Probolsky Sanctioned for Timecard Abuses, Political Threats

Brian Probolsky
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Orange County officials have sanctioned an influential OC GOP insider, Brian Probolsky, for attending weekday meetings as an elected official with the Moulton Niguel Water District board member last year while also on the clock in his job as a business practices manager at the county’s Community Resources Department (OCCR), according to sources knowledgeable about a completed human resources investigation into the matter.

Probolsky, who had been on loan to former Supervisor Pat Bates since July from OCCR and also briefly worked for Supervisor Lisa Bartlett in December, didn’t show any time off on his county timecard for water district meetings, according to sources.

According to sources, Probolsky has in turn, spent the last six months confronting human resources investigators about their probe, fighting back while under questioning and even threatening investigators with political retribution given his posts with county supervisors.

He spent the last month on vacation during the special election that elected Republican Andrew Do to the Board of Supervisors last week and was seen at Do’s campaign events.

Probolsky was supposed to return to work at OCCR on Monday.

However, he wasn’t at OCCR Monday. He was instead answering phones for Do, who was sworn in on Tuesday.

Asked by a Voice of OC reporter on Monday about whether he was working for Do, Probolsky declined comment. Do did not return a call seeking comment.

However, county spokeswoman Jean Pasco said, “according to the county system, [Probolsky is] currently an OCCR employee.” Pasco confirmed that Probolsky was back at work as of Monday but was indeed working out of the First District office. It’s unclear whether he is on loan (similar to his situation with Bates) or not.

During vacancies in supervisors’ offices – such as in the First District – the chairman of the Board of Supervisors is in charge of supervising office staff.

After today hearing about Probolsky answering phones for Do, County Supervisors’ Chairman Todd Spitzer said he didn’t authorize staff to be working Monday in the First District office, so any county staff there would be “taking a vacation day.”

Probolsky was formally criticized in internal documents just last week for threatening the HR investigators with political retribution for their investigation while he worked as a chief of staff to Bates last fall, sources said.

He was cited for “extremely inappropriate” actions and warned privately that his threats against investigators would not be allowed to continue, sources said.

His sanction from the CEO’s office, sources said, amounted to a few days of unpaid leave in January.

County officials would not comment publicly on Probolsky’s case.

Union officials said the CEO’s office has created a unique standard, one that workers will expect to be applied to them as well.

“This lenient standard will be the benchmark going forward. Arbitrations for our members are going to become a lot easier from now on,” said Nick Berardino, general manager of the Orange County Employees Association, who has heard of the Probolsky matter.

“The CEO has created one of the lowest standards for discipline that I have seen in 40 years with this case,” Berardino said. “It will be enormous help to the unions in disciplinary matters.”

County supervisors generally reacted with surprise regarding Probolsky’s alleged attempts to undermine the investigation and said they’ve not seen the HR documents.

Spitzer said he would be seeking a briefing on the issue.

“I haven’t seen the report,” said Supervisor Shawn Nelson. “Obviously any employee or elected would be way out of line if he or she threatened a county investigator just doing his or her job.”

In addition to being called out by officials for lack of professionalism and threats, Probolsky was criticized for failing to disclose his secondary employment with the water district, using his own computer instead of a work-issued one, and using bereavement leave to attend some water district meetings, sources said.

Probolsky also caught the attention of HR investigators last year when he was caught on tape along with other political aides people-watching during work hours at the Registrar’s office during the March candidate filing deadline.

He also admitted to investigators, according to sources with knowledge of the probe, that he had no business reasons for hanging out at the Registrar of Voters office last March to watch candidates file for office.

Regarding his issues with documenting time off, Probolsky argued to investigators that given his executive position, he was on the clock 24/7.

Yet over a year and a half, Probolsky could only show investigators less than two-dozen emails sent after hours.

Probolsky’s rise through the county political ranks has been noteworthy.

It comes at a time of unprecedented disclosure of supervisors’ abuses in county hiring practices – seeking to offer their political aides easy access to public sector jobs. With newly-elected officials like Auditor Controller Eric Woolery asking his own set of political aides, the jockeying has triggered fundamental questions about just what do these political aides do for their elected masters.

Probolsky entered the county government as a staff aide to Bates in 2010. Within two years, he raised eyebrows by nearly doubling his pay when he went to work for OCCR. Probolsky worked as a business practices manager working directly for agency director Steve Franks – himself once a political aide to County Supervisor Jim Silva.

