The first two articles below deal with the current OC Board of Supervisors wanting to dismantle the Office of Independent Review (OIR). The first piece is from the OC Register, which interviewed me but only used one quote, and Voice of OC is the second piece.
For a little history on the OIR, see MOORLACH UPDATE — Joy of Competition — August 8, 2013 August 8, 2013August 8, 2013 John Moorlach, MOORLACH UPDATE — Bridge Bash — August 16, 2013 August 16, 2013August 16, 2013 John Moorlach, MOORLACH UPDATE — Happy Thanksgiving! — November 27, 2013 November 27, 2013November 27, 2013 John Moorlach, MOORLACH UPDATE — OIR/Retroactive Anniversary — July 20, 2012 July 20, 2012March 8, 2013 John Moorlach, MOORLACH UPDATE — Voice of OC — June 16, 2012 June 16, 2012March 7, 2013 John Moorlach, and MOORLACH UPDATE — Voice of OC — August 26, 2011 August 26, 2011March 8, 2013 John Moorlach.
The OIR has been a target for some time by either one of my colleagues or by the deputy sheriffs union. I believe that the cost of the OIR has been paid for in multiples by a reduction in lawsuits arising out of the County’s jails. There were more than 30 lawsuits when I was sworn in as a Supervisor in 2006. Stephen J. Connolly has done a tremendous job and has worked very well with Sheriff Hutchens. By contrast, Los Angeles County Sheriff Baca resigned in disgrace because he did not take addressing the culture in his jails seriously.
The third piece is an opinion in the Voice of OC on an initiative that I pushed while a Supervisor, but because I was only one vote, could not consummate. Also see MOORLACH UPDATE — Homeless Shelter at Depot — November 21, 2014 November 21, 2014 John Moorlach and MOORLACH UPDATE — Santa Ana Homeless Shelter — August 21, 2014 August 21, 2014 John Moorlach.
The fourth piece is from Asbarez and highlights the fun opportunity I had today at lunch to honor Armen and Taleene Karamardian, the son and daughter of Gary and Zov of Zov’s Bistro fame.
The fifth and final piece is on SB 593 and is found in Sonoma County’s Bohemian. The bill wanted the state to do the work that local cities and municipalities should do, even though their transient occupancy tax (also known as a bed tax) was rising.
O.C. supervisors threaten to stop funding Orange County Sheriff’s independent investigator
By MEGHANN M. CUNIFF / STAFF WRITER
An independent investigator will no longer review complaints about Orange County’s biggest law enforcement agency under a tentative vote by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
The unanimous straw vote to eliminate $450,000 in annual funding for the Office of Independent Review isn’t final. But it’s meant to give budget writers direction as they prepare for the final hearing June 23. And supervisors made clear they don’t support the office as it exists, criticizing its work as repetitive and toothless.
Chairman Todd Spitzer pointed to the revelation that the Sheriff’s Department has for years secretly overseen jailhouse informants and the recent news that a sheriff’s deputy is refusing to testify in criminal cases involving the Mexican Mafia, which is forcing prosecutors to drop charges and consider generous plea deals.
Spitzer said he feels Stephen Connolly, executive director of the office, is too close with Sheriff Sandra Hutchens. So unless the supervisors change their minds, Connolly – the office’s only full-time employee – will be out of a job after June 30.
“The Orange County Board of Supervisors needs somebody who’s bringing these issues to our attention in real time,” Spitzer said. “Our duty is to protect this county, and every day I wake up, we’ve got more and more exposure.”
Hutchens said she’s “disappointed and surprised” by the vote. She said she worries that closing the Office of Independent Review will eliminate a layer of oversight that helps her decide key policy and disciplinary issues while assuring citizens their issues aren’t being ignored.
“This takes away a piece of transparency that I think is important,” Hutchens told the Register. “I hope that we don’t continue to go down this road.”
But Supervisor Shawn Nelson, who has long criticized Connolly’s work, said Tuesday that the 7-year-old office brings nothing useful to the county.
“It’s always sort of a stenographer’s version of what happened a year ago, six months ago, and it’s standard reporting of everything I knew,” Nelson said. “It never got off to a good start.”
Connolly told the Register he feels he’s accomplished “a lot of positive things.” A report presented to supervisors in March said Connolly handled 161 citizen complaints and participated in 123 internal affairs investigations in 2014. He has no power to discipline, but he can recommend actions to Hutchens based on his investigations.
