DA Contract Sparks Concern at County; Lake Forest Could Regulate Vendors’ Politics

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A controversial contract to outsource background investigations will come back before Orange County Supervisors this week, after Board Chairman Todd Spitzer criticized the contract sought by District Attorney Tony Rackauckas as a potential example of friends helping friends get county contracts.

Supervisors also will make several key appointments Tuesday, including the appointment of Supervisor Lisa Bartlett to the CalOptima and Orange County Fire Authority boards.

Following a neck-and-neck special election last week for the First District Supervisor seat, supervisors Tuesday are expected to welcome former First District chief of staff Andrew Do back to their five-member board, giving them an Asian American majority for the first time in history.

County supervisor candidate Andrew Do greets supporters on election night.

Nick Gerda / Voice of OC

County supervisor candidate Andrew Do greets supporters on election night.

Barring any recounts or lawsuits, Do appears to have won a seat on the board of supervisors following the last update of votes on Friday, winning the right to finish the last two years of former Supervisor Janet Nguyen’s supervisors seat by just 43 votes over former State Senator Lou Correa.

In city business, Lake Forest officials are considering whether to restrict political contributions from city vendors. Anaheim officials are considering giving the city more power to punish property owners in their ongoing efforts to close illegal pot shops. Meanwhile, Laguna Beach city manger John Pietig is anticipating a five percent salary increase.

Controversial DA Background Investigations Contract Returns for Approval

A screenshot of a page from the RCS Investigations & Consulting website, which Board Chairman Todd Spitzer lambasted for its lack of detail.

A screenshot of a page from the RCS Investigations & Consulting website, which Board Chairman Todd Spitzer lambasted for its lack of detail.

A controversial contract to outsource background investigations at the District Attorney’s office is slated to return for a decision by county supervisors on Tuesday.

The contract, to outsource background investigations to the firm RCS Investigations & Consulting for $85,000 per year, drew criticism last week from supervisors’ Chairman Todd Spitzer as a potential example of friends helping friends get county contracts.

The contract’s staff report, which was co-written by the DA’s investigations chief, Craig Hunter, didn’t note any past relationships between himself and the proposed vendor.

But Spitzer said Hunter worked with an RCS partner, Steve Rodig – who would be the firm’s manager for the contract – when both were supervisors at the Anaheim Police Department.

Hunter, who was recommending the RCS contract, oversaw Anaheim’s gang unit while Rodig supervised robbery and homicide in 1993, according to Spitzer.

Although Spitzer cautioned that he wasn’t accusing anyone of wrongdoing, he cited the RCS contract and a contract-splitting scandal in the parks department as the justification for his proposal to require county officials to disclose social and professional relationships with proposed vendors before their contracts are up for approval by supervisors.

The full agenda is available on the county’s website.

Supervisor Bartlett Slated to Join CalOptima Board

Lisa Bartlett at her swearing in ceremony Dec. 2, 2014. (Photo courtesy of the County of Orange).

Lisa Bartlett at her swearing in ceremony Dec. 2, 2014. (Photo courtesy of the County of Orange).

Orange County’s troubled public health care plan is slated to get a new board member, with county supervisor Lisa Bartlett scheduled to replace former Supervisor Janet Nguyen’s seat on the board.

Bartlett’s appointment is up for approval at Tuesday’s supervisors meeting.  It comes at a critical time for the agency, which manages health care for more than 600,000 poor residents, most of them children and elderly.

A federal audit last year found that “widespread” problems at CalOptima were leading to a “serious threat to the health and safety” of elderly patients.

State auditors also found “serious and significant” problems, including potentially dangerous delays in approving prescriptions.  Agency officials have vowed to fix the issues identified by auditors.

Bartlett would be joining supervisors’ Chairman Todd Spitzer on the health plan’s board.

The two county supervisor appointees have a powerful role on the CalOptima board, given that the rest of the board members have to be approved by county supervisors.

Bartlett’s appointment is among many board and commission appointments up for approval on Tuesday. Bartlett will also be appointed to the Orange County Fire Authority.

The 36 panels estimated to get appointments include the Children and Families Commission of Orange County and the region’s air pollution regulator and South Coast AQMD.

Click here for the full list of appointments scheduled for Tuesday.

Lake Forest Considers Restricting Political Contributions of Vendors

At their regular meeting Tuesday, Lake Forest City Council members will discuss potential restrictions on political contributions from vendors on city contracts.

In light of a new state laws impacting public contracting, including changes focused on monitoring prevailing wage for public works contracts, city is making several modifications of its standard template forms for public contracting.

At their Dec. 2 meeting, council member Jim Gardner – a former member of the Voice of OC Community Editorial Board – requested a legal analysis of whether the city could restrict political contributions from vendors, without violating First Amendment rights to political speech.