Last summer, just after HR investigators started checking out his water district attendance following an anonymous tip, Bates moved Probolsky back to her office and  secured him a raise that went above the authorized level for executive aides to supervisors.

During these ensuing months, the pressure on HR investigators to end their probe of Probolsky became the most intense, sources said.

When Bates left the Board of Supervisors in early December after being elected to the State Senate, Probolsky moved over for a short stint to work for her successor, Supervisor Lisa Bartlett.

Yet Bartlett did not keep him on staff, returning Probolsky back to OCCR by Dec. 31.

He was supposed to go back to OCCR but took the month off for vacation.

Do has apparently hired Probolsky back for his third stint on the Fifth Floor of the County Hall of Administration. At Tuesday’s county supervisors’ meeting, Probolsky sat next to the other chiefs of staff and held Do’s briefing booklets also conferring with him on the dais.

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  • Diego Vega

    Brian Probolsky is listed as Supervisor Do’s Chief of Staff in the latest BOS telephone list. So much for sanctions. Did it hurt much when they flogged Probolsky with that feather?

  • Steve W.

    “Probolsky was criticized for…using his own computer instead of a work-issued one.”

    David Zenger did the same thing when he was a board aide. Where were the blood hounds then?

    • David Zenger

      Gee, maybe it had something to do with the fact that I was actually doing my job, I wasn’t faking time cards, having six-figure jobs cooked up for me (what with my gen-u-ine college degree, and all) and even threatening supervisors to appoint me the new Performance Auditor although I didn’t have a spittle’s worth of qualification.

      Oops.

      • Steve W.

        Is there a secret coda to county work rules stating it is OK to use your own computer instead of a work-issued one as long as you are “actually doing your job”? And why did you bring your own PC to work at the county? What did you use it for?

        • John Claxton

          Could it be for the sole purpose to avoid disclosing any and all information when the Voice of OC comes calling for all those emails? Since it’s your own computer and all.

          • Steve W.

            That sounds like a bulls-eye explanation!

        • David Zenger

          There was no rule that I was aware of about the use of personal computers – so long as you are doing your job and not joy riding.

          I had my own construction management software on that computer that I couldn’t load onto my County machine. The way the County bungled construction projects it was something of a necessity once and a while.

          Any other questions, Sherlock?

          • Steve W.

            “There was no rule that I was aware of about the use of personal computers”

            Since you obviously see yourself as way smarter than Probolsky,and YOU didn’t know about the rule, then it’s likely Probolsky didn’t know either.

            So you weren’t commenting on blogs and doing other non-work things during work hours?

  • Steve W.

    When did the county create the “political aide” job classification? Oh yes – it didn’t!! There is no such position. It’s a term the reporter made up to prejudice readers against board aides and make them appear as unprofessional, unqualified hacks.

    Voice of OC has depended on OCEA funding since its launch. The Voice wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Nick Berardino. How come that funding isn’t disclosed to readers in articles quoting Berardino or reporting on county government? Is it coincidence the Voice’s pattern of county government coverage dovetails with Berardino’s campaign against county management?

    This kind of one-sided tabloid journalism tarnishes good people’s reputations, and it’s not even very smart reporting. Knocking Probolsky for “failing to disclose his secondary employment with the water district”? It’s hardly a secret he’s a director of the Moulton Niguel Water District. And that hardly qualifies as a job. Was Probolsky told he had to complete a form for that? The Form 700 board aides fill out exempts disclosure of government employment. It’s counter-intuitive to think there’s another form requires it.

    And reducing Steve Franks to being a “political aide” for working for Jim Silva? Franks worked in the county budget office for years before becoming Silva’s chief of staff. He’s a career county employee who spent part of his career on the 5th Floor. But Norberto paints him as a political hack. This site started out great. Its turned into tabloid gotcha news.

  • John Claxton

    Maybe this will lead to another investigation into the same issues with Nelson’s chief of staff Denis Billsomedough

    • John Claxton

      He attended Orange council meetings and functions and attended water board meetings all allegedly on county time. All these guys are crooked as can be but our trusted leaders just rotate them in and out each other’s doors. Let’s see if Chairman Spitzer does anything.

  • Justin Case

    Anyone want to guess whether the OC Register will cover this tidbit of negative news about the GOP elite in taxpayer funded jobs?

