Supervisors Wrangle Over Cost of Ethics Commission Proposal

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After finally agreeing to put an ethics commission on the ballot in June, county supervisors are now wrangling over how much the commission will cost and how to present that to voters.

The latest drama started in November when Supervisor Michelle Steel requested her colleagues’ approval to have county Auditor-Controller Eric Woolery prepare a financial analysis of the measure, which would appear on the ballot.

Steel, who was the only supervisor to vote against putting the commission proposal on the ballot, is saying it will cost taxpayers between $500,000 to $1 million based on a county staff analysis of other ethics commissions across the state.

“I think this is a good number to start [with], because the voters have the right to know the cost,” Steel said of the range.

But Supervisor Todd Spitzer said her numbers are overinflated.

The document Steel presented showing $272,000 per year for an executive director “is inherently misleading because it doesn’t break out that that’s not just a salary,” Spitzer said. “If I open my ballot and I saw that the county was considering paying that position 272 [thousand dollars], I’d cough up my coffee.”

Additionally, Steel’s higher numbers seemed to be based on a commission with a staff of around five people, while Orange County’s commission – given the conservative nature of the supervisors when it comes to staffing – would likely have fewer, Spitzer suggested.

Spitzer, however, did agree that it’s important for voters to know the expected cost.

He suggested supervisors plan a future discussion on what exactly the compensation would be for commission staff if the measure were passed, and whether the jobs would be full-time, part-time, or contracted out.

“We’d have a much better idea” of what it would look like, he noted.

Supervisor Andrew Do agreed with Spitzer.

“If somebody doesn’t like this ordinance, they can completely sabotage it be just making outlandish” cost estimates, Do said.

If supervisors do formally ask Woolery to prepare the analysis, it would then go directly on the ballot without any further supervisors’ approval. If they disagree, they could seek to appeal it during a 10-day review period in which members of the public can challenge it in court.

Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at ngerda@voiceofoc.org.

  • Shirley L. Grindle

    Supervisor Steel is merely a puppet for others who oppose oversight of the campaign finance rules. Lets be honest – the only ones who oppose an Ethics Commission in OC are the bad guys – those with something to hide. Steel’s opposition to the Ethics Commission is not about the money – the truth is it will probably cost 1% of the County annual budget – it is all about continuing to have no enforcement of our local campaign laws.

    • Jacki Livingston

      With all due respect, let’s get real. This post will be appointed and filled with some political hack that they owe, for a high salary and pension, and nothing will change. The stench is way too deep for this. The only thing that will change the current political landscape of the BoS, the DA’s office or any of the major agency heads will be indictments, a sweeping series of City of Bell-type prosecutions for the horrible corruption going on. The BoS is rotten to the core. The DA is completely clueless and incompetent, but the person who wants to replace him is just as dirty. The bigger agencies, notably the Public Guardian and SSA, are in up to their necks, for embezzlement, fraud, cronyism and corruption. You can’t clean house with a roll of tissue and a Dustbuster. You have to shake it down to the ground, get in and get dirty. When that happens, the political cockroaches in this County will scurry and run, leaving these clowns in the light, alone. Crunch, crunch, crunch…my heel is itching for that day.

      • Shirley L. Grindle

        Well, Jacki, you certainly paint a bleak picture. Don’t disagree with a lot of it. Hopefully the Commissioners (who are not political cronies of the Supervisors) will keep on top of the Exec. Director. Unfortunately because Orange County is a charter county, the appointment of the Exec. Director can only be made by the BoS. Other existing Ethics Commissions have not had the problems you envision will occur, and their Commissioners were appointed without any restrictions on who can serve on the Commissions. The commission proposed for OC is unique in that there are severe restrictions on who can serve on the Commission. So – lets hope for the best.

        • LFOldTimer

          “So – lets hope for the best.”
          And expect the worst based on all the shenanigans we’ve witnessed in recent years. Why would the Ethics Commission get managed any differently than the OIR, the Internal Auditor’s Office, the Public Administrator/Public Guardian’s Offices, etc… What do we have to predict future performance other than past performance? Ms. Livingston paints a bleak picture based on logic and reason. If I were a betting man I’d wager 5 to 1 odds that Ms. Livingston is correct. IMO the Ethics Commission will get approved at the ballot box and turn out to be another huge waste of taxpayer money.

          • Jacki Livingston

            Amen.

        • Jacki Livingston

          I applaud your optimistic view. I have proof of criminal activity in SSA. I fought for six years and had my life and career destroyed by these sleaze monkeys. My clients are still being robbed and killed by these miserable excuses for humans. My optimistic switch is broken.

          • Shirley L. Grindle

            Jacki: I couldn’t agree with you more regarding the SSA. I have had several parents contact me over the years with the corrupt actions going on – particularly in Child Protective Services and certain Judges in the Family Court System. Unfortunately the BoS just won’t get into this – I think it is too complicated and difficult for them to figure out what is really going on because CPS covers up a lot.

          • LFOldTimer

            Why won’t the BoS get involved in with CPS matters and judicial rulings? They got involved in the judicial ruling re: Karma the Dog. They certainly involved themselves in the recall effort and the very negative approved resolution re: Judge M. Mark Kelly (which flat-out failed, btw). Whenever people bring injustices in the system or courts to the attention of the BoS all five claim that they cannot intervene in judicial matters. Yet they do it at the drop of a hat when it might result in political expedience (see examples above^). Certainly you can recognize the reality of this, Shirley.

