County Demands Refund or Report From Brandman

Brandman at debate

Anaheim City Councilman Jordan Brandman at a candidates debate in 2012. (Photo by: Adam Elmahrek)

County Counsel Nick Chrisos has written to Anaheim City Councilman Jordan Brandman demanding that he either complete a much criticized facility needs report or refund the $24,000 taxpayers have paid him for the incomplete work.

The report, originally due nearly eight months ago but still in draft form, has been heavily criticized for being inadequate and plagiarized from Wikipedia.

“Immediately finalize the facility needs assessment for the County Clerk Recorder on the viability of opening a West County branch office as required under the above-referenced contract or return the $24,000 paid to you under the contract without delay,” reads the March 15 letter from Supervising Deputy Anne E. Fletcher on Chrisos’ behalf.

On Jan. 31, 2012, Brandman was assigned to report on whether the Orange County clerk-recorder needs a branch office in western Orange County. The contract came just as Brandman's campaign for Anaheim City Council was gearing up.

The assignment was made under a no-bid contract granted by Brandman's former boss and mentor, then Clerk-Recorder Tom Daly, who is now an Assemblyman. Daly has come under fire from County Internal Auditor Peter Hughes for the fiscal management of county funds while clerk-recorder.

Brandman has already missed two deadlines to finish the report, but was nonetheless paid several $4,800 installments while he campaigned for his council seat. He claimed no other sources of income on a public statement of economic interests covering the campaign period, except for a salary position at the clerk-recorder's office that ended the same day he received his consulting contract.

Brandman's last contract extension gives him until April 3 to finish the report. Interim Clerk-Recorder Renee Ramirez, queried by the Board of Supervisors, wrote that Brandman agreed to a March 22 deadline.

County supervisors have questioned how Brandman was paid anything for draft work. Supervisor John Moorlach estimated that the county has already paid 24 times what the draft report is actually worth.

Meanwhile, submitting Brandman's draft report to a well-known plagiarism detector at Turnitin.com found that significant portions of the report — up to 23 percent — were copied directly from other facilities needs studies, clerk-recorder documents and other government sources.

For example, a list of “questions pondered” in the report was copied almost verbatim from a Laguna Hills Recreation Facilities Needs Assessment prepared by the consultant GreenPlay, according to the Turnitin.com evaluation.

After learning about the similarities, GreenPlay CEO Teresa Penbrooke said that the company views copycat consultants as the “sincerest form of flattery.”

She said company officials were “unable to determine” whether Brandman plagiarized from GreenPlay's report. The company doesn't pursue copyright infringements, Penbrooke said.

Penbrooke wrote in an email to Voice of OC:

In the end, the key to whether a consultant will make it or not is whether they are effective, and help the communities for whom they work. Bad consultants don’t last long, and can give all consultants a bad name. The real question is, did the report provided by this consultant help the City move forward with good information, methods, and recommendations? We have no way of knowing that given current information.

Brandman hasn't returned numerous phone calls seeking comment since Voice of OC first began reporting the issue.

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at aelmahrek@voiceofoc.org and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/adamelmahrek.

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