“I was disappointed by the vote today, but I respect the board’s decision if it wants to go in another direction,” Connolly said.
Spitzer asked county staff to review law enforcement oversight models in other counties and said he wants to revamp law enforcement oversight in Orange County
“I don’t want people to think for a second that by us defunding it today, we’re somehow not committed to it,” Spitzer said. “In order to get a model that actually provides oversight, we have to eliminate and start over. There wasn’t a way to fix it. It was clear we had the wrong person and the wrong model in place.”
But he didn’t offer details Tuesday about how supervisors will do that, and he told the Register the Office of Independent Review could be gone for good.
That bothers state Sen. John Moorlach, who was supervisor when the board created the office after a series of high-profile scandals at the jail, including the beating death of John Chamberlain by fellow inmates in 2007.
“It’s a cheap insurance policy to keep our overall costs down and the quality of law enforcement in Orange County up,” Moorlach said. “In an era where we’re dealing with Ferguson, Missouri, I think the OIR is crucial.”
Tom Dominguez, president of the Orange County Association of Deputy Sheriffs, welcomes the change.
“I think what they have effectively done is put full accountability back onto the sheriff,” Dominguez said. “She’s ultimately responsible for the department.”
Contact the writer: mcuniff or 949-492-5122. Twitter: @meghanncuniff
OC Supervisors to De-Fund Office That Reviews Sheriff’s Department Investigations
By Nick Gerda
Orange County supervisors tentatively decided Tuesday to eliminate a small office charged with monitoring use-of-force investigations and complaints at the county sheriff’s department.
During an all-day budget hearing, the county’s top elected officials took a unanimous “straw vote” to completely de-fund the Office of Independent Review. That includes its director, Steve Connolly, and the agency’s outside contractors, whose work for the county would end on June 30.
“Right now as I sit here as a member of the Board of Supervisors, I feel I’m so far in the dark about law enforcement in this county,” said supervisors’ Chairman Todd Spitzer.
Alleged perjury by a sheriff’s deputy in the Seal Beach Scott Evans Dekraai mass shooting case has been covered extensively in the media for months, he added, but supervisors didn’t receive any insight from Connolly about it until Friday.
“I do not any longer think [the office] is useful or working properly,” Spitzer said.
The de-funding is slated to be officially approved when the final budget comes back for adoption June 23.
It’s unclear how, if at all, the supervisors plan to replace the office or find another way to review county law enforcement agencies for serious problems like the “misconduct” in use of secret jailhouse informants by the Sheriff’s and District Attorney’s offices that led to three major convictions being overturned.
Connolly, who has headed the Office of Independent Review since its formation in 2008, said he was disappointed by the move.
“I was disappointed by the vote today, but it’s obviously the board’s prerogative to take a different approach,” he told Voice of OC.
“There are strengths and limitations in any model of oversight; I’m proud of what the OIR model accomplished in Orange County.”
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the deputy sheriffs’ union said they aren’t disappointed to see the OIR office go, citing what they said were multiple levels of existing oversight, including the District Attorney’s office, the state Attorney General, the U.S. Department of Justice, attorneys for plaintiffs in cases and Sheriff Sandra Hutchens.
"She’s the sheriff, and I think the action they (supervisors) took transfers the responsibility for how the department operates in that area strongly to her shoulders" where it belongs, said Tom Dominguez, president of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs.
"I don’t see the amount of money that they spend on an OIR and a replacement program really making an impact on how the law enforcement services are delivered to the taxpayers."
The OIR office was set up by county supervisors in 2008, following the brutal jail beating death of John Chamberlain, and was tasked with providing an independent set of eyes for internal investigations, with its findings kept confidential.
Its duties include reviewing the Sheriffs Department’s internal investigations of in-custody deaths, as well as its handling of internal and citizen complaints against deputies and other department employees. With just one employee, Connolly, and a $440,000 budget this year, OIR is one of the county’s smallest agencies, if not the smallest.
But over the years, the office struggled at times to meet the expectations of supervisors. It’s role has been confused with a civilian review commission for the Sheriff’s Department, with supervisors often wanting Connelly to have a more public presence. They’ve also often commented that Connelly should issue more reports like his counterpart in Los Angeles County.
The result has been confusion over what Connelly should be doing and threats from supervisors that they would defund his office.
