MOORLACH UPDATE — Outstanding Public Servant — November 19, 2015

Getting something done at the last possible minute can be fraught with things forgotten or incorrectly addressed. That’s why my wife keeps asking me questions before we go on a long trip, like "did you remember to turn off all the lights?"

All of us have perspectives on what someone else’s motives and methods might be. But did our former Orange County Assessor commit a felony or felonies? For me, the answer is, "no."

Should someone who worked closely with him for some two decades stand up and come to his defense? "Yes."

The joy of life is that you have to live with the calls that umpires and referees make. The OC Register covers one of the calls where I respectfully disagree in the first piece below. So too does the Newport Beach-Corona del Mar Patch and My News LA, providing the City News Service piece, in the second article below.

Also see MOORLACH UPDATE — Webster Guillory — September 10, 2014 september 10, 2014 john moorlach and MOORLACH UPDATE — Laws, Contracts and Costs — July 17, 2014 july 17, 2014 john moorlach.

BONUS: We are hosting a briefing on the legislation that I will be proposing for the 2016 Session. We have reviewed many ideas and have narrowed it down to the allotted amount. Then we narrowed it to the effective amount. Come and provide your input on the various issues that I will focus on in the new year. The invitation is at the conclusion of this e-mail.

EX-ASSESSOR GUILTY OF ELECTION FRAUD

Guillory prosecution ‘overkill for a clerical error,’ says ‍Moorlach.

By MARTIN WISCKOL / STAFF WRITER

Rejecting the claim that signing wrong election papers was an honest mistake, a jury Wednesday found former Orange County Assessor Webster Guillory guilty of two misdemeanor counts of filing false nomination documents in his failed 2014 reelection bid.

Guillory, 71, faces a maximum of two years in jail and a $2,000 fine at his Jan. 8 sentencing hearing. Guillory’s attorney said he will first file a motion for a new hearing.

Some who’ve worked with Guillory lamented the conviction and wondered why the District Attorney’s Office, which originally filed four felony charges against him shortly before his election loss, bothered prosecuting the case.

“It was overkill for a clerical error,” said state Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, a former county supervisor and treasurer who often worked with Guillory. “The amount of time and resources used by the district attorney was out of proportion. It’s very unfortunate to have this occur at the end of an illustrious career."

Susan Schroeder, chief of staff to District Attorney Tony Rackuackas, responded that her office had a responsibility to uphold the law.

“This was never about whether Mr. Guillory was a good man,” Schroeder said. “It was whether he committed a crime. Twelve members of the community heard the evidence – including testimony from the defendant – and determined that he committed a crime.”

Guillory had been planning to retire last year but made a last-minute decision to seek reelection when his preferred successor decided to not to run. Guillory and two of his office’s managers gathered the required voter signatures on the afternoon of March 7, hours before the 5 p.m. filing deadline.

Guillory circulated two of the six nomination forms but signed as the circulator for four of them, indicating that he had witnessed 20 voter signatures that he had not actually watched being signed.

His attorney, John Barnett, argued that Guillory had established a reputation for honesty in his 16 years as the county’s property tax assessor and had signed the forms thinking they were ones he had circulated. The two pages in question had been circulated by assistant Michael Hannah and had been given to him to be signed by assistant Shaw Lin, who’d also helped gather signatures.

“He relied on (Lin) to put in front of him things that he should sign,” Barnett said in Tuesday’s closing statements. “He didn’t intentionally turn in a document that was incorrect.”

But Deputy District Attorney Brock Zimmon prevailed in arguing that it was no accident – that the election forms were the most important documents Guillory would sign that day and that he would have known that he signed four forms even though he only circulated two.

“When he filed that paperwork, he knew it was false,” Zimmon said, telling the jury that Guillory was more careful than portrayed by Barnett. “He’s too smart to be as dumb as he wants you to think.”

Juror Kevin Ford said he was the last holdout vote for acquittal because he worried that 71-year-old would wind up in jail. He noted the Assessor’s Office employees who testified on Guillory’s behalf.

“They had such profound love for this man,” Ford said. “They praised him to the sky. … (All jurors) agreed it’s a pity he decided to run on the last day you had to file. My heart goes out for the guy. He’s a decent person.”

Guillory topped the field of three in the June 2014 primary, finishing 2 percentage points ahead of former Board of Equalization member Claude Parrish. In September, the district attorney filed four felony charges, which were reduced by a judge to two misdemeanors after the November election.

The Parrish campaign used the charges to attack Guillory. On Election Day, Parrish prevailed, 53 percent to 47 percent.

“The felonies were trying to kill a fly with a shotgun,” Moorlach said. “The time (of the filing) was interesting.”

Asked about the common political supporters of Parrish and Rackauckas, Schroeder responded that Webster and Rackauckas also shared supporters.

“Tony has always enjoyed broad support,” she said. “Politics has no place in enforcing the law.”

