John Williams’ Strange (and Very Brief) Turn in the Media Spotlight

John Williams, Orange County public administrator/public guardian

Public Administrator/Public Guardian John Williams (Photo credit: County of Orange)

Orange County Public Administrator/Public Guardian John Williams doesn't do much media. His website has no archive of news releases and doesn't even list a media contact.

And when his office has been in the news -- as was the case last year after a critical grand jury report, and this year when there were questions about his expense reports -- the stories will inevitably report that Williams was "not available for comment."

Which made it all the more interesting this weekend when Williams turned out to be the only public official outside of District Attorney Tony Rackauckas' office to issue a statement on the sudden firing of Senior Deputy District Attorney Todd Spitzer.

The statement referred to Spitzer -- but did not name him -- and made a direct allegation.

"He tried to get the information by claiming there was a legitimate law enforcement purpose, using his current title as a prosecutor, stating he was a former assemblyman and a county supervisor, and saying he knew me personally," Williams stated in the press release.

"This conduct is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated. I forwarded this information regarding his conduct to his agency and we hope the District Attorney's Office handles this matter in an appropriate manner."

That Williams made such a statement at all is fascinating. And there are some other curious things as well.

First, the statement was not vetted by the county's communications office.

"We weren't asked to review or approve it," county spokesman Howard Sutter said. "We weren't involved in the process."

In fact, all Sutter got was a last-minute heads up via email that it was going out. "John [Williams] copied me on an email Saturday morning," he said.

Also curious is that by the time Williams made his announcement, Rackauckas had already remedied the situation, having fired Spitzer. He was essentially publicly asking the district attorney to do something that he had already done.

And finally, as I noted in my story on Sunday, Tony Rackauckas' fiancée, Peggy Buff, is Williams' second in command.

It would be great if Williams could shed some light on these curiosities. But it seems his chattiness with the media ended as abruptly as it began.

"Since this is now an internal personnel matter of the District Attorney's Office, I will not be making any further comment," concluded the media advisory.

Just to be sure, I called Williams on Monday. I got what I have come to expect.

"He's not taking any calls," said the agency's newly designated spokeswoman, Ann Barlow.

-- NORBERTO SANTANA, JR.

 

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