In past years, the office received public support from Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, who said it’s worth the cost because it makes her department more transparent and fosters trust with the community that internal investigations are being reviewed.
When his funding was threatened in past years, including by Supervisor Shawn Nelson, Connolly’s biggest supporters were Supervisors Bill Campbell and John Moorlach, both of whom have since left the board.
On Tuesday, Spitzer tried to leave an opening for Connolly to stay with the county, suggesting that he write a “white paper” that outlines how his work should change and “go out and do the work that this board wants to see.”
But Nelson shot down the idea.
“My message is: you should be looking for a job, because this place isn’t for you,” Nelson said of Connolly.
Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, meanwhile, said if any new review office is created, it should look at all aspects of county law enforcement, such as the Sheriff, District Attorney, probation office and Public Defender.
Bartlett has joined Spitzer in recent months in challenging District Attorney Tony Rackauckas on certain issues, such as his local program for collecting DNA evidence from people charged with misdemeanors.
Tuesday’s discussion came amid a marathon hearing in which supervisors settled on changes to the county’s proposed $5.8 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
In a series of straw votes, supervisors largely adopted staff’s recommendations for the budget.
But some of the decisions didn’t go down without a fight.
Among the highlights, Nelson and Spitzer clashed over funding for a new policy for board members who want to participate in or sponsor special events.
A proposed $200,000 annually for each board office for events, as well as the hiring of a full-time events coordinator at up to $221,000 per year, irked Nelson and Supervisor Michelle Steel, who voted against it in a straw vote.
Nelson was particularly irritated when Spitzer suggested the $200,000 event funding only go to the three supervisors who support it.
“If you want to individualize this and make this a slush fund issue, by all means do so,” Nelson said, calling the attempt “shameful.”
“Why would I approve $1 million for districts that don’t want it?” Spitzer asked, before backing down after Nelson argued it would be unfair.
Supervisors also weren’t pleased when a representative of the American Civil Liberties Union asked them to devote more funding to building permanent housing for homeless people with support services.
ACLU policy analyst Eve Garrow said plans for a year-round shelter and service center are an important step in addressing homelessness, but there’s a significant shortage of supportive housing for people to go to next.
“Unfortunately the model won’t work as planned in Orange County because sufficient affordable housing does not exist” to refer people to, Garrow told supervisors.
Spitzer shot back that the county is about to pay the ACLU $4 million in court-ordered legal fees after losing a gang injunction lawsuit, and asked Garrow to tell her counterparts they can send half of it back to the county to fund permanent housing.
“Anyone with an extra hundred million bucks sittin’ around” can solve the homeless housing issue, Nelson said.
You can contact Nick Gerda at ngerda, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.
Santana: Meet OC’s Biggest NIMBY on Homelessness; County Supervisors
By Norberto Santana Jr.
While Orange County Supervisors keep sticking out their collective chests and challenging cities across OC to set up homeless shelters, they continue to ignore the age-old adage that charity begins at home.
So does leadership.
Note that Orange County is the largest metro area in America without any sort of full-time, permanent shelter.
Then consider the vast, abandoned Orange County Transportation Authority bus terminal that sits right across the street from the human sea of homelessness, hopelessness and despair that has sprung up around the civic center grounds over the past decade.
Orange County Supervisors’ Chairman Todd Spitzer called the situation “shameful” when he was sworn into office in 2012 during a moving speech at the old county courthouse that was supposed to get everyone moving.
"What are we doing to help these people get back on their feet?" Spitzer said to applause. "We really need to solve this problem."
Except, Spitzer admits that after that speech, he’s never done much of substance on the homeless issue.
Instead, his public focus has been drunk driving summits, victims’ memorials, violent video game conferences…
All initiatives that have value for a future Spitzer for DA campaign.
But zero value for the homeless, who sit camped out literally on the front steps of the Hall of Administration.
I have personally witnessed over the last decade, beginning as a county government reporter for the Orange County Register in 2004, how Orange County supervisors allowed the county civic center to turn into OC’s Skid Row through inaction.
I’m beginning to wonder whether this is just a reflection of how modern day Republicans view government and it’s capacity.
County supervisors seem OK having taxpayers step across a sea of misery to go pay their taxes. Almost an advertisement for how little government can do.
In ironically poetic fashion, that human throng is on display right next to the fading plagues supposedly honoring the county’s war heroes…another constituency our board consistently fails while making sure to wear American flags as ties and pins.
