Santa Ana Deputy City Manager Jill Arthur was placed on administrative leave this week pending a city-commissioned investigation into allegations that she engaged in misconduct following a traffic accident, Voice of OC has confirmed.
“What I do know is that there is an investigation going on right now, but we have not been briefed on what exactly that is,” said Councilman Sal Tinajero.
According to sources familiar with the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity, about six months ago Arthur was involved in a car accident with Marcel Alvarez, a 22-year-old Buena Park resident. Rather than exchange insurance information, Arthur offered to get Alvarez a job by leveraging her influence at the Santa Ana Work Center, a city office that assists residents in finding employment, sources said.
In March, Arthur was promoted to the deputy city manager position that oversees the city's community development agency, under which the work center operates.
Alvarez declined to comment, and Arthur could not be immediately reached for comment. A police spokesman said the city would not be able to confirm whether a police report of the alleged incident exists based on the information provided to him by Voice of OC.
Some at City Hall have questioned the timing of the investigation. Sources with knowledge about the situation said city officials first received a complaint about Arthur's actions soon after the alleged incident took place, approximately six months ago.
At the time, former Paul Walters was city manager, but he was ousted in late January as part of a council majority campaign to reduce the influence of longtime Mayor Miguel Pulido over the city bureaucracy.
Arthur, who was external affairs manager at the time of the alleged incident, was known as Pulido's right hand and City Hall gatekeeper. Council members wary of Arthur's close relationship with Pulido were not happy about her promotion.
The city hired an investigator to examine the matter only after Kevin O'Rourke was appointed city manager, according to Tinajero and other sources familiar with the situation.
Tinajero couldn't confirm whether there were earlier complaints, but he said O'Rourke's decision to commission an outside investigation was likely due to his relatively new and impartial relationships with longtime city officials. O'Rourke came to Santa Ana after serving as city manager or interim city manager in Stanton, Buena Park, Fairfield, Stockton and Woodland.
“I think part of it is you have a person that's coming in from the outside, and if he feels that something needs to be looked into, he's going to look into it,” Tinajero said. “There aren't any relationships here.”