Good Enough For Government Work?

Brandman at immigration rally

Anaheim City Councilman Jordan Brandman at an immigration rally in February. (Photo by: Nick Gerda/Voice of OC)

Orange County’s clerk-recorder paid Anaheim City Councilman Jordan Brandman $24,000 for an incomplete report while he was campaigning for office last year, raising questions from two county supervisors about whether the county inappropriately compensated Brandman for a draft report he hasn’t finished.

“You can't pay a consultant for work that's in draft form,” said county Supervisor Todd Spitzer Tuesday after reviewing Brandman’s contract and report. “None of these payments should have been made.”

Brandman has not returned phone calls for comment on his consulting contract.

He first arrived at the clerk-recorder’s office in 2011 as an “external relations manager,” although it’s largely unclear what he actually did. Clerk-recorder officials deleted Brandman’s public calendar. Most of Brandman’s work-related email traffic released in response to a public records request by Voice of OC shows only that he was often out of the office at off-site meetings.

He resigned that position just as his City Council campaign was gearing up and later procured the consulting arrangement.

Most of his report — a study about whether the clerk-recorder needs a branch office in west Orange County — rehashes publicly available data from the U.S. census, the state Department of Finance, the clerk-recorder's office and other “multimedia” sources, according to a draft obtained by Voice of OC.

(Click here to read Brandman's $24,000 draft report)

According to contract documents, Brandman received his first payment of $4,800 without delivering anything.

His second invoice for the next $4,800 payment required him only to complete a three-page draft, with much of the first page devoted to listing the purpose of the report.

Brandman has yet to finish the report. It was originally due seven months ago, but Brandman has received two contract extensions and a $1,500 increase in his contract.

Clerk-recorder officials have so far paid three more $4,800 invoices from Brandman for a total of $24,000. Brandman still owes the county one more section of the facilities report, for which he is to be paid another $2,400.

Interim Clerk-Recorder Renee Ramirez last week refused to release the report, citing an exemption in the California Public Records Act that allows public agencies to withhold draft documents.

Voice of OC obtained a copy of the report after it was distributed to county supervisors late Tuesday. Ramirez wrote in an email that the county counsel decided it could be released “in the interest of transparency.”

After reviewing Brandman’s draft report, Supervisor John Moorlach estimated it could have been prepared in approximately five hours. At a going rate of $200 per hour, the work submitted so far should not have cost more than $1,000, Moorlach said.

In his view, the county has paid 24 times what the draft is actually worth.

Given that $200 hourly rate for a top-end consultant, Brandman should have spent 125 hours on the report given how much he has billed the county, Moorlach said. “I don't know if that's reflected in this work product,” he said.

Moorlach said he wants to see Brandman's billable hours, but the invoices Brandman submitted, per his contract, are only for the work product, not for hours spent.

County Supervisor Todd Spitzer questioned whether Brandman should have been paid at all. He noted that with the exception of one initial $4,800 payment, the contract allows Brandman to collect $4,800 installments only after “completion” of sections of the report.

according to emails he sent, Brandman was paid for “completion” of incomplete drafts.

“As data is further collected and finalized, these sections will become fuller in breadth. Really appreciate your support and look forward to seeing you sometime this month,” Brandman wrote in a March 5, 2012, email to Ramirez that included his second invoice.

Spitzer said that Brandman's requests for more compensation and time extensions were also a “red flag.” Why, Spitzer asked, has it taken so long to complete the report?

Ramirez said she didn't know the answer to that question.

“Jordan asked for additional time, which was granted by then Clerk-Recorder [Tom] Daly. We don’t have specifics,” she said.

Daly, now an assemblyman, has not returned phone calls seeking comment.

Ramirez did say that the clerk-recorder's office explored the viability of opening a west Orange County branch office because of the success of two other branches in North and South County.

“Providing services closer to home has proven popular. More than 11,000 couples have been married at the South County office, with 31,000 marriage licenses issued and more than 183,000 copies of birth, death and marriage records processed there. Customers appreciate being able to avoid a drive to the Civic Center and having to pay for parking,” Ramirez wrote Wednesday in an email to Voice of OC.

Ramirez is one of 11 candidates jockeying for the permanent clerk-recorder job left open when Daly won election to the 69th Assembly District last November. Supervisors this week approved the eleven finalists. They are expected to make a final selection within the month.

Both Moorlach and Spitzer said they would question Ramirez about Brandman's contract and work product.

“I have a call into Renee Ramirez, and I haven't heard back from her,” Spitzer said. “I want to know the answers to these questions.”

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

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