Candidates for Supervisor Seat Spar Over Ethics, IT

Former Chief of Staff Andrew Do (left) and Sen. Lou Correa (right) at a debate at the Pacific Club in Newport Beach. Photo by Thy Vo.

Former Chief of Staff Andrew Do (left) and Sen. Lou Correa (right) at a debate at the Pacific Club in Newport Beach. Photo by Thy Vo.

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Ethics and IT headlined the second debate among candidates vying for an open county supervisors seat during a Thursday forum hosted by the Orange County Public Affairs Association.

Former State Senator Lou Correa set himself apart as the only candidate in the race who openly supports an ethics commission for Orange County local government.

“Absolutely yes, we do need an ethics commission…the more eyes that are looking at our election system the better,” Correa said in response to a question from the forum’s moderator, Martin Wisckol, the Orange County Register’s Politics Editor.

Correa said such a commission could fill a gap left by agencies like the state Fair Political Practices Commission, Federal Bureau of Investigation, District Attorney and Grand Jury, the latter which he described as lacking time and resources to properly investigate issues.

“Citizens come to us every day…and I say, report them. They say, nothing happens. Maybe that’s where we need to go — an ethics commission that responds immediately to citizen complaints,” said Correa, who been endorsed by District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.

Andrew Do, who served as chief of staff for the first district under State Sen. Janet Nguyen, said he would need to know more about any commission, its powers and funding before he would vote for one.

“Are we going into a direction of having special prosecution power with unlimited resources that the county has to provide?” Do said.

He also said that, even if he accepted the assumption “of not trusting the DA’s office to do their job,” he wouldn’t necessarily trust an independent commission, given that politicians would likely appoint the commission members, said Do, a former deputy district attorney.

“I’m all for [transparency], but what does that mean?” Do said.

Garden Grove City Councilman Chris Phan, who also works as a deputy district attorney, raised similar questions about the potential powers and effectiveness of an ethics commission, as well as how board members might vote.

“The most important thing is to elect officials who know right from wrong…who, when they make a mistake, it’s because they don’t know the right thing to do,” Phan said. “A mistake that can be made by humans, not actual, intentional misconduct.”

Wisckol also asked candidates their view on privatization of services on the county level, pointing to the county’s issues with large, unexpected cost overruns in its no-bid contracts with large information technology firms.

Contract extensions and change orders have cost the county millions of unbudgeted dollars, persuading both union leaders and supervisors that computer contracting has been mismanaged.

The Orange County Employees Association recently complained about the county’s contract with IBM, saying “they could have done the job more efficiently but weren’t given the option to compete with private companies that were bidding for it,” Wisckol said.

“There’s an important role for private contracts for government [but] it should not be ideological, it’s a question of need,” Correa said.

“Why not put out two or three one-million dollar contracts [instead of 100 million] and see which of those work,” Correa said. “This is one area where money is spent very quickly, and sometimes very ineffectively.”

Do also suggested putting smaller contracts out for bid.

“Within IT you have certain components that are very transitory, [change] year to year. And then you have the maintenance side, which is constant, to keep computers running,” Do said.

As to privatization in general, Do said the question is one of, “what expertise do we need.”

“I don’t know if we can keep it in house if that expertise evolves quickly,” Do said.

Phan said privatization should be done whenever possible, except in certain areas where the county is particularly liable, such as law enforcement.

A fourth candidate, Lupe Morfin-Moreno, also participated in Thursday’s event. Two other candidates, Chuyen Van Nguyen and Mark I. Lopez, could not be reached for participation, according to event organizers.

Contact the author at thyanhvo@gmail.com.

  • Mike Burtin

    Ethics? Lou Correa endorsed a candidate for Garden Grove City Council during the last election who was dishonorably discharged from the Army for theft. Andrew Do lied to the citizens of Garden Grove and was elected to city council. After serving only 1 1/2 years of the 4 year term, he “resigned” when it was discovered he did not live in the city. Thank god Chris Phan is running. It will be nice to have ethical leadership back in County Government.

  • Denis Manning

    Surprised and disappointed the a “private” debate was held and held out side the boundaries of District #1. Wondering why Andrew Do (missing/absent at the first debate poses the question about the meaning of transparency. Perhaps it was not required is his recent positions. “I’m all for [transparency], but what does that mean?” Do said.

  • octaxpayer

    You complain about the IT contracts, yet the main individual who over saw the writing of the failing new IT contracts just got promoted to CIO. Where is the ethics in this?

  • octaxpayer

    what a laugh after serving the County sever years I learn their is NO ethics at the County. Unless your willing to sell you soul you will get anywhere at the County. CEO/IT, the BOS has the most souless folk imaginable. happy that I left.

  • Jeffrey Dickman

    An Ethics Commission is very much needed for the County of Orange. Los Angeles City has an Ethics Commission and staff to provide support such and it is working.

    The LA Ethics Commission review ethics complaints, apply fines, educate electeds and senior staff about the law and answer the public’s questions.

    I believe Supervisor Spitzer has expressed interest in creating an Ethics Commission. I encourage him to take the first step to lead in this discussion. It will be a lasting legacy for him if he acts.

    Let’s all ask the County Board of Supervisors to adopt a format like the LA Ethics Commission for Orange County.

    Jeff Dickman, Santa Ana

    • I wish facts were different so I would not have to disagree Mr Dickman but the political environment in Los Angeles City & County is 180° from Orange County. When the “good ol boys” network here gets busted up and politicians do not have to cow tow to the likes of the un elected Lincoln Club to be elected it will remain so. I believe we have had a political office responsible to investigate corruption and all they do is rubber stamp what the DA says & he is probably the most corrupt of all politicians in OC. I have read that there is a new Mayor in the city of Garden Grove and from what I have read, he sounds like a breath of long needed Fresh Air.

  • Mark Lopez

    Could not BE reached! what a load of bull. I WAS NEVER CONTACTED, READ ABOUT THE EVENT IN PAPER, E-MAILED THE CONTACT PERSON SAME DAY. AND I DID INQUIRE ABOUT BEING INVITED LEFT MY CONTACT INFO- BUT NO REPONSE FROM GROUP. I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF THE GROUP BEFORE, BUT THEY MISSED THE CHANCE TO HAVE A GOOD, HONEST CANDIDATE RESPOND TO QUESTION.