Interim County Auditor Abruptly Quits After Supervisors Delay Hiring Him

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Shaun Skelly, Orange County’s interim auditor-controller, announced his retirement Thursday, two days after the county Board of Supervisors delayed his permanent appointment.

A county panel rated Skelly as the top candidate out of 36 candidates interviewed to replace departed Auditor-Controller David Sundstrom. On Tuesday, board Chairman John Moorlach asked his colleagues to suspend the search and appoint Skelly.

They balked, and that apparently gave Skelly second thoughts.

“The board had an opportunity on Tuesday and elected not to take it,” said Skelly, who confirmed his retirement after 30 years with the county and acknowledged that the supervisors’ delay gave him pause. “It was a surprise.”

Although he wouldn’t further elaborate his reasons, the 57-year-old Kelly said quick timing of his retirement is due to a change in rules at the Orange County Employees’ Retirement System that will lower cost-of-living adjustments for retirees who leave government service after April 1.

Skelly, 57, said that under his authority he is appointing Jan Grimes, director of central accounting services for the agency, as interim auditor-controller.

“She’s an outstanding manager, and the office will be in great hands,” he said.

He acknowledged that many throughout government are shocked at the decision.

“I have a number of calls to return,” he said.

Moorlach had pushed his colleagues to support Skelly, but supervisors Pat Bates and Janet Nguyen said they wanted to interview him themselves before making a final decision. So the appointment was put off until Apr. 17.

Skelly was appointed interim auditor-controller after Sundstrom left the county earlier this year to take a similar post in Sonoma County.

Before leaving, Sundstrom made a controversial tax allocation opposed by Sacramento that took $73 million in property taxes from schools and redirected it to county coffers.

That action came after supervisors pressed Sundstrom to interpret state law in a manner that effectively thwarted Gov. Jerry Brown’s efforts to take away $48-million in vehicle license fees for Orange County.

While Sacramento has not yet sued Orange County over the issue, many observers see it as a likely scenario the next auditor-controller must address.

Also, the next auditor-controller must manage a software upgrade to the county’s assessment and property tax system that is years behind schedule and significantly over budget.

— NORBERTO SANTANA JR.

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