Sheriff’s Department needs it.
An Orange County Register editorial suggested that politicking by a Republican women’s organization made a difference in the Board of Supervisor’s decision. But Moorlach, whose vote was decisive, had seen Hutchens as a top contender from the beginning.
Whatever the facts, Hutchens’ background seems nearly ideal. The appointment means she will serve out Carona’s term, through 2010, then could stand for election.
As Hutchens puts it, the department isn’t corrupt; the problems were with its leadership. That said, those problems were serious enough to make not just Orange County residents cringe, but others who want clean and dependable law enforcement throughout the region.
Hutchens’ stated goal is to make the Orange County Sheriff’s Department a model of integrity and effectiveness. She’s got that part exactly right.
As Mark P. Peterson, a political science professor at UC Irvine, told the L.A. Times, "If all the trouble the county had to endure because of Mike Carona produced this, it might be worth it."
Dana Parsons, columnist for the LA Times, was back with “Just one more hurdle for the new sheriff.” Over the past six-and-one-half years, rarely has a Board vote been so closely scrutinized and analyzed. And even more rare that the analysis itself garnered such inspection.
After nearly 30 years in a profession peopled largely by men, Sandra Hutchens has heard it all before. No woman climbs through the ranks of a sheriff’s department or police department without someone suggesting that she sure was lucky she was a woman or it never would have happened.
Yeah, all those lucky women in law enforcement.
Hutchens, who has solid credentials with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, was appointed this week to be Orange County’s next sheriff, but members of our chattering class felt compelled to diminish her accomplishments.
Oh, they’d be aghast to have it portrayed that way. We’re not saying that the lady isn’t qualified.
They’re just saying she got the job over Santa Ana Police Chief Paul Walters because she’s a woman.
In some schools of logic, apparently, those aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive observations.
Melding the two strands of thought would produce this union: We think you’re well qualified for the job, but if you weren’t a woman you wouldn’t have been appointed.
After Hutchens’ appointment Tuesday on a 3-2 vote by the Board of Supervisors, the Orange County Register referred to it as an "affirmative action hire."
Blogger Matt Cunningham, on his Red County site, called the appointment "gender-driven."
I normally wouldn’t draw attention to a blogger, except that Cunningham is not a flake or a johnny-come-lately. He’s a serious political observer in Orange County and probably has a good-sized audience. But in Hutchens’ case, he’s committed the age-old sin that is visited only upon the minority member in society who upsets a white male: The minority status made the difference.
He writes: "I think gender was ultimately the deciding factor — the tipping point — in Hutchens’ selection, and that anyone denying it played a role in her appointment is blind, dishonest or deceiving themselves."
Blogger, psychoanalyze thyself.
He’s not arguing that Hutchens isn’t qualified. He says she is, so I’ll take his word on that. But he is compelled to note that her appointment was gender-driven. Since there are only two genders available for sheriff, why make the point unless the bottom line is that she was so clearly inferior to Walters as a candidate that her selection is problematic?
If Walters had been chosen, it wouldn’t have been gender-driven. But it is for Hutchens.
And why does he (and the Register) conclude that?
Cunningham says the California Women’s Leadership Assn. lobbied for Hutchens. Perfectly fine, he writes, no problem with that.
But now comes the analysis behind the gender-driven conclusion: Supervisors Patricia Bates and Janet Nguyen voted for Hutchens. OK, that’s because they’re both women, right?
Not exactly. Although Bates co-founded the leadership association (and is therefore suspect, I guess), Cunningham specifically noted that "I don’t think Nguyen’s vote stemmed directly from the fact Janet is a woman, or that Hutchens is a woman."
OK, if Nguyen is taken out of the equation and Cunningham similarly noted that board Chairman John M.W. Moorlach wasn’t affected by the women’s group, the gender-driven logic is. . . ?