          • Shirley L. Grindle

            Why don’t you ask the BoS why they don’t get involved with CPS matters? There is certainly enough complaints about the CPS and the attorneys/social workers handling of matters, to justify their involvement.

          • LFOldTimer

            Perhaps you missed the point, Shirley. The BoS would get involved if it was politically expedient for them to do so. Since it’s not, they maintain an arm’s length. See my previous examples about interference with the judiciary.
            Probably under the guise that they don’t want to interefere with the independence afforded to the SSA director whom they appointed. Yet they didn’t hesitate interfering with OCAC Director Hawkin’s independence when they overruled her decision about Karma the Dog. Remember? If there’s no political expedience it turns to krptonite. Otherwise, if there’s political gain to be had they dive in head first. You know this. You’ve been watching these games far longer than I have. I agree that the BoS should intervene on SSA. I remember when a couple of their social workers lied to a judge and withheld exculpatory evidence that would have favored a mother who lost custody of her 2 small daughters for 5 or 6 years. That mother eventually won a $5M judgment. The 2 social workers kept their jobs. One was subsequently promoted to a supervisory position. Not a peep from the BoS. Not politically expedient to do so. Follow the bouncing ball.

          • Jacki Livingston

            The County paid out ten mill, recently, for a case that went all the way to the USSC, and they lost. Add into that number what OC spent fighting. But have no worries about the BoS and judges, because Spitzer already uses his wife and close friend at the Worker’s Comp court in Anaheim to totally cheat and railroad injured employees. I have little doubt he can do the same with judges at family court, too.

    • LFOldTimer

      I predict that the Ethics Commission will run the same course as the Office of Independent Review. The old guard who created it will protect it’s failed legacy in spite of overwhelming evidence that it’s failed its mission over and over again. They’ll protect it to keep their own political reputations intact. Two or three boards down the road the new supes will finally concede that the EC is a failure and has been a waste of taxpayer money. Then they’ll start upgrading a failed agency. Probably add 5 more commissioners and expand their duties. Meanwhile, Nelson will be a Judge. Spitzer will be the DA. Do will be the Public Defender. Bartlett will supercede Bates in the State Senate. And Steel will be the County Assessor. And all will have smirks on their faces. The more things change the more they stay the same. 🙂

    • David Zenger

      “the only ones who oppose an Ethics Commission in OC are the bad guys – those with something to hide.”

      The ones who support an Ethics Commission are the bad ones who want political cover for their REAL ethical offenses – the politicization of County governance.

      FYI the County budget is about $6,000,000,000. 1% would be $60,000,000 let’s hope this Kabuki show costs a lot less than that!

  • Paul Lucas

    Lets hope the don’t make this a paper tiger by under-funding the office.

    • David Zenger

      It will of necessity be composed of paper. Will it be a tiger or a kitten?

      • Jacki Livingston

        Wolfdog…Karma. Ba-dum-bum…

  • David Zenger

    “The document Steel presented showing $272,000 per year
    for an executive director “is inherently misleading because it doesn’t
    break out that that’s not just a salary,” Spitzer said.”

    Well, there you have it. Let’s play hide the pea with the voters. The cost of a $150,000 director with car, public pension, health insurance, etc., etc, will no doubt get very close to $272,000. For years government executives and politicians have been hiding behind this Spitzer-type camouflage: ignore our benefits.

    The real cost is the real cost, Todd, so go ahead and spit up your coffee.

    $272,000 is a shocking cost to hire a person to watch over a dozen elected positions – who can’t seem to do their own paperwork right. Now it’s OUR job.

    And thank you, Ms. Steel. At least someone is acting like a conservative. The only thing more liberal than cooking up a completely useless agency is then emasculating it at birth. Creating a castrato public agency is the opposite of conservatism.

    P.S. The public would be amazed at what a thorough job politicians campaign consultants do reviewing their opponents Forms 700 & 460.

    • LFOldTimer

      Agreed. Take 5 true conservatives on a board. Before deciding out of the blue to propose a new commission and put it on the County ballot (which is not an inexpensive venture on its own) wouldn’t at least one conservative speak up and say “Why don’t we consider estimating the annual cost of this commission prior to voting on the ballot position so we could engage in a cost/benefit analysis?” But oh no. The put it on the ballot then work backwards. The’ Ethics Commission’ will end up being a political weapon at the disposal of the BoS to use against those who don’t toe the line. Just like the new and improved OIR coming down the pipeline. Plus, they will be able to appoint their political pals to nice paying jobs that will just result in more ‘quid pro quo’. The whole thing stinks. Can’t believe Shirley Grindle gave it her stamp of approval. What was she thinking?

      • Jacki Livingston

        I think Shirley hoped that something would change. But it won’t. You are right, in that it is just another quid pro quo job that they will give to their buds and political donors. It has no teeth, at all.

    • Jacki Livingston

      LOL, David, I sometimes disagree with you, but on this, you are right on the money. Well said, But, let’s not have Todd spit up his coffee. After all, we taxpayers pay for that, remember?