County Performance Auditor Calls out DA

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Orange County Performance Auditor Philip Cheng is calling on the board of supervisors for some advice.

How does he make District Attorney Tony Rackauckas sit down for an audit he apparently doesn’t want to schedule?

Rackauckas’ shop was originally scheduled to be audited in 2015 but was moved up to this year at the urging of County Supervisor John Moorlach last December.

Given the county’s tight budgets facing a loss of $73 million in property taxes to the state, supervisors like Moorlach are privately wondering what Rackauckas is doing with the winnings from class-action lawsuits he initiated against Toyota.

There are also quiet questions about the fiscal implications of Rackauckas’ sex offender ordinances that have been overturned and cities potentially seeking compensation from the county.

Add to that the recent questions being raised about Rackauckas’ gang injunctions and the lack progress on corruption investigations in Santa Ana, the county fairgrounds and Irvine.

Rackauckas’ management of his own DNA lab also could be reviewed.

That’s if he ever agrees to sit down for an audit.

Cheng revealed in an Oct. 6 memo to county supervisors that his long awaited audit of the district attorney’s office has never gotten off the ground because he can’t get Rackauckas’ office to respond to inquiries.

“Regarding this performance audit, my office has been unsuccessful in scheduling an entrance conference since August,” Cheng wrote in his memo. “As such, we have not officially commented the DA audit.”

In an interview, Cheng noted that his office auditors sat down with top officials from Rackauckas’ office on Aug. 26 to explain how his team would come into the district attorney’s shop and start looking around at programs and issues, eventually developing their own scope of work at critical issues facing the agency.

They have never heard back from prosecutors about getting started.

“We tried and tried,” Cheng said. “Email, phone.”

Rackauckas’ chief spokeswoman Susan Kang Schroeder declined comment.

At this point, Cheng said he needs direction on where to go.

Supervisors’ Chairman Shawn Nelson said he’s had his own private conversations with Rackauckas and there’s no problem.

“Sounds like he’s embracing the idea,” Nelson wrote a reporter. “They had an audit a few years back and its time for a refresh. Just best business practice and he agrees.”

Yet Moorlach, who originally called for the audit, admits “there’s always been this unique internal tension between department heads that are elected (like Rackauckas) and appointed (like OC Waste & Recycling).”

Auditors at the County of Orange have not had an easy time auditing independent elected officials.

Internal Auditor Peter Hughes drew the ire of State Assemblyman Tom Daly who fought with Hughes throughout a long internal audit of his internal funds as Clerk Recorder. That inquiring resulted in a scathing report. Daly later offered legislation impacting the oversight of the internal auditor.

Moorlach noted he had already met with Cheng and sensed a frustration that he couldn’t get a response from DA officials. “He’s been trying,” Moorlach said.

But given the delay, Moorlach sees that for Rackauckas, “there’s a hesitation and a reluctance.”

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