One of the final appointments I made as a County Supervisor was filling the Housing and Community Development Commission vacancy with Jack Wu. He responded to an invitation to apply for the position in my UPDATE of December 2, 2014 (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Growing Up In OC — December 2, 2014 December 2, 2014 John Moorlach — P.S. The featured article would win a journalistic award).
I had endorsed Michelle Steel’s opponent, former Costa Mesa Mayor and former State Assemblyman Allan Mansoor. It was a tough choice and one you hope, as an elected official, you never have to make. But I had known Allan longer. Michelle has been a very gracious winner, and I had the opportunity to appoint Jack Wu, in part because he was a rather outspoken supporter of hers over Assemblyman Mansoor. Wu seemed qualified and had strong support, and he would certainly be a trusted collaborator with Supervisor Steel.
While I am on the subject of Supervisor Steel, I want to heartily thank her and the other four Orange County Supervisors for voting to appeal the recent Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) ruling against Civic Openness in Negotiations (COIN) (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Seeking Independence — July 3, 2015 July 3, 2015 John Moorlach).
Jack Wu was an activist who had written columns for three different newspapers in the Newport Beach/Costa Mesa area and was recognized as a media representative when he was mentioned in articles and columns. So I felt comfortable with his request to be appointed on his reputation and his relationship with my successor. Little did we know that he would be yet another Orange County individual who was living a double-life.
By coincidence, he shows up many times in my UPDATES. For a sampling of Jack Wu’s columns, in date order, that happened to make it to my UPDATES, see:
MOORLACH UPDATE — April 15th — April 15, 2013 April 15, 2013 John Moorlach where he comments on a Newport Beach City Councilmember’s efforts to fill a county wide elected vacancy. (There’s also a great Look Back of one of my editorials regarding ever increasing taxes.)
MOORLACH UPDATE — Second District One of the interesting aspects of terming out is that you get to observe who will be running to replace you. Yesterday another potential candidate announced his intentions and the Huntington Bea Scramble — July 25, 2013
MOORLACH UPDATE — Hob-Knobbing with Homeless — February 14, 2012
And the next three mentions are about Wu’s involvement in the “Feet to the Fire” forums, see MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — Star Wars Day — May 4, 2014
The OC Register, in it’s Sunday edition, provided a rather in-depth article on Wu in the piece below. Not to get too technical, but CPAs are the only ones permitted to do financial audits. But, the title of accountant or bookkeeper is a common one. So, forgive me for the disagreement with the State Board of Accountancy’s interpretations.
Former Dana Rohrabacher campaign treasurer’s accountant credentials questioned; owes back taxes
By MEGHANN M. CUNIFF / STAFF WRITER
Embattled Newport Beach politico Jack Wu has for years portrayed himself as a savvy accountant whose expertise and connections earned him coveted columns in local newspapers and politically powerful positions on municipal boards and commissions.
But amid accusations of embezzlement lodged against him by U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, another unflattering allegation has arisen: according to the state of California, Wu isn’t actually an an accountant. And the business he’s long described as an accounting and tax firm, WuBell, is a spinoff of a corporation that has been suspended by two state agencies for the last 10 years and owes nearly $4,000 in taxes.
As the Orange County District Attorney’s Office continues to review Rohrabacher’s allegations for possible criminal charges, Wu’s history of financial transgressions raises new questions about the credentials of a man who gained control over the campaign war chest of Orange County’s most senior congressman and recently earned spots on three municipal boards and commissions while promoting himself as an accountant in newspaper columns, despite not having a certified public accountant license.
While Wu has never called himself a CPA, merely describing himself as an accountant without having a valid CPA license is enough to get the attention of state authorities. The first step is to mail the imposter a cease and desist letter, then, if the false portrayal continues, state authorities can ask the county district attorney to review the situation for possible criminal charges, said Liz Contreas, an enforcement technician with the state Board of Accountancy.
“We’ve done it to several people,” Contreas said.
After learning of his situation from a reporter, Sara Narvaez, a manager in the Board of Accountancy’s enforcement division, said Wednesday she planned to send Wu a cease and desist letter “to let him know we’re on to him.”
Wu, 44, denied any wrongdoing in a phone interview with the Register and said he’s found information through Google that says it’s legal to call yourself an accountant without a CPA license, including comments posted on the popular website Reddit.
“Google ‘can non CPAs be called an accountant.’ It’s the first thing that comes up,” Wu said. “I’ve never claimed that I was a CPA. Everything in my business has always been on the up and up. Always.”
The comments are Wu’s first public statements since Rohrabacher, a 14-term Republican from Costa Mesa, announced last month that he’d asked the District Attorney’s Office and state Attorney General’s Office to charge Wu criminally for allegedly stealing $173,500 from his reelection committee. No charges have been filed; representatives of both offices said this week they still are reviewing the claims. Rohrabacher’s lawyer, Charles H. Bell, Jr., told the Register he’s supplied the District Attorney’s Office with more information on top of the June 24 complaint.
