MOORLACH UPDATE — OCBJ — October 12, 2011

Rick Reiff of the Orange County Business Journal pays kind homage to the County’s third Treasurer-Tax Collector to follow Robert L. “Bob” Citron.  It was Shari Freidenrich who I had hoped would succeed me in 2006.  After a four-year detour, I’m glad she’s finally here.  You should be getting a love note from her soon, if you own real estate in the OC, as she is currently mailing out 898,000 single-tint tax bills (I used single-tints, too). 

Also, if you’re in the mood for a fall hike on a Saturday morning, join us for a docent-led opportunity in Fremont Canyon on October 29th.  The Irvine Ranch Conservancy website provides the following narrative:  “Often referred to as the ‘the Yosemite of Orange County’ due to its striking beauty and massive granite formations, Fremont Canyon is rich in biological diversity and history. The area is also home to many rare, threatened and endangered plants and animals.”  A great website that will whet your appetite is http://www.walksimply.com/walks/fremont-canyon-wilderness-hike-an-orange-county-hidden-gem/.

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At our last Board of Supervisors meeting I adjourned in memory of Jerry Schad (see http://articles.latimes.com/2011/sep/25/local/la-me-jerry-schad-20110925) and I’m dedicating this hike to him in honor of his contributions to hiking in the OC.  I did not personally know Jerry, but I have copies of a couple of his books.  I do know Orange County resident John Robinson, who is quoted in the obituary, as I have used John’s hiking guides since my college days.  And when John says good things about someone, you can take it to the bank.  Here are the particulars:

NNL 5th Anniversary hike in Fremont Canyon with Orange County 2nd District Supervisor John Moorlach

Description & Registration Information

Come celebrate the 5th Anniversary of the designation of the Irvine Ranch National Natural Landmark on a hike with 2nd District Supervisor John Moorlach in remote Fremont Canyon. This moderately strenuous hike will travel along the north rim of Fremont to the site of an abandoned surface coal mine worked during the late 1800s. Expect spectacular views of oak studded canyons, rocky outcrops, rare scrub habitats, and the San Bernardino Mountains in the distance. We will learn about this wonderful land and why it qualified as the only place to be designated a Natural Landmark by both the National Park Service and the State of California. The hike covers 5 miles round trip in 3 hours and has an elevation change of 1,000 feet. Not recommended for children under age 12.  Registration Code Required.  Participation is limited to the first 30 people to sign up. To join the hike, please call 714-834-3220 in order to obtain registration instructions.

Spaces Available:

30

Led By:

Irvine Ranch Conservancy

Activity Date:

10/29/2011

Time:

8:00 AM

Activity Type:

Hiking

Distance:

5 miles

Duration:

3 hour(s)

Elevation Change:

1,000′

Guided:

Docent-Led

Recommended Age:

12+

Level of Interpretation:

Low

Additional Information:

Please call 714-834-3220 or email info@irconservancy.org

The program can be found here:   http://www.irlandmarks.org/Activities/default.aspx (click on October)

Code:                                   NNL5TH


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This OC Treasurer Avoids Headlines; Chris Cox Coverboy

By Rick Reiff

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Who’s Orange County’s treasurer? It’s understandable if you couldn’t name Shari Freidenrich, CPA and former Huntington Beach treasurer who has been in office for nine months. After Bob Citron, John Moorlach and Chriss Street—headline makers for better or worse—Freidenrich is taking a low-key approach to managing the county’s $6 billion portfolio: “I’m doing my job, not making waves, keeping the money safe.” Low-key but not low-energy.  Freidenrich has beefed up investment credit reviews and cut approved corporate issuers by half. (Bonds of such financial giants as Wells Fargo, B of A and JP Morgan no longer qualify for purchase.) She’s pinched pennies, saving $10,000 annually, for example, by replacing Street’s multi-color tax bills with a single tint. She’s leveraging her department’s cash management capabilities to streamline billing and collections for restaurant permits and pet licenses. With the semi-annual property tax bills going out this week, Freidenrich is touting a more user-friendly website that includes such data as prior-year bills and unclaimed funds, in addition to allowing for on-line payment. Freidenrich says she got some ideas in April by chatting with property owners as they waited in line at the treasurer’s office to pay with checks. Her peers respect her—she’s president-elect of the National Association of County Treasurers …

FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS

October 12

1996

Well, I really stepped into it.  In my practice days, we mailed newsletters to our clients to keep them up to date.  There was a little bit of weight available to keep the annual tax bill under an ounce.  Why not let property owners know that the sudden bankruptcy filing of the county would not occur again?  Well, there are laws against elected officials doing it.  After being made aware of the misstep, I had the inserts removed from the remaining unmailed tax bills and immediately reported myself to the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC).  When Ricky Young of the OC Register called, I told him that I made a mistake and apologized.  His piece was “Moorlach’s newsletter broke law – Government:  Mass mailings at taxpayer expense are illegal.”  It is provided below in full.

October 12th was a Saturday morning and our neighborhood was participating in large scale garage sale.  My wife and the kids had our driveway full of items.  Neighbors came by and visited as they walked and shopped among the many that also filled up their driveways.  People from outside of the neighborhood were driving in and stopping by.  I found Ron Rubino’s wife visiting and purchasing an old typewriter or something like that.  Ron Rubino was the former Budget Officer for the County.  She introduced herself and thanked me for getting her husband off the front page.  We both laughed.  Another neighbor came by and said, “Wow!  An elected official that admits he made a mistake.  Don’t they usually try to cover it up?” 

I was a private-sector guy in a new public-sector role.  The FPPC would later forgive me for the infraction, as I had turned myself in, but warned that the incident would stay in my file.  I would not call the newsletter a puff piece, but a way to reduce anxieties we were encountering at the time.  It was the first, and last, time such a mailed communication piece would be issued during my time in public office.

                Treasurer-Tax Collector John Moorlach violated the law by including a publicly funded newsletter touting his accomplishments in 720,000 property-tax bills, he found out this week.

                “I blew it,” Moorlach said.  “I didn’t know.  I felt as the treasurer that I’m accountable to the voters and that I should communicate.”

                Proposition 73, passed in 1988, prohibits newsletters or other mass mailings at public expense.

                Violations can carry a $2,000 fine, said state Fair Political Practices Commission Chairman Ravi Mehta of Orange.

                “The intention was to prevent puff pieces,” Mehta said.  “Your name can appear only once in the document, as letterhead.”

                Moorlach’s name appears three times in the newsletter.

                “Never again will we allow this department to be a national embarrassment,” says the newsletter, a reference to ex-Treasurer Robert Citron’s loss of $1.64 billion in December 1994 that caused the county bankruptcy.

                The letter says Moorlach is “pleased to announce” added advisory committees, tighter investment policies and better cash-flow monitoring.

                “He’s tooting his own political horn,” said Jack Schild, a Garden Grove government watchdog.  “Give me the instructions – don’t tell me how good you are.”

                The county counsel on Tuesday advised Moorlach that such newsletters are prohibited.

                “We never send things that highlight the accomplishments of our office,” said Assessor Bradley L. Jacobs, who sends property-assessment cards.

                The newsletters went out with the tax bills last month, Moorlach said, but won’t in the future.

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