MOORLACH UPDATE — Walter D. Ehlers Day — May 7, 2014

The Voice of OC provides its take on the OC Animal Care discussion in the first piece below (see MOORLACH UPDATE OC Animal Care May 6, 2014).

The OC Register provides the news that a former Assistant CEO to Tom Mauk has filed a lawsuit against the County. See MOORLACH UPDATE Covered California October 2, 2013 for the most recent UPDATE on this topic.

BONUS: The city of Buena Park is celebrating Walter D. Ehlers Day today with a ceremony at noon at the senior center inside the community center at 8150 Knott Avenue. Photos and medals will be displayed. Staff Sargent Ehlers passed away on February 20th of this year. I knew Walt Ehlers, a Medal of Honor recipient, most of my life and I attended his funeral service at Riverside National Cemetery (which I mentioned in MOORLACH UPDATE Youre Being Political April 9, 2014). Walt, a Buena Park resident, was a very special man. Here is his Medal of Honor citation, which is memorialized on a plaque at the Civic Center, directly below the north side of my office, next to the Hall of Administration:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 910 June 1944, near Goville, France. S/Sgt. Ehlers, always acting as the spearhead of the attack, repeatedly led his men against heavily defended enemy strong points exposing himself to deadly hostile fire whenever the situation required heroic and courageous leadership. Without waiting for an order, S/Sgt. Ehlers, far ahead of his men, led his squad against a strongly defended enemy strong point, personally killing 4 of an enemy patrol who attacked him en route. Then crawling forward under withering machinegun fire, he pounced upon the guncrew and put it out of action. Turning his attention to 2 mortars protected by the crossfire of 2 machineguns, S/Sgt. Ehlers led his men through this hail of bullets to kill or put to flight the enemy of the mortar section, killing 3 men himself. After mopping up the mortar positions, he again advanced on a machinegun, his progress effectively covered by his squad. When he was almost on top of the gun he leaped to his feet and, although greatly outnumbered, he knocked out the position single-handed. The next day, having advanced deep into enemy territory, the platoon of which S/Sgt. Ehlers was a member, finding itself in an untenable position as the enemy brought increased mortar, machinegun, and small arms fire to bear on it, was ordered to withdraw. S/Sgt. Ehlers, after his squad had covered the withdrawal of the remainder of the platoon, stood up and by continuous fire at the semicircle of enemy placements, diverted the bulk of the heavy hostile fire on himself, thus permitting the members of his own squad to withdraw. At this point, though wounded himself, he carried his wounded automatic rifleman to safety and then returned fearlessly over the shell-swept field to retrieve the automatic rifle which he was unable to carry previously. After having his wound treated, he refused to be evacuated, and returned to lead his squad. The intrepid leadership, indomitable courage, and fearless aggressiveness displayed by S/Sgt. Ehlers in the face of overwhelming enemy forces serve as an inspiration to others.

OC Animal Services Likely To Get Regional Strategy

By NICK GERDA

Orange County might be lurching toward a more regional system of animal shelters and education programs.

In response to significant potential cuts to animal services, a majority of county supervisors Tuesday balked at further taxpayer subsidies, but supported fee increases to cover most of a $626,000 funding gap.

I havent received one complaint about current fees being too high, said Chairman Shawn Nelson. Were charging people for what it costs to use the system, and nobodys complaining.

Supervisor Moorlach also supported the fee increase, as opposed to drawing from taxpayer funds or making cuts.

Having a pet is a choice, and so I think if you want to own a pet then there should be some commensurate expenses that go with that opportunity, said Moorlach.

The debate, meanwhile, was broadened to what exactly the countys role should be, with a majority of supervisors agreeing they need to be stronger regional leaders on the issue.

Currently, half of Orange Countys 34 cities pay the county to provide animal control and shelter services for their jurisdictions. The rest of the cities, several of which are in South County, handle services on their own.

Supervisors argued the system could be made more efficient if they took a stronger leadership role.

The chief advocate of that approach was Nelson, who considers animal control to be a regional issue.

Lets work on a model to fund and run a regional system, bring in other [cities] if we canhave a vision, build a proper new facility for the long – several decades – term, said Nelson.

While the county currently plans to build one big shelter in Irvine, the discussion Tuesday seemed to indicate movement toward several smaller regional shelters.