A report from the city attorney is recommending the council consider modeling its ordinance after the Levine Act, a state law restricting some appointed local officials from accepting, soliciting, or directing a direct campaign contribution of more than two hundred fifty dollars ($250) from donors who are involved in license, permit or non-bid contracts, for three months after a decision is made.

The Levine Act also requires officials disclose their conflict and recuse themselves from a vote within twelve months of such a decision.

You can read the full staff report, which contains further legal analysis of the issue, and read the entire meeting agenda on the city website.

Anaheim Targets Landlords in Effort to Close Illegal Pot Shops

A map of marijuana dispensaries in Anaheim, according to Weedmaps.com, an online social network for legal marijuana.

A map of marijuana dispensaries in Anaheim, according to Weedmaps.com, an online social network for legal marijuana.

In the ongoing effort by cities to close illegal medical marijuana dispensaries, Anaheim officials are taking steps to expand their enforcement powers so they can take civil or criminal actions against property owners who rent to pot shops.

After the California Supreme Court ruled in May 2013 that municipalities have the right to ban dispensaries and enforce civil and criminal penalties for violations, Anaheim and other cities have sought to regulate or shut down medical marijuana shops.

Since that ruling, Anaheim has closed 161 of 179 dispensaries operating in the city and is still trying to close the remaining 18, according to a staff report.

In August, the city cut power to dispensaries that refused to close, although some have used generators and found other means to continue operating, according to the report.

The proposed changes to the municipal code would clarify the City’s ability to pursue civil and criminal action against property owners and landlords who allow the dispensaries to operate on their property.

Read the full staff report and city council agenda here.

Santa Ana Revisits Park Rangers 

Santa Ana city council members will, once again, discuss possible alternatives to the city’s armed park rangers program. At their last meeting, council members failed to come to a consensus because one member was absent, and the council deadlocked in a pair of 3-3 votes.

The city is reconsidering the program after new state public employee retirement laws have pushed four of the rangers, already public employee retirees, into an illegal employment status.

Council members are also debating whether it is wise to have armed park rangers at all, because it could create the perception that the city’s parks are more dangerous than they really are.

Read the full staff report and view the complete city agenda online.

Costa Mesa Councilwoman Requests Look at Bikeway and Walkability

Costa Mesa could establish a committee to examine bikeways and walkability citywide, if council member approve a request by councilwoman Katrina Foley.

At their last city council meeting, Foley argued the city should reexamine its Bike Master Plan and invest in non-motorized transportation as its fiscal situation slowly recovers.

Read the staff report and full agenda online.

San Juan Capistrano to Fill City Council Vacancy

San Juan City Council members will decide Tuesday whether to appoint a new member to the city council or hold a special election.

At the council’s Jan. 20 meeting, council member Roy Byrnes announced he would retire, effective Feb. 17.

According to a city staff report, a special election would cost the city anywhere from $105,248 to $115,071.

If the council choose to fill the vacancy by appointment, that individual would hold the seat until the November 2016 election.

Read the full meeting agenda.

Laguna Beach City Manager to Get 5% Raise

Laguna Beach City Council members are set to approve a five percent salary increase for city manager John Pietig.

Pietig, who was appointed in 2010, will bring home $220,668.84 in annual salary this year, according to his employment contract.

Pietig received a five percent increase last year. Tuesday’s proposal would give him a five percent salary increase starting February, as well as another five percent in January 2016. It would also extend his contract until the year 2020.

Read the full staff report here.

Monday Feb. 2

Huntington Beach City Council, 6:00 pm

Mission Viejo City Council, 5:00 pm

Tuesday, Feb. 3

Anaheim City Council, 5:00 pm

Brea City Council, 7:00 pm

Costa Mesa City Council, 5:45 pm

Dana Point City Council, 6:00 pm

Fountain Valley City Council, 6:00 pm

Fullerton City Council, 5:00 pm

La Habra City Council, 6:30 pm

Lake Forest City Council, 7:00 pm

Laguna Beach City Council, 6:00 pm

Placentia City Council, 5:30 pm

San Clemente City Council, 6:30 pm

San Juan Capistrano City Council, 5:00 pm

Santa Ana City Council, 5:45 pm

Tustin City Council, 7:00 pm

Yorba Linda City Council, 6:30 pm

Wednesday, Feb. 4

Aliso Viejo City Council, 6:00 pm

Orange County Water District, 5:30 pm

Friday, Feb. 6

South Coast Air Quality Management District, 9:00 am

Voice of OC staff Thy Vo, Nicholas Gerda and Adam Elmahrek compiled this report. Email inquiries or questions to Thy at thyanhvo@gmail.com.