Cunningham writes: "Bates and Nguyen tend to be more consensus, go-with-the-flow oriented and believed both candidates to be qualified." He went on to say, "The smart money was they’d likely vote with Bill Campbell and Chris Norby — especially Nguyen, since Walters had the support of police chiefs and local electeds in her district."
But the women’s association lobbying effort after June 3 (when Hutchens and Walters were named co-finalists) was the "factor which changed the dynamic of the selection process. . . ." The association has worked hard for both women, he writes, leaving him with "no doubt" that it was the group’s lobbying that tilted Bates and Nguyen toward Hutchens.
To recap, the "smart money" had them originally going for Walters. But enter the heretofore rather innocuous California Women’s Leadership Assn. and suddenly the women went for the woman.
Neat and clean. It’s obvious, isn’t it?
Forget that Hutchens impressed lots of people, including Moorlach. Forget that neither Nguyen nor Bates cited her gender in supporting her.
Forget that Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca endorsed Hutchens a while back by saying, "I don’t think the issue is that she’s an outsider; it’s that she has vast experience in solving problems. And that’s really what’s needed in Orange County."
This is an issue to the Register, Cunningham and others, apparently, because they’re convinced Walters was the clear choice. That’s their opinion, but it doesn’t make it fact. Nor does it give their mind-reading of Nguyen and Bates any credibility.
Of the two candidates, I didn’t have a preference. The arguments for Walters were solid, and all five supervisors praised him. Nguyen and Bates said they had trouble deciding.
Why the outsider impulse to hang their decision on gender?
Why do I go on so?
Because of the inherent unfairness in impugning the Hutchens appointment.
Oh, that’s right, no one is impugning it. But that’s precisely what they’re doing, even if they don’t recognize it.
They’re impugning it because they set up a false construct that can’t be honestly determined. Is it possible Nguyen and Bates voted solely on gender? Of course it is. Can anyone prove it? No.
No one knows what influenced the supervisors, including Campbell and Norby. Perhaps their votes for Walters were gender-driven.
But because some don’t know for sure, they feel perfectly comfortable arguing that Hutchens’ appointment was gender-driven. And no matter how finely they try to parse their words, that amounts to demeaning her selection because it leads to one conclusion: If she weren’t a woman, she wouldn’t have been picked. In short, Lady, you didn’t get this appointment on merit.
And you wonder why it’s tough being a woman in a man’s professional world?
Even when you win, you don’t.
And the OC Register’s Frank Mickadeit kept mining the vein, this time with “Yes, being a woman helped. So?” With the benefit of hindsight, Mickadeit concluding predictions were about as accurate as one could be. Bill Hunt did run, but lost because it was a longshot campaign. Mickadeit’s “prognosticatory skills” are praise worthy. For insider fun, Harriett Wieder forwarded her e-mail to Mickadeit to me. It said, “Hey Guys, Chill out! What is such a big deal???” Then the underlined quotes in the piece below, followed with “This decision should not have to be a news item . . . , but I guess only in provincial OC it is . . . When does OC come out of its “bubble?” Then she signed it, if you can sign an e-mail, with “Harriett Wieder—former OC Supervisor and the FIRST FEMALE SUPV. in the history of OC in 1979!”
Having become utterly insufferable over the past few days over my Sandra Hutchens call, it was only yesterday morning that I finally was able to get my head through a standard door frame to pluck my roommates’ Times off the porch.
There I read that "some (uh, male) commentators say Sandra Hutchens got the sheriff’s appointment because she’s a woman, not because of ability."
Look, she got it because of her ability and because she offered the three supervisors who voted for her a management style they were more comfortable with. And, yes, as I wrote yesterday, I believe UCI Professor Judy Rosener when she identified it as a classic woman’s management style – even if Hutchens and the supervisors who voted for her don’t define it as such.