And just to add richness to the irony, many of the homeless are themselves veterans.
I have written too many times as a reporter about the burgeoning favela that has become our civic center. And year after year, it’s amazing to watch $6 billion worth of bureaucracts basically fold their hands, scratch their collective heads and come up with nothing.
In fact, our Board of Supervisors is amazing in their ability to do nothing, even when they seemingly vote to do something.
I still recall last fall, when then Supervisors Chairman Shawn Nelson declared to everyone present that a public vote of substance was being taken to make the nearby vacant bus shelter a homeless center.
It came after nearby neighbors in Santa Ana told supervisors they had zero trust in government leaders to site a homeless shelter in their neighborhood and be mindful of community impacts.
Supervisors attacked the neighbors as the ultimate NIMBYs; they attacked Santa Ana leaders — if you’ll forgive the metaphor — for throwing them under the bus when neighbors got angry, essentially backing up from a site they themselves had selected under state legislation that is supposed to fast track shelters.
In a bit of fury and rage, supervisors like Janet Nguyen and Nelson took issue with Santa Ana city leaders like Vince Sarmiento for criticizing them on lack of outreach.
Then they said they were done waiting for Santa Ana.
Nelson noted then-Supervisor John Moorlach’s efforts on the shelter, with whom I’ve had numerous private discussions, challenging him on how elected officials could allow people to sleep on pavement while an abandoned bus shelter is yards away.
“This is not to contemplate putting this at the bus terminal,” Nelson declared. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s where it’s going. I hope we get the support for doing that. That’s for another day.”
When does that day arrive?
It seems after that vote more than six months ago, there has been zero follow through.
Instead, Nelson and the rest of the board keep focusing on where to put a shelter — elsewhere.
First, it was Fullerton. Now, it’s Anaheim.
Both those cities are taking the lead on this issue now, putting up significant funds to get a process going.
And yet the county Board of Supervisors sits – again forgive the metaphor – in the back of the bus, doing nothing.
Even worse is the farce that one shelter will solve Orange County’s problem.
If you talk to those truly serving the homeless, such as Catholic Worker activists like Massimo Marini and Dwight Smith, they will tell you that the real need is for an efficient, interconnected regional system that can take the chronically homeless and offer them affordable housing solutions.
Who wants to live in a shelter?
The reality is, we need a series of triage centers.
Places that can quickly identify a person with mental issues, and get them help. Identify a person on hard luck, and turn them around. Allow a person who’s fallen through the cracks to just sleep soundly, get a shower and get a fresh start. Identify a hardened criminal, and keep watch.
The abandoned bus shelter across the street from the board of supervisors has all those abilities and should be studied.
Supervisors should seriously considering redirecting any newfound monies as part of the annual budget process to start the process on their front steps.
A small investment could take that human throng on the civic center steps, give them a place to sleep, store their things and even be assessed by the army of bureaucrats that are in nearby offices at the Social Services and Health Care agencies.
Sheriff’s deputies who are now housed in a glass booth at the Hall of Administration could easily be headquartered at the bus shelter, allowing any decent person to get some sleep in a safe environment.
And when they wake up, the county should be helping them to get into real housing, not just a shelter.
Supervisors themselves have a homeless problem at the civic center. They shouldn’t try to just export it to Fullerton or Anaheim.
Supervisors have said they will do outreach on the Anaheim project, as they should, to see whether it’s a good fit for that area.
Yet the reality is there are homeless residents all over our county.
Each supervisorial district – including the First District that includes the civic center – should have their own centers where people can access assistance.
County supervisors are incredibly lucky that the Civic Roundtable (a city council of sorts for the homeless living at the civic center) hasn’t yet truly figured out how civic action really works.
Instead of “occupying” the outdoor civic center grounds, they should become regular attendees of the supervisors’ meetings every week, which are open to the public.
The day that lobbyists have to share a seat next to a throng of homeless residents all day on Tuesdays, that’s the day the bus shelter becomes an immediate reality.
To his credit, Moorlach kept quietly trying to push for the bus shelter while he was at the board of supervisors.
Yet he never got the job done.
He was too reasonable, too patient, and too deferential to his city and county colleagues.
And those homeless residents at the Civic Center are still sleeping outside.
The board of supervisors should ask themselves a hard question: Would the God they pray to at the start of each session leave these folks outside?
Would they not be the first priority?