Bell, of Sacramento, said he and Rohrabacher were “unaware” of Wu’s questionable accountancy background.
“Campaigns normally don’t do opposition research on people they have hired and have some reason to know and or trust,” said Bell, a longtime GOP player and general counsel to the California Republican Party. “And sometimes, people really abuse or misuse their trust.”
COUNTY, CITY POSITIONS
The allegations – which Wu declined to discuss – shocked Wu’s acquaintances in Orange County, where he’s long used his false status as an accountant not only in business, but also to gain access to government operations.
He listed his occupation as accountant on his applications for Orange County’s Housing and Community Development Commission and the Assessment Appeals Board. State Sen. John Moorlach nominated Wu for the commission when he was still a supervisor last December. Wu earned a stipend of $50 per meeting until his term expired June 30.
Supervisor Michelle Steel nominated Wu for the appeals board in May, but he hasn’t taken office yet and Steel will ask her colleagues to rescind his nomination at this week’s board meeting, according to the meeting agenda. The agenda report, prepared by Steel’s staff, said that prior to the theft allegation, Wu “had been a highly respected and trusted accountant and had been an appointee to the City of Newport Beach Finance Committee.”
Wu resigned from the Newport Beach committee last week. Councilman Marshall “Duffy” Duffield, who nominated him in January, told the Register this week he had no idea Wu’s business has a 10-year-old tax debt and that Wu wasn’t actually an accountant.
“There was nothing that would trigger me to suspect that,” Duffield said. “He had good, reputable people who said good things about him.”
Moorlach said Wu asked to be nominated to the board after Moorlach emailed him and others about the vacancy. Moorlach said he knows Wu is close with Steel, who was taking over his supervisor seat, and he felt good nominating someone he felt his successor would support, too.
“I sort of figured if Dana Rohrabacher was happy with Jack Wu, then I didn’t have to do any research, so shame on me for that,” Moorlach said. “But I’ve never had anyone come up to me in all these years and say ‘Hey, I had a bad business transaction with Jack Wu.’”
CPA OR ACCOUNTANT?
Moorlach, who’s been a licensed CPA since 1980, said he doesn’t see anything wrong with Wu calling himself an accountant without having a CPA license.
“I would say you’re still an accountant, but you’re not a certified public accountant,” Moorlach said.
The confusion can be found within Orange County government, too. County spokeswoman Jean Pasco cited county documents that state nominees for the appeals board must have five years of experience as “a certified public accountant or public accountant,” and Wu’s resume shows he’s held finance-related positions at five Orange County companies since 1995.
But state authorities insist that’s a distinction without a difference: someone can’t call themselves a public accountant without a CPA license.
Wu’s portrayal of himself as an accountant dates back to at least 2002, when he listed that as his occupation while unsuccessfully seeking election to the Irvine Water District Board. That evolved from his first campaign in 1998, when he called himself merely a bookkeeper during an unsuccessful bid for the Irvine City Council.
In both elections, Wu ran as a Democrat. But in 2006, he reemerged in Orange County’s political scene in a powerful new role: campaign treasurer for Rohrabacher, a former speechwriter and presidential adviser for Ronald Reagan and one of the region’s longest serving GOP politicians.
Wu told the Register he met Rohrabacher through his involvement in local politics, and they quickly became friends. “We both share a love of surfing,” Wu said. They’re also both fathers of triplets.
As Wu took over the Rohrabacher’s campaign coffers, he also set his sights on the Newport Beach City Council, this time as a Republican.
He lost the election, but his connections to Rohrabacher and his portrayal of himself as a financial watchdog helped propel him to prominence in the Newport Beach political arena. He began writing columns for the Daily Pilot, then the Orange County Register, in which he described himself as an accountant and “longtime Republican loyalist.” Moorlach said he became familiar with Wu through his columns.
Wu represented the Register as a moderator during a forum for state Assembly candidates in April 2014. The newspaper last published a column by him in October.
He called himself an accountant in most of the columns and promoted his business, WuBell. State records show WuBell fell into trouble just before Wu reemerged in Orange County politics as a Republican.
In November 2004, the Secretary of State’s Office suspended the business because it hadn’t filed an updated business statement as required to do annually. Then the state Franchise Tax Board suspended it in July 2005 over unpaid taxes: $3,951.24 that’s still owed, according to an email from board spokeswoman Tami Grimes.
The suspensions mean WuBell can’t bring an action in court or defend itself, nor can it file claims or appeals or other state business. But Wu said he started a sole proprietary business called WuBell that is free from the restrictions.
This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District.
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