Guillory declined comment after Wednesday’s verdict.

City News Service contributed to this story.

Contact the writer: mwisckol

Politician from Newport Beach Convicted for Filing False Election Papers

Former Orange County Assessor Webster Guillory, of Newport Beach, could face two years in jail.

By Page Austin

Former Orange County Assessor Webster Guillory was convicted today of a pair of misdemeanors for signing his name on nominating petition forms that he did not circulate during a 2014 re-election bid.

Guillory, 71, faces up to two years in jail and $2,000 in fines for his conviction on two counts of filing false nomination papers. Sentencing was scheduled for Jan. 8.

During the trial, Deputy District Attorney Brock Zimmon argued that Guillory knew he was lying on affidavits declaring that he had circulated the nominating petitions. Guillory’s attorney insisted his client simply made a mistake.

“I’m glad the jury listened to the evidence and followed the law to reach the just result,” Zimmon said.

Juror Kevin Ford told City News Service he was the last holdout vote for acquittal on the jury. Ford said he was having trouble voting guilty because he worried about sending a man in his 70s to jail.

“In my mind, I was trying to predict the outcome for Mr. Guillory,” Ford said.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Glazier gave jurors an instruction telling them to put aside their “personal feelings” while deliberating, Ford said.

Guillory’s character witnesses in the trial “brought a tear to my eye,” Ford said.

“They had such profound love for this man,” Ford said. “They praised him to the sky, and you think, ‘How can this be happening?”’

Guillory had not initially planned to run for re-election in 2014, but he made a last-minute decision to jump into the race when one of his office managers, Mike Hannah, dropped his bid for the job.

Sen. John Moorlach, R-Cosa Mesa, who slammed prosecutors for bringing the case against Guillory, said he was asked to run for the job when it appeared Claude Parrish would not have any opposition in the election.

“I declined because the time limit was too short,” Moorlach said.

Hannah and another office manager, Shaw Linn, helped collect nominating petition signatures for Guillory as the March 7 filing deadline was approaching. Just 3 1/2 hours before the Registrar of Voters was set to close, the assessor picked up the paperwork to get his name on the ballot, Zimmon said.

Registrar of Voters official Christina Avila gave Guillory the paperwork with instructions on how to obtain signatures legally, Zimmon said. Guillory received a candidates’ handbook that outlined how a circulator of a nominating petition must sign the affidavit that they witnessed the affixing of the signatures, Zimmon said.

Guillory only needed 20 valid signatures, but he filed about twice that number, Zimmon said.

Guillory collected nine signatures, including his own, on two nominating petitions while Hannah and Linn gathered the rest from their co-workers, Zimmon said.

But Guillory broke the law when he signed the affidavit declaring he had witnessed the signature-gathering on the petitions circulated by Hannah and Linn, according to the prosecutor.

Guillory’s attorney, John Barnett, countered that his client was busy running the office while also trying to gather signatures the afternoon of the filing deadline.

“He’s answering phones, he’s conducting business and he’s signing documents, and he’s signing a lot of documents during this time period,” Barnett said.

By about 3:30 p.m., Guillory and Linn were in a conference room of their offices organizing the petitions, Barnett said. In all the confusion, Guillory mistakenly signed nominating petitions Hannah had circulated, the attorney added.

“Did Mr. Guillory sign as a circulator when he knew Hannah was the circulator or did he sign mistakenly believing he was the circulator?” Barnett said. “That’s the issue in this case.”

The defendant has “got no reason, no reason at all to affix his name to Hannah’s petition papers and we know that because of where Mr. Hannah was at the time,” Barnett said.

Hannah was about 150 feet away in the office, Barnett said.

Parrish, a former chairman of the state Board of Equalization, defeated Guillory in the November general election last year.

Moorlach said Guillory was an “outstanding public servant, and this is a tragic occurrence to a fantastic career.”

The senator said the case was “overkill by the DA. This is a clerical issue that should have been reported to the (Fair Political Practices Commission).”

Moorlach, a former Orange County supervisor and worked alongside Guillory as the county’s treasurer, criticized prosecutors for the resources devoted to the case.

“It’s so much to do for two misdemeanors. The proportion is so out of line for a man who has had such a distinguished career at the county,” Moorlach said. “I would say the amount budgeted for this case far outweighs the necessity of going after someone on what I would consider a minor misstep — certainly not one that was diabolical or premeditated. He was just hustling to meet a deadline.”

Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff for District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, noted the charges against Guillory were knocked down from felonies to misdemeanors at the preliminary hearing.

Senator Moorlach, with all due respect, was not there for the trial and the evidence that was presented,” Schroeder said. “And 12 members of our community decided it was a crime and they needed to hold Mr. Guillory to the law. They found Mr. Guillory guilty of a crime and we respect their verdict.”

City News Service

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