MOORLACH UPDATE — Fountain Valley Patch — June 21, 2013

Another discussion at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting was the annual funding review of the Orange County Human Relations Commission (HRC). The HRC obtains funding from the County for contracted services that it successfully wins and one of those contracts was approved separately on Tuesday’s consent calendar. The HRC also has a nonprofit arm that has successfully raised donations to pursue its overall agenda. I made it quite clear to the Executive Director of the HRC shortly after I was first elected to this position that I would not eliminate his budget, like my predecessor had attempted to do every budget cycle, unless the pension costs grew to a level that it was forcing out other expenditures. Well, we’re well past forcing out certain expenditures, with pension costs rising, a recession that reduced the County’s workforce by 1,000 employees, and a state that continues to pick the County’s pockets. Consequently, I have voted consistent with my goal of a $100,000 per year phase-out of County funding. The Board only went half-way with a $50,000 reduction in this year’s budget. The Fountain Valley Patch covers the topic below.

Los Amigos Teen Takes a Stand Against Hate Crime

Kathy Tran, a graduating senior at Los Amigos lobbied the Orange County Board of Supervisors this week to fight for funding for a nonprofit that combats hate crime in Orange County.

Posted by Paige Austin (Editor)

A Los Amigos High School senior led the charge before the Orange County Board of Supervisors this week to advocate for a nonprofit that combats hate crimes.

Kathy Tran, a Los Amigos High School senior set to graduate Wednesday, shared her experience in working with the Orange County Human Relations Council in an effort to persuade county leaders to continue funding the nonprofit. In the end, Orange County supervisors Tuesday approved $252,000 in funding for the local nonprofit, $50,000 less than the group had requested.

The Orange County Human Relations Council in 2011 agreed to a five-year, $302,000 annual funding contract subject to annual review by the board. For the second year in a row, the supervisors kept the annual allocation at $50,000 less.

Tran told county leaders she got involved with the nonprofit when she was in seventh grade and that her work with the council led to her receive two exclusive scholarships.

The importance of the organization hit home for her when she led a Caesar Chavez day observance at her school in honor of the late labor leader and one of her classmates shouted out, "You’re Asian. What do you know about Cesar Chavez?"

Tran encouraged the supervisors to restore the $50,000 in cuts to the council.

"Your investment in me is an investment in the future," she said.

At Supervisor Janet Nguyen’s prodding, Tran said she was one of 10 seniors in Orange County to win a $7,500 Disney scholarship and one of a dozen local recipients of a Gates Millennium Scholarship because of her work with the council.

Supervisor Patricia Bates praised the organization’s work, but added, "We are constrained financially."

Supervisor John Moorlach recommended $202,000 for the organization this fiscal year so it can "wean" itself off public funding in favor of private donations.

"This is an organization that I’m really pleased with in how they’ve been able to self-fund," Moorlach said. "It’s an example of something we can get started and then it can go out on its own."

Moorlach said the council could be more independent and above politics if it did not receive any public funding.

"I want to continue to encourage their independence and wish them all the best," Moorlach said.

– City News Service

FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS

June 22

1998

The monthly magazine Pensions & Investments had a daily news service called P&I DAILY. It’s top story, “Today’s News,” covered a tumultuous time in the relationship between the County and its retirement system. The retirement system settled on a methodology to resolve the California State Supreme Court’s extremely vague ruling on what was known as the Ventura decision, which added a number of other items in eligible remuneration for pension benefit calculation purposes. The problem was that Chief Justice Ron George and his colleagues did not specify what those additional compensation components were, leaving pension systems to scurry for a resolution. At the time the County was not pleased with the interpretation established by the Orange County Employees’ Retirement System (OCERS). With hindsight, the interpretation was spot on. It took the other systems many more years of litigation to come to the same conclusion. When OCERS settled, it decided to accept the changes, but only retroactive for three years due to statute of limitation concerns. It also immediately self-funded the new liability with excess revenues, as a result of a rising equity market at the time, as opposed to amortizing it out over time. The other systems settled after the dot-com bust, further exasperating their funding statuses. Ironically, not one year of retroactivity was appreciated by County leadership and it caused a strain. In retrospect, it may have been a significant missed opportunity. Again, with the benefit of hindsight, it probably would have been much better for the County’s current fiscal picture if one of the proposed options was actually approved: the establishment of a defined contribution plan.

Orange County is reviewing the feasibility of either starting a defined contribution plan or joining the California Public Employees’ Retirement System. The review follows the $4.1 billion Orange County Employees’ Retirement System’s decision to pay additional retroactive benefits to retirees, said County Treasurer John M. W. Moorlach.

The Orange County Fire Authority and the Orange County Transit Authority also are investigating a withdrawal from the county pension fund to join CalPERS.

OCERS officials do not know how much money will be removed from the fund if the county and the two authorities withdraw, but County Supervisor William G. Steiner estimated the county has $2 billion to $3 billion invested in the retirement system.

All three participants cit the cost of paying retirees three years of additional benefits. The system is scheduled to begin paying the added benefits by July 1, based on its interpretation of a state supreme court opinion.

The Orange County system covers the employees of 15 participating employers.

2008

The Sunday Commentary section of the OC Register provided two “Rebuttals: Why we voted for Hutchens.” The first was by Supervisor Janet Nguyen, “Why must a qualified woman be labeled an affirmative-action choice?,” provided in full below. The second was by Supervisor Pat Bates and was titled “Contract-policing background important to my 5th District constituents.”

A clear message gleaned from Steven Greenhut’s column, "An affirmative-action sheriff" [Commentary, June 15], regarding the appointment of Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens is that if a qualified female candidate is selected over a qualified male candidate, it must be affirmative action.

Greenhut did not at any point in his column address Sheriff Hutchens’ specific work history and the many projects she was involved in that made her the logical choice to "reform a dysfunctional department." Despite a plethora of reasons given by three county supervisors supporting Hutchens, none of those reasons was discussed in the column. There was no explanation given as to what Chief Paul Walters has done that made him clearly superior to Hutchens.

Following a nationwide search that produced 48 candidates, Hutchens was selected by a neutral recruiter as one of nine finalists, who were then interviewed by the Board of Supervisors, who then chose Hutchens as one of two finalists. After that selection process, Sandra Hutchens’ qualifications were beyond doubt.

Regarding those qualifications: She had helped to reform a county sheriff’s department on multiple occasions. While with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, then-Chief Hutchens addressed deputy corruption in the Narcotics Division, crowding in the Sybil Brand Women’s Jail, and the merger of the marshal’s department into the sheriff’s department. Hutchens was also responsible for the creation of and led the LA County Office of Homeland Security. Thus, she has intimate knowledge with respect to regional crisis management and interagency collaboration.

In addition, Hutchens oversaw the police service of dozens of contract cities in LA County. Hutchens’ work at the county level made her the choice to lead the reform effort within the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

Labeling Chairman John Moorlach‘s reasons in voting for Hutchens as "bland rationale," Greenhut conveniently skirted the entire issue of qualifications. But Chairman Moorlach is at least given the privilege of having his decision interpreted as being taken for policy reasons. Supervisor Bates and I, being women, are allowed no policy rationales and, instead, are accused of behaving like raving feminists. To refer to Hutchens’ appointment as a "Sister Act" is to imply that qualifications do not matter and that Supervisor Bates and I will vote for anyone just because she is a woman.

It bears repeating that Sheriff Hutchens’ selection does not diminish in any way the excellent record of Chief Walters brought with him. It was a difficult choice between two very qualified candidates.

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