If supervisors had moved forward with cuts, the countys animal shelter would be closed on Mondays, animal intake would end at 6 p.m. instead of 9 p.m., and a public education officer would be laid off, among other reductions.

Instead, supervisors directed staff to come back with a plan for raising fees and exploring the possibility of closing the shelter for one day per week.

Staff were also told to look at automatic fee increases tied to cost of living; ways the county can build a new animal shelter; bring in new contract cities, and guarantee cities stay in for the long haul.

The supervisors ultimately voted 3-1 for that approach, with Supervisor Janet Nguyen opposing and Vice Chair Pat Bates abstaining.

I will not support a fee increase, said Nguyen, adding that her constituents are already burdened with costs.

Both Nguyen and Bates who are running for state Senate this year preferred using taxpayer money from the county general fund to cover the $626,000 funding gap as opposed to voting to increase fees.

The decision to not make cuts followed back-to-back pleas from 11 animal activists, shelter volunteers and members of the public.

Speakers pointed to the hundreds of volunteers who care for the animals as evidence proposed cuts to community outreach workers were a mistake.

Literally thousands of kittens over the past seven years have been available for adoption, have not been euthanized, because of this program, said Celesta Peterson, a longtime volunteer at the shelter.

More than 400 volunteers donated a total of over 100,000 hours of their time last year to helping at the animal shelter, added another volunteer, Pat Highfill.

The volunteers visit libraries to teach the importance of spaying and neutering pets and placing microchips on them, she added, as well as talk about the importance of vaccinations and the correct way to approach dogs.

Doing so, Highfill said, cuts down on the number of possible bite [incidents] in the county.

Others pointed to the intangible benefits for investing in animal services.

Our animals – they make such a difference in our lives. They are tremendous givers of life to all of us, said Trabuco Canyon resident Toni Sparks. Every time we play with a kitten, we are bringing joy into our hearts.

One speaker called out Nguyen for apparently not paying attention to public comments.

Im very disappointed in Supervisor Nguyen [who] has had her head down while speakers were addressing the board, said Laguna Beach resident Judie Mancuso. We hope that you take this very, very seriously.

Advocates also called on supervisors to implement what they considered forward-thinking laws in Riverside County regarding spaying, neutering and microchip requirements.

Moorlach later said such examples are helpful as he and his colleagues try to forge a path forward.

Amid the sometimes-heated debate, advocates and supervisors alike credited the countys animal services director, Ryan Drabek, with dramatically improving public satisfaction with his agency, as well as reducing the shelter population through adoption and outreach efforts.

Drabek and others emphasized the importance of ramping up programs for spaying and neutering pets, as well as identification chips, as a way to avoid a need for pets to end up at the shelter in the first place.

You want to prevent them from ever coming into the shelter if you care about cost, said Mancuso.

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

Ex-deputy CEO files suit against county

Alisa Drakodaidis says she was fired for being a whistleblower.

BY MARTIN WISCKOL

Former Orange County government executive Alisa Drakodaidis filed suit against the county Monday, alleging she was fired in 2013 for being a whistleblower and for taking a health-related leave of absence.

The Orange County Superior Court suit also alleges gender-based pay discrimination and seeks an unspecified amount in back pay and compensatory damages.

Drakodaidis was among supervisors of former Public Works Executive Manager Carlos Bustamante, who is facing 12 felony counts of sexual harassment in his county office. Drakodaidis is one of three supervisors who were fired or resigned after the allegations against Bustamante became public.

Bustamante has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

A similar claim filed by Drakodaidis was rejected by the county last year, enabling her to file suit.

A Register investigation was unable to verify major aspects of the role she says she played as a whistleblower, including her assertion that she took allegations against Bustamante to county Supervisor John Moorlach long before the problem became public.

Drakodaidis, deputy CEO at the time of her firing, was an at-will employee and, as such, could be terminated without cause. However, she could not be legally fired for whistleblowing.

County spokeswoman Jean Pasco declined to comment, citing the ongoing lawsuit.

Bustamantes case looms particularly large in the suit because hes accused of groping and exposing himself to women over an eight-year period. That has raised questions of why Bustamantes superiors didnt take action before September 2011, when he was placed on administrative leave.

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