MOORLACH UPDATE — CCW Blessing? — March 6, 2014

Yesterday’s front-page, top-of-the-fold headline in the OC Register was wrong! It read “Funds speed gun permits – Sheriff receives $1.5 million to process concealed-weapons applications.” The claim was repeated in the opening paragraph, with the embellishment “she doesn’t believe it will be a regular annual request.” Wow! The Board of Supervisors did not give the Sheriff $1.5 million, as she had room in her budget to handle the costs of addressing a backlog in CCW applications. How did this begin? And how did the OC Register spin the story in its correction?

When I was Chairman of the Board of Supervisors in 2008, I pleaded with Sheriff Hutchens behind the scenes to not overreact to what was being revealed in her predecessor’s Federal Court trial concerning former Sheriff Carona’s granting of CCW permits in return for campaign contributions. In public, I tried my best to explain that the Sheriff can do whatever she wants as an independently elected official and that the Board of Supervisors could only try to persuade her, but could not force her to implement policies. When the Peruta case (see MOORLACH UPDATE — ALS/CCW/CCP/AOT — March 5, 2014) clarified the “for good cause” requirement, I e-mailed the Sheriff’s Public Information Officer and informed him that I would be bringing it up at the next Board of Supervisors meeting. Shortly after my e-mail, the Sheriff publicly announced her new CCW application policy. At last week’s Board meeting, I began the discussion thanking the Sheriff for her proactive implementation of the Court’s ruling, which put her at the forefront of her colleagues around the state. I then inquired about the increase in applications and how it was being addressed. That prompted Supervisor Spitzer to request that the Sheriff return to the next Board meeting with a request for assistance. The next week, the Sheriff notified the Board at Tuesday’s meeting that she had the resources available within her budget for this year. We thanked her, again, for her proactive approach to this new development.

This brief exchange was the top news story for yesterday’s OC Register. And it was not accurate. The County informed the OC Register and the article below is its awkward correction. Instead of a simple notification of the error, an article was provided. And the OC Register decided that it should include snipes about what our motivations as Supervisors might have been, which I believe is also incorrect. We have a Sheriff who made severe budget cuts during the Great Recession. With a spike in activity for a subject matter that consumed a considerable amount of Board time in 2008, an offer was extended to review methods of assisting in managing the workload. A week later, the Board was told that the increase in workload could be managed without seeking funding from other sources. It’s that simple. Perhaps the story would not have been a story at all if the Sheriff would have shared that information the week prior when I originally inquired about the backlog. It would show more class for the OC Register to admit the major faux pas, instead of inferring that it had something to do with who might be running for what.

SUPERVISORS ‘BLESS’ GUN PERMITS FUNDS

With the sheriff at a meeting and the money already in her budget, the board approves more deputies and resources.

BY DAVID MONTERO and MIKE REICHER

The Orange County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve sheriff deputies and resources to help process a flood of new applications for concealed weapon permits, even though the board didn’t need to make the decision.

The new manpower will help speed up applications that have hit the Sheriff’s Department since Feb. 19, when Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said she would relax permit guidelines.

But the resources – 15 people at a cost the sheriff pegs at $1.5 million – could have been allocated by Hutchens at her discretion, according to county and sheriff officials. The money already was in the sheriff’s budget, part of an expected $3.5 million surplus the department expects for this fiscal year.

Still, a vote was held and Hutchens appeared before the supervisors at a public meeting. The sheriff is running for reelection and currently is unopposed.

“Technically, she didn’t need to go before the board, but she wanted to get their blessing,” county spokeswoman Jean Pasco said.

But it’s unclear if Hutchens asked to appear, or was summoned by the board.

Sheriff spokesman Jeffrey Hallock said Hutchens came to the meeting after Supervisor Todd Spitzer inquired about the status of the avalanche of concealed weapons permit applications.

Spitzer, who has considered running for district attorney, asked the county CEO to put the matter on Tuesday’s agenda. In his weekly newsletter, Spitzer took credit for proposing the additional staff.

Supervisor John ‍Moorlach, who is running for Congress, also enthusiastically supported the proposal. Supervisors Pat Bates and Janet Nguyen, who are running for state Senate, weren’t as vocal, but voted in favor.

Before taking the vote Tuesday, Chairman Shawn Nelson, who is running for re-election, said, “I’m not opposed to this. But understand, she already has what she needs and we don’t have to do any of this.”

Hallock also balked at the idea that Hutchens needed the board’s “blessing.”

“My thought is they approved it, or voted on it in public (to offer their) support, or on-the-record support, of the direction the sheriff was taking,” Hallock said. “I don’t know she was going for their blessing per se.”

CONTACT THE WRITER: 714-796-783 1 or dmontero@ocregister.com  

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