Chris Norby, who along with Bill Campbell voted for Paul Walters, left me a message saying his vote had nothing to do with gender. It was based on the fact that Walters came in with a "highly detailed" plan to clean up the jail. Hutchens’ appointment was helped a great deal by the influence of the California Women’s Leadership Association, he said. (Have I mentioned that I was the first to write about this group’s role? Just checking.) Which Norby doesn’t have a problem with, by the way. "More power to them," he said. "It is a political appointment."
Then Harriett Wieder, the first female supervisor in O.C. history, checked in. "IT IS NOT GENDER that gave us a female for sheriff," she wrote in an e-mail. "The issue was to clear the air in O.C. No taint of the ‘party bosses’ who have supported the unsavory characters they have put in office."
Well, Norby and Wieder, God love ’em, are missing my point – and proving it at the same time. This was not as straightforward as two women providing the key votes for a woman because she was a woman, and two men consciously voting for a man because he is a man. It is far more subtle.
Norby’s preference for a guy who came in with a "highly detailed" plan fixing the jail is classic male-think. Norby liked that. So apparently did Campbell. Hutchens’ plan was squishier – based more on feeling than thinking (see Psych 101, Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory) and was a classic female solution.
Clearing the air, as Harriett correctly puts it, was about going to an L.A. County candidate. But it was also about going, as she says, against the "party bosses" of the past – who were, ahem, men.
So, no, I don’t think the way Norby and Campbell voted was any more sexist than the way Pat Bates and Janet Nguyen did. I thank Norby for helping me prove my point.
(As for why Moorlach voted for Hutchens, remember: He didn’t even vote for Walters to make it to the finals. He was clearly uncomfortable with him for some time, and his vote was not part of the last-minute CWLA blitz for Hutchens.)
I like what the New Majority’s Dale Dykema told me tongue-in-cheek yesterday: "I am very disappointed that Bill Campbell and Chris Norby succumbed to the pressure of the ‘masculinists’ and voted for a man even though the other candidate was a better choice."
In other words, look who’s calling who sexist? For a gazillion years, this county has been run by male-dominated political organizations. As recently as three days before the vote, a certain former high-ranking law enforcement officer was overheard in a San Juan Capistrano restaurant assuring someone, "This county will never have a woman sheriff."
And people are whining that some women finally did something political? As Norby says, more power to them.
Almost as immediate as the praise for my prognosticatory skills on Hutchens was this reaction from political observers: "This means Bill Hunt is going to run for sheriff in 2010." Another prediction: He won’t.
Hunt likes Hutchens. Regardless of whether she brings him back into the department, I think he’s going to see what a good, honest job she’s doing, and that’s really all he ever wanted in a sheriff anyway. His candidacy is a longshot.
Same with Walters. Dude gave it everything he had – twice. And twice he was narrowly defeated in his quest to be sheriff. I don’t see him – or anybody else – mounting a credible campaign against Hutchens as long as she comes through on what she said she would. And look at her resume – why wouldn’t she?
Was there other news? Yes! Brianna Bailey of the Daily Pilot had the front-page headline article with “Drive here, fly there? – To alleviate passenger overload, county officials consider taking travelers from a packed JWA to other regional airports.”
Money has a funny way of changing people’s habits, says Orange County Board Chairman John Moorlach.
If officials were to lure passengers away from bustling John Wayne Airport to other regional airports with public transportation, money, time, and convenience will be the bait, Moorlach said.
“If I can convert time to money, people will say, ‘Wait a second, I’m willing to do this,’ ” Moorlach said.
An agreement that sets annual passenger limits at John Wayne at 10.3 million is set to expire in 2010, and a subsequent cap of 10.8 million passengers will end in 2015. Many county and city officials are looking toward public transportation as a way to divert travelers from John Wayne to airports like Palmdale and Ontario.
With rising jet fuel costs and airfares, people might respond favorably to cheaper ticket prices if they book flights from other regional airports, Moorlach said.
But whether passengers will really be willing to travel by rail or bus to more remote airports with fewer direct flights remains to be seen.