Zov’s to Receive California’s ‘Small Business of the Year’ Award
Zov (far rigfht) her family and one of her locations (left)
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.—The State of California boasts some 3.3 million small businesses but only 80 of them including one from OC will be recognized as “Small Business of the Year” at a ceremony to be held on Wednesday, June 10 in the State Capitol. Zov’s, which operates restaurants in Tustin, Newport Beach, Irvine, Anaheim and 2 at John Wayne Airport, is being hailed for its longtime commitment to excellence in the dining arena and actively serving the communities in which it boasts locations.
State Senator John Moorlach of the 37th District informed the company’s president and CEO Armen Karamardian of the honor, which coincides with 2015 California Small Business Day.
“Wow. This is truly an unexpected and much appreciated honor,” said Karamardian, whose mother, Zov, started the business in 1987 and was one of the county’s pioneers of fine dining and a nationally recognized chef/restaurateur.
“As many Orange Countians know, we are a family business and we work hard to put our seal on every project we launch and every meal that finds its way out of our kitchens. We are humbled and excited to accept this honor in our State’s Capitol,” added Karamardian.
In addition to her critically acclaimed restaurants, Zov authored two best-selling, hard-cover cookbooks, “Simply Zov” and “Zov: Recipes and Memories From the Heart,” each of which have sold 50,000+ copies. She credits her mentor and dear friend, Julia Child, with guiding her hand in completing these projects.
Her passion for the culinary arts extends to hosting cooking classes at the restaurants with guest chefs like Emeril Lagasse, Carla Hall, Michael Symon, Todd English and Anne Burrell. She has been honored by the James Beard Foundation and the International Association of Culinary Professionals, among countless others. She is also a frequent guest on television programs of the Food Network, CNN and others.
Airbnb Bill Shelved
Bill seeking to regulate home-rentals put on hold
Now, don’t be sad. Two out of three ain’t bad.
Freshman State Sen. Mike McGuire’s office sent us a trio of emails late last week with updates on bills he introduced. The man has definitely taken on some big-ticket issues of statewide concern in his short time in Sacramento—omnibus bills covering medical cannabis, short-term vacation rentals, offshore drilling—but that middle one didn’t make it out of the Senate last week.
We wrote about McGuire’s short-term vacation rental bill, SB 593, a couple of weeks ago ("Short-Term Solution," May 27) and reported that the Healdsburg Democrat had to contend with the California Association of Realtors (CAR) and their push to be excised from the bill.
The bill aimed to set a statewide template that would compel Airbnb and other short-term-rental platforms to supply the state with basic information about their users’ home-business: How many people did you host, how much did you charge per night?
The idea seemed simple enough: SB 593 set out to "assist local jurisdictions in their regulation of local laws and collection of tourist taxes," says the press release.
This paper couldn’t help but note that CAR was one of the top-tier contributors to McGuire’s 2014 senate campaign, at $16,750, and that the organization would oppose the bill unless Realtors were eliminated from the reporting requirements—on the logic that they’re already licensed by the state and shouldn’t get lumped in with the next-door neighbor who uses Airbnb to help make the monthly nut.
McGuire told us he would offer an amendment to scrub Realtors from the scope of his bill by June 5, the deadline for such things in the Senate. On June 4, he said he’d reintroduce SB 593 in January as a two-year bill. That’s where the story ended, at least for now.
Meanwhile, support for SB 593 had grown. Sen. Dianne Feinstein supported it, as did more than 100 organizations from around the state with various dogs in the hunt: affordable housing advocates wanted it; lots of city and municipal leaders wanted it; police organizations wanted it—business, labor, you name it.
The bill had also been passed out of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, and the Governance and Finance Committee.
McGuire recently told us that CAR would support SB 593 with the amendment; the Realtors’ lobby told us it would push for the amendment as a condition of not opposing it.
One SB 593 opponent on the Governance and Finance committee vote was Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, whose office gave some perspective on why it may have stalled. Moorlach chief of staff Tim Clark says the McGuire bill "didn’t have a chance in the Assembly. It didn’t feel baked all the way. On the Assembly side, it probably wouldn’t make it out of committee."
Clark says the pushback on SB 593 was around over-regulating a homegrown business, such as Airbnb, that represents the best of the sort of techno-innovation that lawmakers should support.
McGuire’s press release emphasized that he was "unable to find common ground prior to the Senate’s legislative deadline."—Tom Gogola
This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District.
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