Mario Mainero is back in Orange County's employ.
Mainero, a former chief of staff to Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach, established the controversial position -- which the county ended up taking in a lawsuit -- that the retroactive portion of pension enhancements are unconstitutional.
Mainero, now a professor at Chapman University Law School, will advise county Chief Executive Tom Mauk as the county prepares for its upcoming appeal of a 2009 decision by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to throw out the case.
Mauk today confirmed that a contract has already been inked that pays Mainero as a consultant for about $70 an hour. Mauk said Mainero's work isn't expected to cost the county more than a few thousand dollars. The hiring will be discussed among supervisors at their regular meeting Tuesday.
"He helped craft that case," Mauk said. "I want to use him to advise me on how best to advise the board on the appeal."
Mainero was the intellectual author of the concept that pension expansions given out to Orange County sheriff's deputies (most notably the 3 percent at 50 enhancement) for past service are unconstitutional because they weren't earned. If the county were to prevail in its case, it would save its pension system an estimated $187 million.
Many prominent attorneys in Orange County as well as the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs say the lawsuit is a long shot and a waste of taxpayer funds.
Nonetheless, police groups across California have kept a close eye on the suit because of the statewide implications should the county win.
Moorlach and other supervisors have continued their support of the suit and voted to appeal it after it was thrown out of the Los Angeles court.
Mainero would not comment on his new consulting status with the county.
District Attorney Tony Rackauckas' office harshly criticized Mainero for his past legal advice to county supervisors, specifically his role in a county counsel letter that called on Rackauckas to investigate the Orange County Fair Board's attempt to purchase the Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa.
Mauk said he is unfazed by the criticism and that Mainero will play a key role in making sure county supervisors are able to consider their options on the lawsuit next month.
"All the advice he gave me was very sound and very thoughtful," Mauk said.
-- NORBERTO SANTANA, JR.