MOORLACH UPDATE — FBI Task Force — July 26, 2013

For someone who has tried his best to be above reproach and to do the elected-office-opportunity the right way, being painted by a broad-brush, like in the front-page OC Register article below, is quite disconcerting. I’m an open book and have made significant sacrifices to perform my public service. I have also been very minimal in my campaign fundraising, only seeking funds when they are needed. I have not built a war chest or abused my donor base (see MOORLACH UPDATE — CalOptima — January 31, 2013). In fact, I’m often criticized for my approach to fundraising. The inference that I may be corrupt, as the last Grand Jury seemed to imply, is extremely frustrating and disappointing. My integrity may be a hindrance to fundraising (ironically), but it is all I have and I believe that any investigation will bear out that mine is intact. And, as Forrest Gump would say, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

BONUS: I have an opening to fill on the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) Special Needs Advisory Committee (see http://www.octa.net/About/Public-Committees/SNAC/Special-Needs-Advisory-Committee/). If you are interested in volunteering for this Committee and meet the designated criteria; please contact Cammy.Danciu@ocgov.com.

FBI confirms O.C. public corruption task force

By TONY SAAVEDRA and KEEGAN KYLE

The FBI confirmed Thursday that a federal task force is looking for public corruption in Orange County.

Laura Eimiller, spokeswoman for the FBI in Los Angeles, said an agreement was signed in April by the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. Eimiller said the creation of a task force isn’t unusual and basically formalizes the relationships already forged among federal and local law enforcement agencies. "It’s almost a matter of routine," Eimiller said.

The task force is one of several targeting public corruption in Southern California, including a Riverside County effort that served search warrants in April on the homes of five Moreno Valley City Council members and a developer.

Last year, a former Upland mayor pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge as part of a task force operating in San Bernardino County.

On Thursday, county Supervisor John Moorlach said he was "perplexed" by the new task force.

"What has the D.A. failed (to find) that the federal government needs to come in and address? Why does the D.A. need a federal partnership? What is so big that the D.A. can’t handle himself?" Moorlach said.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Shawn Nelson said he didn’t expect much from the task force.

"A task force like this, you’re talking about big-money bribery and fraud. And I don’t see evidence of that in Orange County," Nelson said.

The Orange County task force was formed the same month that the Orange County grand jury issued a report decrying local "government corruption." The grand jury alleged illegal behavior was "actively festering" in county government and "corruption has permeated all levels of the organization." The grand jury cited several scandals since the 1970s.

But Eimiller said Thursday the FBI task force was not created in response to the report. She also declined to say what level of government the task force is investigating

The panel recommended the county consider creating an ethics commission to improve oversight. But in June, the supervisors voted against the idea, arguing several county agencies already provide adequate review.

"The grand jury report did not demonstrate that the existing network of oversight functions has failed to catch and correct unethical behavior once it occurs," the supervisors wrote in their official response.

However, Supervisor Todd Spitzer urged the county to explore contracting with state regulators to enforce county ethics laws. Spitzer said the rules elected officials must follow are complex and that unintentional violations do happen.

In May, the state Fair Political Practices Commission informed 14 county officials it was examining whether they had violated conflict of interest laws in a decision related to CalOptima, the county’s public health system for the poor.

Gary Winuk, chief of enforcement at the state FPPC, said Thursday that investigators are still examining campaign contributions within a certain time frame of a decision. Because the investigation is ongoing, he declined to provide further details about its scope; he said he didn’t know exactly how long the investigation would take.

CalOptima is overseen by an 11-member board. A grand jury report in January, which spurred the state FPPC’s probe, said multiple board members have been publicly accused of conflicts and other misdeeds.

The 14 officials under investigation include four sitting county supervisors: Patricia Bates, Moorlach, Nelson and Janet Nguyen.

In the past, illegal acts while in office have left other Orange County officials without jobs, behind bars or both:

•Former Sheriff Mike Carona is serving a 66-month sentence for federal witness tampering. Carona was convicted in 2009 of trying to persuade businessman and former assistant sheriff Don Haidl to lie in a federal corruption case targeting the ex-sheriff. U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Guilford, while sentencing Carona, said Carona had brought shame to Orange County.

*Former treasurer Robert Citron served a year of community service in the commissary of the Orange County Jail after he admitted fraudulently reporting returns on risky investments by the county investment pool, triggering the pool’s collapse in 1994 and what was then the largest municipal bankruptcy in United States history.

•Former Supervisor and ex-Anaheim mayor Don Roth resigned in March 1993 after an 11-month investigation by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office into accusations he used his position for personal gain. Roth pleaded guilty to seven misdemeanor charges of conflict of interest and failure to disclosure gifts.

•Former Supervisor Ralph Diedrich was imprisoned in 1982 on two felony counts of accepting bribes from an Anaheim development company.

Nick Berardino, head of the Orange County Employees Association, said history could repeat itself without proper scrutiny from law enforcement.

"The list goes on and on. Without watching things carefully, all the time, things can get away from you," Berardino said. "This is a great opportunity to clean things up and very important to the citizens, taxpayers. This is a good, healthy thing."

The nonprofit online news site Voice of OC first reported news of the task force Thursday morning.

–Register staff writer Martin Wisckol contributed to this report.

Contact the writer: tsaavedra

FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS

July 28

1998

The LA Times printed a correction concerning its article of July 25 (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Second District Scramble — July 25, 2013).

Merrill Lynch –A story Saturday about Merrill Lynch’s role in the Orange County bankruptcy misquoted County Treasurer-Tax Collector John M. W. Moorlach. He said the county investment pool is not leveraged.

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