    • John Claxton

      There hasn’t been any investigative reporting done by the Register since Kimberly Edds took down John Williams and the PAPG’s office.

      • John Claxton

        Oh wait, yes – he was caught falsifying his time cards too!

  • Cynthia Ward

    Thank you Shirley, for asking the obvious. Where was the Supervisor who approved the timesheets of this staffer? If Pat Bates was not in the office to supervise the work of her staff, by what standard did she approve the time sheets? Did she review work performed and determine it was the equivalent of the 8 hours? Do the time sheets reflect his absence mid-day and made up later in the evening to justify his claim of working 24-7? This is not merely a violation of County policy, it could (if proven) be a violation of State law. Staff time is “public funds” that is clear from numerous cases of Political Reform Act violations. Political work on staff time or using paid staff time for personal business like serving on a Board, is MISUSE OF PUBLIC FUNDS and it needs to go to law enforcement for review. Oh yeah…Tony Rackauckas is still our District Attorney. So actual CHARGES are never going to happen.

    We had the same problem when Kris Murray was a Government Relations staffer for OCTA but spent WEEKS of PAID salaried time at meetings for the Water District in her service to Anaheim’s Public Utilities Board. She made the same argument, that she made up the time later, but I don’t recall anyone seeing proof of that. Today as a Council member she uses the SAME outside firm to act as her “policy aids” on the public dime that also handle her campaign account, with work done largely outside the office. Anyone else wonder where the lines are drawn? But nothing will happen there either, not with a DA looking the other way when not sharing meals with, or campaigning for, those he should be investigating.

    BTW shame on you Nick Berardino, for immediately assuming a default position that you can now score easier get-out-of-jail cards for union members caught misbehaving. This should not be about dropping the standard to the lowest common denominator, this should be about holding ALL staff accountable to the same standard, and when it comes to the public trust, the standard should be a lot higher than it is.

    • David Zenger

      Cynthia, I believe Nick was being facetious.

  • Shirley L. Grindle

    This entire episode with Brian Probolsky(aided and abetted by his County Supervisor Pat Bates) is just one more reason why Orange County needs an Ethics Commission. And one that is NOT appointed by any of the County’s elected officials.

  • Jeffrey Dickman

    Thanks Voice.

  • Robert Darley

    It is PAINFULLY obvious the VOC does not wish Andrew Do to be a County Supervisor. To which I can only say: GET A DECENT CANDIDATE!!!!
    Just like the countless arguments I have had here with other posters (one in particular who lives in Orange and has dropped out of sight since his Son’s Felony Narcotics conviction…Nice Parenting there…) about Miguel Pulido.
    Why don’t you stop the BACK DOOR politics and get a decent candidate. Without Phan and Ngyuen, Andrew Do would have coasted to victory, Instead even with CHEATING and the Shill’s Correa can’t win (or Solorio).
    Why Doesn’t the VOC, OCEA and DPOC which often seem the same, pool their resources and get GOOD electable candidates. Nobody wants David Benavides or Julio Perez! Face it they are LOSERS.
    We want good, middle class representation, like Joe Gerda, Miguel Pulido, heck we’ll even go for that guy from Westminster, whose name I can’t even remember over Ngyen, Do, Correa or Solorio.
    WHO CARES ABOUT BRIAN PROBOLSKY???????
    You need candidates. Man. YOU NEED THEM BAD!

    • Justin Case

      1) In what universe is Miguel Pulido considered middle class?

      2) How do you arrive at your conclusion that “the VOC does not wish Andrew Do to be a County Supervisor?” There is zero evidence to your conclusion. They have reported on this issue as a straight up news story.

      3) Read the headline to the story again please. It is about Brian Probolsky, not Andrew Do.

      • @Dan Chmielewski

        and both Robert Darley and Justin Case are aliases of commenters previously banned here. Neither offers a real name. They demonstrate how easy it is to get a fake Facebook account

        • Robert Darley

          I am not sure what you are talking about but, I have NEVER been banned here or ANYWHERE.
          I will say that within hours of a contentious comment, Greg Diamond tracked me down, began inquiring my alma mater and a surf shop I owned fifteen years ago. Creepy web stalkers are dangerous, which is why I don’t allow my high school aged kids participate on social media. creepy dudes like you and Greg would get their jollies. I believe Jeff Dickman searched voter rolls and another equally creepy grown man ran a check on me. If only Jeff was as successful finding his Mother who threw him away like a Jack In The Box Taco wrapper, he might not be such a living example of his adopted surname.
          My Facebook was created soley to comment on my college board, which required it otherwise, I woulod offer this: NOTHING good can come from social media.

