MOORLACH UPDATE — AB 783 — July 16, 2015

The desire for the legislature to meddle in local affairs is a strong one. Wednesday morning at the Senate Judiciary Committee, two bills stood out. AB 504 on local planning found the author trying to do something to the City of San Diego that she couldn’t do in her previous position. The Chair of the Committee even asked her if she was wearing her Assemblywoman hat or her public employee labor leader hat. She said that she was leading with the elected position first and would follow up with the union hat next. The bill passed, over my no vote, even with literally the entire city of San Diego in opposition to the bill. It was an amazing sight to behold, watching someone use the legislative process to pursue a pet project that some observers have described as petty and vindictive.

Two bills later, we heard AB 783, on county auditors, where the only two speakers were the author and the Orange County Auditor-Controller. Another innocuous bill where there were no supporters other than two people, which is covered by the OC Register below. It’s former version was a trailer bill, SB 854, which was killed by joint-Budget Committee leadership because it was a policy bill (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Butt Out — June 13, 2015 June 13, 2015 John Moorlach). This tactic was used successfully last year by the author (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Fireworks — June 26, 2014 June 26, 2014 John Moorlach).

For an UPDATE on the current effort to have Orange County officials address this matter internally, where it belongs, see MOORLACH UPDATE — Supervisor Bartlett — December 3, 2014 December 3, 2014 John Moorlach.

Our state has major issues with which to focus our legislative attention. We need an economic competitiveness plan. We need to address hundreds of billions in unfunded liabilities. We need to upgrade our water, power, and transportation infrastructures. The seriousness of these looming needs makes efforts like those embodied in AB 504 and AB 783 seem to be a gross misallocation of time, energy, and taxpayer funds.

BONUS: You are invited to enjoy a beach fire ring experience with my staff on July 20th (see flyer below). Please RSVP @ Jacob.Ashendorf.

State bill to transfer auditing powers in Orange County passes committee

BY MEGHANN M. CUNIFF

The battle within Orange County government over whether to overturn a key reform implemented after the 1994 bankruptcy has reached the state Legislature.

A bill by Assemblyman Tom Daly, D-Anaheim, that mandates Orange County remove auditing powers from an auditor appointed by the Board of Supervisors and give them to the elected auditor-controller passed the state Senate’s Governance and Finance committee Wednesday.

It applies only to Orange County – the only county in California in which the elected auditor-controller doesn’t supervise internal audits.

The 5-1vote – state Sen. John ‍Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, opposed – rejected a plea on behalf of supervisors who want the debate to stay in Orange County.

Supervisors unanimously voted Tuesday to oppose the bill, which is the latest attempt by Daly to restructure how Orange County reviews its finances, investigates misconduct complaints and assesses the performances of the departments and agencies that spend its $5.8 billion budget.

Auditor-Controller Eric Woolery, who was in Sacramento on Wednesday to support the bill, described the county’s internal audit structure as “makeshift” in a letter to committee Chairman Robert Hertzberg, D – Van Nuys, noting that it was meant to be a short-term measure after the bankruptcy, not a permanent change.

He also said the board “undermines the will of the voters” by not allowing him to do the work currently being done by Internal Auditor Peter Hughes, who was appointed by supervisors in 1999.

“The Orange County Board of Supervisors is telling me that this legislation is a violation of local control. I vehemently disagree with their characterization,” Woolery wrote. “I define local control as the will of the voters. The voters elected me as the County Auditor.”

Supervisors have lamented Daly for pushing the legislation, which they say he has not discussed with them despite how the county’s Audit Oversight Committee is in the midst of examining the issue.

“It’s really inappropriate for a legislator to represent a county and be doing something like this,” Supervisor Shawn Nelson said.

Todd Spitzer, board chairman, said at Tuesday’s board meeting that the issue is complicated.

“Some people feel that we can go backwards,” Spitzer said. But, “we should be very careful about just stepping back into how we used to do business.”

Daly did not respond to requests for comment submitted to his spokesman, David Miller.

His criticism of the county’s audit process began when he was the elected clerk-recorder and received a scathing audit from Hughes that concluded he’d mismanaged money. Daly called the audit a witch hunt.

Woolery, who was elected last year, has been trying to gain control of internal audits since before he took office in January.

Spitzer assigned the Audit Oversight Committee to examine the processes and recommend whether to change them, but Woolery said in his letter to Hertzberg that the committee’s proposal “marginalizes the duties of the elected Auditor-Controller” and calls for performance audits to be conducted by the internal auditor. (Supervisors in April fired Philip Cheng, who was hired as performance auditor in 2013 to replace Steve Danley, who now leads county Human Resources.)

Moorlach, a former supervisor, praised the committee’s work at the hearing in Sacramento.

“Let the local team deal with the local issue,” he said.

Not all Orange County lawmakers agree.

State Sen. Janet Nguyen, R-Garden Grove, voted in favor of Daly’s bill. She was one of two supervisors who last year supported giving more power to the elected auditor-controller.

The other was Pat Bates, who like Nguyen, was elected to the state Senate. The Laguna Niguel Republican is vice chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is to consider Daly’s bill next. A hearing hasn’t been set.

CONTACT THE WRITER: pmcuniff   On Twitter: @meghanncuniff

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