MOORLACH UPDATE — Federal Task Force — July 27, 2013

Below are the KNX 1070 Newsradio, with a link, and Newport Beach-Corona Del Mar Patch updates, respectively, on the current Federal and local task force story. The timing of today’s LOOK BACK below puts this recent topic in perspective, and may explain why I’ve bristled in annoyance. Rick Reiff of the Orange County Business Journal had a few interesting insights on my personal and ethical behavior and my emphasis on accountability. I have not been contacted by the FBI, the IRS, the U.S. Attorney’s office, or the County’s DA, but I welcome a visit from any one of them.

Federal Task Force Probing Alleged OC Corruption

A federal and local task force is investigating corruption in Orange County — one of several Southern California regions under scrutiny.

FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller tells the Voice of OC that an agreement was signed in April by her agency, the IRS, U.S. attorney’s office and the county district attorney’s office.

The task force was formed the same month that a county grand jury issued a report citing decades of county scandals. However, Eimiller says the force wasn’t created in response to that report.

Federal Task Force Probing Alleged OC Corruption

· Mike Landa Download

Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach told KNX 1070′s Mike Landa that he has nothing to hide.

“My life in an open book,” he said, adding that he is concerned about being implicated by the possible wrongdoing of others.

“If someone here in the county is doing something that is illegal and I’m sorta drawn in in some bizarre way because they want to do a task force investigating the county as a whole, that I’m not very appreciative of,” he said.

There also have been task force probes in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, resulting in last year’s bribery conviction of a former Upland mayor.

California regulators also are investigating 14 Orange County officials for potential conflicts of interest involving a public health plan.

FBI-Led Taskforce Investigating Alleged Public Corruption in OC

The feds are teaming up with the IRS, district attorney and U.S. attorney, but won’t say what level of government or which officials they’re investigating.

Posted by Adam Townsend (Editor)

The feds have formed a taskforce to investigate public corruption in Orange County, but who or what they’re scrutinizing remains a mystery.

Speculators have a lot of scandals to choose from, according to a grand jury.

“Orange County has gained a reputation (among some) for impropriety rivaling that of New York’s Tammany Hall or Chicago under Mayor Richard J. Daley,” reads an April report from the Orange County Grand Jury. “‘From 1974-77, an eye-popping 43 Orange County political figures were indicted, among them, two congressmen, three supervisors and the county assessor.’ Sadly, the conduct continues today at all levels of Orange County government.”

Federal Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Laura Eimiller confirmed the taskforce was formed in April, but said it had no connection to the release of the scathing grand jury report. The taskforce includes the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, the district attorney’s office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Eimiller called the formation of the task force an administrative move, a "formalization" of inter-agency relationships that already exist. She pointed out that the FBI has had a permanent political corruption division in Orange County for years.

"We have task forces addressing most of the crimes that are in our purview," she said in a Friday phone interview. "We’ve always relied a lot on expertise from other agencies."

Eimiller said the FBI never comments on ongoing investigations until the grand jury hands down an indictment. It remains unclear who or what the task force is currently investigating.

Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach said he wasn’t aware the taskforce existed.

“All I can tell you is I’ve been hearing rumors, and yesterday was the first time a reporter called me and said we have confirmation,” he said in a phone interview Friday.

Moorlach referred to an Orange County Register article he said “hinted” the taskforce would be scrutinizing alleged improprieties involving some supervisors and the board of CalOptima, the county’s health care plan that covers the poor.

“I think what the OC register article is hinting at — I think the district attorney can handle that.” Moorlach said. “I’m an open book. My campaign reports are all public — if they need to go to my house or check my office, I’m fine with that.”

According to the grand jury report, Supervisor Janet Nguyen, while sitting on the CalOptima board, voted “to expand the size of the CalOptima Board of Directors and significantly alter the balance of power in favor of medical service providers over patients. Only two months later, the hospital industry organized a $250-per-person campaign fundraising event ostensibly billed as a “Tribute’ to that supervisor.”

The report does not use Nguyen’s name, but she has criticized the report as incomplete and inaccurate. Other supervisors have also strongly criticized the 2012-13 jury — the April report was one of a number of reports this year criticizing local governments and officials.

Other alleged improprieties in the grand jury report include fudged performance reviews for department managers, cronyism, favoritism and sexual harassment.

The county has had some high profile political scandals of late.

Most notably, former Sheriff Mike Carona is currently serving prison time for witness tampering, during his corruption trial. Additionally, the county’s previous CEO stepped down amid criticism of his handling of employee sexual assault allegations against former public works manager Carlos Bustamante, who awaits trial on 16 counts of sexual assault.

The Voice of OC broke the story about the taskforce this week.

FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS

July 28

2003

Rick Reiff of the Orange County Business Journal provided the following commentary on the subject of the day in “Moorlach – John Moorlach as Orange County’s Next CEO?”

Why not?

Moorlach incurred the wrath of the county’s power structure back in 1994 by warning about county treasurer Bob Citron’s dangerous investment scheme. His eventual reward, besides being proven correct, was Citron’s office, which Moorlach has turned into a respected model of performance and stewardship.

With eight years as a county manager under his belt now, Moorlach knows the county government’s strengths and weaknesses, its heroes and connivers. Shades of the Citron era, Moorlach has become increasingly critical of bureaucrats, politicians and professional fixers who he believes are once again placing the county in financial jeopardy.

One of the raps on Moorlach is a political insider thing. He’s a boy scout – too willing to champion unpopular causes on principle, loathe to cut backroom deals, a stickler for public accountability—and when aroused, outspoken with a stinging wit. If only more politicians were so flawed.

The other rap on Moorlach is fairer: He’s a CPA who has only supervised a small department. He’s inexperienced at managing a sprawling enterprise such as the county, which has more than 17,000 employees and a $4.7 billion budget.

I suppose that’s what Supervisor Tom Wilson meant when the Los Angeles Times quoted him as saying, “I’m not quite sure what John is putting forth as his qualifications, but I’d be glad to look at his resume.”

Of course, Wilson didn’t seem to have the same concern three years ago when he joined with the other supervisors to put a probation officer into the CEO job. And you’d think that by now Wilson wouldn’t have to consult a resume to know about Moorlach. I’ll give Wilson the benefit of the doubt and assume he was just getting a dig in at a sometime adversary and that Wilson will, in the end, judge Moorlach fairly.

A fair judge will weigh Moorlach’s attributes, too, including the fact that in addition to being an accomplished and by all accounts incorruptible county treasurer, he has twice been elected overwhelmingly. That credibility with voters is a significant plus in a job that, unlike your typical city manager position, has always had a strong political dimension.

Surely the supervisors won’t hold it against Moorlach that he might be a little too good for the job?

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