“We need to be open to anything,” Newport Beach City Manager Homer Bludau said. “It seems like there is an awakening to the fact that we’re going to need to move people to regional airports.”
Costa Mesa and Newport Beach are using funding from the Orange County Transportation Authority’s Go Local program for a joint study to examine ways the Metrolink commuter rail system could ease road and air traffic at John Wayne Airport.
The Go Local program, which began in 2006, provides funding for studies for cities to examine ways they can improve access to the Metrolink system.
The two cities are in the middle of completing a study to find public transportation alternatives for John Wayne Airport users, Bludau said.
“We want to take a look at John Wayne users to see where they’re coming from and the possibility of connecting to other regional airports,” Bludau said.
John Wayne could eventually serve as a staging area to link people by some sort of high-speed rail system to airports in Los Angeles and Riverside Counties, Bludau said. City officials hope to have the Orange County Transportation Authority study completed by the end of July, he said.
“The study will examine the feasibility of this and get the basic information of what is the percentage of users from South County and North County, and what makes sense in terms of moving people around to other airports,” Bludau said.
Nancy Alston, a member of the John Wayne Airport watchdog group AirFair, said she doesn’t know what kind of public transportation would be most likely to lure people away from the airport, but one thing is for sure — all options should be examined.
“There’s so many options,” Alston said. “If we got a really good dialogue going, maybe we could come to a really great solution.”
LA/Palmdale Regional Airport served about 12,000 passengers in 2007, according to its website. Los Angeles World Airports, which owns Palmdale, as well as Los Angles International Airport and airports in Ontario and Van Nuys, has expressed interest in shifting more flights there.
LA/Ontario International Airport served about 7 million passengers in 2007, according to its website. Business leaders in Ontario have expressed interest in attracting more traffic to the airport, but passengers complain of a lack of direct flights.
Christian Berthelsen of the LA Times provided his budget perspectives in “O.C. gets set for coming legal battles – Supervisors allocate funds for court disputes — including a lawsuit to limit deputies’ pensions.”
Orange County plans to set aside $2.75 million in the coming fiscal year to pay for legal battles, including its lawsuit to roll back sheriff’s deputies’ pensions — signaling the potential for a costly fight.
Officials declined to specify how much of the money was expected to go toward the pension case. Some will go toward defending a 2006 decision to slash medical benefits for retired county workers, who have sued to regain their coverage.
Supervisors provisionally approved the litigation funding during a budget hearing earlier this week. A final vote on the total budget is scheduled for June 24. The fiscal year begins July 1.
Board of Supervisors Chairman John Moorlach, who led the drive to sue over the pension deal, said Friday that he did not expect the case to turn into a protracted and expensive legal battle.
Still, he noted that the case has detoured from its originally expected course. The county pension board, which was named as the defendant, successfully petitioned to move the case into Los Angeles courts. The board has also asked the court to force the county to name additional defendants who would be directly affected by the outcome, Moorlach said.
Each additional legal procedure adds to the cost.
As of its last accounting at the end of November, the county had spent more than $500,000 on researching the pension case before the lawsuit was filed. Costs have mounted since then as court hearings on the case have begun, but the county has not produced any subsequent public accountings.
The board voted in January to file a lawsuit seeking to invalidate a portion of the pension benefits awarded to members of the Assn. of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs. The agreement, originally struck in 2001, allows deputies to retire as early as age 50 with a pension equal to 3% of their salary multiplied by their years of service. County officials estimate that this has resulted in average deputy pensions of $70,000 ar year, and has contributed to a $2.3-billion shortfall in the county’s pension system.
The county argues that the benefit is legally invalid because it was granted retroactively, making it a gift of public funds for work already performed.
The city of San Diego also sought to undo pension agreements with its public employee unions, to no avail. That effort cost the city $1 million in legal bills and an additional $1.5 million to cover attorney costs for defendants who prevailed.
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