          • @Dan Chmielewski

            I’m in the phone book “Robert.” Are you? Don’t flatter yourself…I don’t search for you. You’re a creepy troll who leaves the nastiest of comments for those you hate and you’re not brave enough to put your real name to it. Coward.

          • Robert Darley

            Do they still have those?
            I dumped the land line(s) a while ago.
            YOU picked this fight. I was simply exercising my opinion. Amazing how you creeps come out of the woodwork when you face logical disagreement. Your buddy Greg diamond removed his comments here about my wife and my child’s school. I call that creepy.
            I am a patient man. Not a depressive Bi-Polar one. It’s tough to recount what one says when having an “episode”.
            Shouldn’t we stick to the issues instead of attacking one another……Or is that only if you agree with each other??

          • @Dan Chmielewski

            Your opinion is directed at people not connected to the story about Probolsky. That’s the issue. You decided to interject several people this story has nothing to do with. I could care less what Diamond does. You’re fake outrage is the same as the Banned “Henry Gattis.” You’re writing style gives you away

          • Robert Darley

            My writing style?
            Stick to the subject at hand “Dan Chmielewinski” whoever you are?
            Please DO NOT COMMENT ABOUT ME, TO ME, REGARDING ME, unless it is in a debate format. Guys like you RUINED a good forum. I am all about debate, not smiley agreement.
            You should start your own website!

        • Robert Darley

          Now Now. I thought we were going to refrain from personal attacks under the new forum. Apparently that is not the case. At least if you are taking the OCEA side of things.

      • Robert Darley

        The universe I live in is called Santa Ana. have you been by the overgrown broken down house that Adam and other ill informed people (like Greg Diamond) like to cal a mansion!
        It’s a dump. he has lived in the dump since 93. Who hasn’t made money on property since 93???? Who isn’t better off at 53 then they were at 33?
        Maybe if I were a Bi-Polar depressive with bowel problems and an SEVERE inferoirty complex, living in an apartment with my mail order wife, I would consider Pulido’s house a “Mansion”, maybe if I had no job, pretending I did, while relying on my wife and others, I would lash out and call him an opportunists.
        That’s my universe, it’s called reality!

  • Kathleen Tahilramani

    It’s so tidy for the political favorites – the little secret keepers. They get a hall pass and a gold star.A few days off and a soft landing.
    Since when does the county “Sanction” employees? It’s called “administrative leave” “suspension” or getting FIRED. Since when is it acceptable to make threats and walk away with a couple of days “sanction”? County government is completely out of control. I have seen many people fired for much less. This situation has created the bottom dweller of all benchmarks for acceptable employee behavior. It is disturbing that our “leadership” feels that a few days off is the proper response when an employee who is in a high level position and should/does know better makes serious threats and attempts to interfere with an HR investigation. And the predictable result will be less than stellar HR investigations of the political elite since this sends a message that nothing will happen and there will be no consequences. Also, try firing anyone else for almost anything with this horrible precedent. Nice way for the Board to create a hostile and dangerous work environment for all county employees. Now all county staff work in an environment where safety is compromised by a manipulated employee discipline system? And that is called “Leadership”. No good will come of this.

    • Diego Vega

      “Nice way for the Board to create a hostile and dangerous work environment for all county employees. Now all county staff work in an environment where safety is compromised by a manipulated employee discipline system.”

      Don’t worry, Kathleen. There always has been and always will be two sets of standards: One with no rules for the well-connected (like Probolsky) and another for the rank and file based on the
      twin towers of intimidation and retaliation. I don’t see anything changing in spite of Spitzer’s shock.

      After the smoke clears, Probolsky will keep his $105,000+ per year county job, and will likely become Andrew Do’s Chief-of-Staff or Executive Assistant. Every county job Probolsky has had was pre-arranged for him. He has never even had to interview to give the recruitment some appearance of legitimacy.

  • Shirley L. Grindle

    So where was Supervisor Pat Bates when Brian Probolsky was falsifying his time cards?!?

    • Diego Vega

      Supervisor Bates was approving his time sheets!!

    • David Zenger

      Bates came to the office one day a week. Nobody was in charge.