County attorneys are scrambling to comply with a Voice of OC public records lawsuit seeking the release of a politically explosive letter from Deputy CEO Alisa Drakodaidis accusing county supervisors of corruption.
Board of Supervisors Chairman John Moorlach told reporters on Thursday that an announcement regarding the letter’s release could come by Friday afternoon.
According to sources who have seen the letter, it levels troubling allegations at Supervisor Pat Bates over her transfers of staff aides into bureaucratic positions at the county and over fraudulent activity of her campaign supporters.
It also criticizes Bates for allegedly attempting to change the application of a sex offender ordinance so that the son of a friend of Bates could continue working at Dana Point Harbor.
The letter also notes that Drakodaidis apparently had to investigate Huntington Beach City Councilman Matt Harper, who was also a top-ranking aide to Supervisor Janet Nguyen before being quietly transferred to Orange County Waste and Recycling. Drakodaidis reportedly looked into Harper's possible deletion of emails in response to a Voice of OC public records request last year.
The Voice of OC public records request came after the abrupt transfer of Harper from Nguyen’s office into a newly created public affairs job with Waste and Recycling just after he announced he was running for the Assembly on a platform of fiscal conservatism. Harper eventually dropped out of the race but remained at Waste and Recycling.
Moorlach also claimed that District Attorney Tony Rackauckas asked that the letter be withheld because release would affect his ongoing investigation into how sexual harassment allegations against a top county executive were covered up.
Rackauckas has declined comment but has not asked a judge to have the letter blocked from public release.
To date, only one county supervisor, Shawn Nelson, has argued publicly that the letter should be released. Nelson, himself an attorney, has said that the county's legal position is untenable.
Most other supervisors have declined comment, with Supervisor Bill Campbell saying he doesn’t care whether the letter is public.
Bates has said that given the direction by the district attorney, she couldn’t comment. But she has acknowledged and defended herself against the allegations.
“At the point in time I’m able to discuss this, I’m very comfortable that I will be able to respond to any questions about my conduct, and I’ll be able to answer those to the public’s satisfaction,” Bates said about the allegations. “I’m not in any way troubled, because they are so far off.”
According to sources, county lawyers have already acknowledged to supervisors they are standing on shaky legal grounds and will have to reimburse Voice of OC for legal expenses incurred to spur release of the letter.
The office of County Counsel Nicholas Chrisos has also spent the last few days attempting to redact questionable portions of the letter, which amounts to a claim against the county and reportedly informs county supervisors that Drakodaidis is on a stress-related leave because of threats of retaliation from county supervisors and the district attorney’s office.
Terry Francke, who is general counsel for Californians Aware and joined Voice of OC in its lawsuit, argues that the county has no legal basis for withholding the letter or redacting any information it contains.