The Bond Buyer article below demonstrates why I believe that the most recent Grand Jury’s report is irresponsible. Trotting out well documented historical events in hopes that it will strengthen an otherwise weak assessment of the current ethical environment of County government is intellectually lazy. Moreover, this Grand Jury seems hell bent on continuing their own historical trend of using sensationalist titles in order to overcompensate for the lack of in-depth, nuanced research. This report tells the nation something that may be a gross exaggeration when compared to other similar municipalities; alas, no real benchmarking is included to afford such a comparison. This is not a positive public service that attempts to address documented problems. One would hope that the Grand Jury was the “Ethics Panel.” Talk about standing something on its head. And I would suspect that more reports of this nature are forthcoming before this Grand Jury’s term ends on June 30th. You can see the trend. Yes, my weariness and profound disappointment with the Grand Jury increases with each passing year, and this year’s group continues to lower the bar. I love my County. I love my family. And, every county and family has its blemishes. Wise members of a family are very careful and judicious when airing dirty laundry in order to address the issues and avoid a breakdown in the relationships. Trying to encourage constructive behavioral changes should not be done with a sledge hammer, especially when the “findings” and recommended solutions are so superficially examined and presented. Slinging tenuous accusations in a blanket fashion is, dare I say it, unethical behavior on the part of the Grand Jury. Consequently, I’m defensive on behalf of the members of my County family, especially when I perceive the reports as attacks versus sage guides that promote professional and tested strategies toward achievable improvements.
Grand Jury Recommends Orange County, Calif. Establish an Ethics Panel
by: Keeley Webster
LOS ANGELES — An Orange County, Calif. grand jury published a scathing 35-page report on the county government, documenting what it sees as a pattern of corruption in the county and recommending county supervisors establish a blue ribbon ethics commission.
Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach said that county supervisors have formed an ad hoc committee to consider the issue.
While Moorlach said he had previously considered a charter amendment, he added that the report is more inflammatory than it needed to be and called the grand jury report irresponsible.
California civil grand juries are unique; a group of volunteer citizens sits for a year, charged with investigating local governments to recommend improvements.
The report compares Orange County to New York’s famously corrupt Tammany Hall era, citing a 40-year history of political corruption in the county.
The grand jury claims that Orange County has experienced one political scandal after another in every decade since the 1970s.
Those scandals have led to the prosecutions of members of the Board of Supervisors, the sheriff, a member of Congress, some of the state’s biggest political donors and dozens of others, according to the report.
The county’s 1994 bankruptcy also was noted.
“Sadly, it is the Grand Jury’s hypothesis that untoward behavior continues and is actively festering in today’s political environment,” jurors said in the report. “In point of fact, this and several other studies conducted by the 2012-2013 Grand Jury address the fact that corruption has permeated all levels of the organization, and does not apply only to elected officials positioned visibly in the public eye.”
If you want to look at activities of malfeasance, any neighboring county would probably have had the same number of anecdotes and episodes, Moorlach said.
“It kind of takes a jaundiced eye saying you had this and therefore everyone is corrupt,” he said.
It is kind of awkward that the grand jury works side-by-side with the district attorney, which conducts investigations on allegations of corruption, and they made such an exaggerated statement, Moorlach said.
“They are 19 individuals who can do whatever they want,” Moorlach said. “I think they could have been more sage-like in presenting the message.”
The panel recommended that the county’s Board of Supervisors study government ethics programs around the country and propose an ethics reform program with oversight powers within a year.
It emphasized the importance of training county elected officials, employees and lobbyists about what is and isn’t ethical.
County Supervisor Shawn Nelson is putting together an ad hoc committee that will craft a response to the report, Moorlach said.
“I don’t know if we will do a blue ribbon commission,” Moorlach said. “I’ve wanted to do a charter commission for some time, but we have been overloaded with so many other activities.”
The Grand jury report requires that the supervisors report back in 90 days.
“We have just started to do the preliminary research,” Moorlach said.
FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS
Brianna Bailey of the Daily Pilot provided details of shenanigans that were going on is Sacramento with “Patrol bill blocks city – City, county officials say legislation to regulate harbor patrols targets Newport; lawmaker says it’s a matter of safety.” The ability of a certain public employees union to manipulate gullible legislators was a sight to behold.
Whispers have long circulated in Newport Beach that the city has plans to take over the Harbor Patrol from Orange County Sheriff’s Department. Now a piece of state legislation on the Assembly floor could keep harbor patrols firmly under the county’s control.
Assembly Bill 2873 has raised hackles among city and county officials, who claim it specifically targets Orange County and Newport Beach.
“Why should Sacramento dictate what we do here?” asked Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairman John Moorlach. “I’m worried it creates more mandates than we can manage — it’s basically a turf war.”
The bill would block any agency in Orange County from taking over harbor patrol duties from the sheriff’s department unless it were able to provide the same manpower and training the sheriff’s department can provide.
Keeping the patrol of local harbors under the county’s control and out of the hands of municipalities like Newport Beach is a matter of cost and better security, said Assemblyman Jim Silva (R-Huntington Beach), who co-introduced the bill along with Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Anaheim).
“Most people feel it is a regional area the county should be paying for patrolling the harbor,” Silva said.
Silva moved to become a co-author of Solorio’s bill after the Huntington Beach City Council unanimously voted to support keeping Huntington Harbor under the county’s jurisdiction. The bill is a resurrected version of the failed Assembly Bill 1597, which would have required sheriff’s departments across the state to provide harbor patrol services. The revised version of the bill would apply only to Orange County.
Both Bludau and Moorlach said there are no specific plans for negotiating a Newport takeover of harbor patrols right now. Tensions arose between the sheriff’s department and the city last year after county officials, including Moorlach, expressed interest in making a harbor patrol swap.
No official financial plans for the potential swap were ever proposed. In response, the Assn. of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, a sheriff’s department labor union, began a public relations campaign against a jurisdiction swap that included mailers and newspaper ads in Newport Beach.
City officials in Huntington have shown no interest in taking over patrolling the harbor there, so AB 2873 specifically targets Newport Beach, Moorlach said.
“It’s extremely offensive,” Moorlach said. “We’re one of a few unique counties in California that has coast line, and there’s no reason for [Solorio and Silva] to be a carriers of legislation like this. I doubt [Solorio’s] district has very many boat owners.”
The bill eliminates any incentive for Newport to take control of patrolling the harbor because of the huge cost of matching the manpower and training of the sheriff’s department, said Newport Beach City Manager Homer Bludau. The Orange County Sheriff’s department is one of the largest in the nation.
“We don’t know why there are any special circumstances that Orange County should be singled out if the county wants to contract with someone else without the state mandating them,” Bludau said.
“We think the bill is really being pushed by the Assn. of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs. It doesn’t make good sense from a law enforcement standpoint.”
Silva accepted a $1,500 campaign contribution from the Assn. of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs in May last year, state election records show. Campaign disclosure records show no donations from the group to Solorio in the past year.
Silva said he had not been influenced by the deputy sheriffs union in any way.
“That is one gigantic lie — that is a lie,” Silva said. “John Moorlach should have made sure he had the finances in line. This was a money grab from the county to try to take money from the cities. Newport Beach has not even signed on because it wants to wait to see what finances are.”
Calls to the Assn. of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs and Solorio were not returned Thursday.
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