Spitzer Targets Double-Dipping by Nelson and Bilodeau

From left: OC Supervisor Todd Spitzer, Supervisor Shawn Nelson, and Nelson's chief of staff, Denis Bilodeau.

From left: OC Supervisor Todd Spitzer, Supervisor Shawn Nelson, and Nelson's chief of staff, Denis Bilodeau.

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Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer has escalated his long-running feud with fellow Supervisor Shawn Nelson, introducing measures this week that ban the kind of double-dipping from taxpayer funds that Nelson and his chief of staff have long engaged in.

For years, Nelson has been collecting a $765-per-month car allowance from the county despite getting a publicly-funded car for free as a perk of his appointment to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) board.

So far, Nelson has received about $50,000 in car allowance payments from the county while being issued an AQMD car, which he’s had nearly continuously since February 2011. And Denis Bilodeau, Nelson’s top aide at the county, received $83,000 in payments and benefits last year from other public agencies on top of the $177,000 in salary and benefits he earns from his full-time job at the county.

Included in Bilodeau’s outside income last year was nearly $38,000 for being Nelson’s policy aide at AQMD, which has led to questions about why he gets the extra money when he’s already getting a full-time salary from the county to help Nelson.

Nelson has defended his perks by saying he’s sacrificing by serving on the Board of Supervisors because he used to make much more money as a private attorney. While serving as a supervisor, Nelson has continued to receive more than $100,000 each year from his law firm, according to his financial disclosures.

The double-dipping by Nelson and Bilodeau has drawn the ire of some of their fellow Republicans, including public criticism of Bilodeau by prominent GOP activist Jon Fleischman.

“If he’s already being paid full-time to give all of his professional hours to helping Shawn Nelson as a supervisor, then what’s he getting paid by the AQMD to do?” Fleischman asked earlier this year. “And if he’s getting paid by the AQMD to help Shawn Nelson, then why are the taxpayers of the county of Orange” paying to pick up his salary?

Bilodeau has said little publicly in response to the criticism, other than saying AQMD pays him to assist Nelson “in analyzing proposed regulations and other related technical tasks.”

Now, Spitzer is stepping into the fray. He’s placed two items on next Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors agenda that would prohibit exactly what Nelson and Bilodeau have been doing.

The changes would ban supervisors from accepting a car for more than seven days per month from another government agency, such as AQMD, where they’re appointed by the Board of Supervisors.

The new rules would also ban supervisors’ staff and contractors from taking compensation from an outside agency for helping the supervisor at that agency without prior approval by a majority of the Board of Supervisors.

Violations require the offending supervisor to “immediately forfeit” their appointment to the outside agency, and a new vote by supervisors to fill the vacant seat.

(Click here to read Spitzer’s proposal.)

Spitzer needs two other supervisors’ votes on Tuesday for the item to pass.

Neither Spitzer, Nelson nor Bilodeau returned calls for comment.

Nelson and Bilodeau are not the only public officials who have come under fire for double-dipping. Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido has used his position to earn nearly six figures annually in addition to his pay for serving on city council.

Westminster is another place where City Council members are known for “double-dipping” by taking benefits from multiple taxpayer-funded sources.

Spitzer’s effort is a rare public move against a fellow supervisor. He and Nelson have a history of feuds, including public accusations from Nelson that Spitzer was “grandstanding” in front of TV cameras in when trying to pass a law against underage drinking.

Nelson also publicly criticized Spitzer’s political fundraising through a Republican Party Central Committee account, suggesting that Spitzer was trying to get around the county’s campaign finance limits.

“Is it an ethical approach to what people understand is a fundraising cap? No,” Nelson told the Orange County Register about Spitzer’s approach.

Spitzer is also widely believed to be eyeing a run for District Attorney in 2018, which would likely pit him against his archrival District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. Nelson and Rackauckas have worked closely together in the past, and Nelson has criticized some of Spitzer’s attacks against Rackauckas.

It remains to be seen if Spitzer will succeed in getting the votes he needs to push through the double-dipping ban.

Tuesday’s supervisors meeting starts at 9:30 a.m. at the county Hall of Administration in Santa Ana.

This story has been updated to include that Nelson has had an AQMD car since February 2011, and that the amount of county car allowances he’s received in that time is about $50,000.

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

  • John Claxton

    Did the items get pulled? I tried to watch video but 31 b and c are not there.

    • David Zenger

      Most likely Spitzer couldn’t get two other votes; or, some higher up told the little boys to play nice in the sandbox.

  • miltdardis

    Cynthia: We the taxpayers are tired of politicians enjoying a double standard especially when it comes to double dipping. The pension system is bankrupt and several politicians are morally bankrupt, but keep on moving from job to job. All they want to do is live off the public trough and protect their own. We simply have retreads prostituting the system. Gaming the system does not signify serving the public rate paying taxpayers. There are no checks and balances. No one is held accountable as they are above prosecution. The OCDA does nothing. Respect. we have no respect as the system is broken as its filled with to many dropped wallets . .

    • David Zenger

      Gaming the system. That sums it up perfectly.

  • miltdardis

    What about Denis Bilodeau double dipping from the OCWD where he is a director? Shows up late, but is paid for a full day. Is he also receiving double campaign contributions from Poseidon Resources?

  • Cynthia Ward

    I do understand what you all are saying. If you think Shawn isn’t doing the job or Dennis isn’t qualified to review air quality reports, that is one issue not really being addressed here. If someone works two jobs they should get two paychecks. If they are working both jobs on the same TIME then I have a problem with it, but I don’t see Spitzer addressing THAT, only the “principle” of double-dipping. So let’s address that. Set up a system to clock the work product of County staff and officials, ALL of them, to track where they are and what they are doing for their County pay. if they can show they are working on County work on County time (even if it flexes to pick up hours in the evening to make up for a day time event elsewhere etc. as many executives do) and that they work on other agency work on other time. Also make sure that staff is qualified for the work they are doing (how many Aids and Advisors would be on the sidewalk?) Last I checked Bilodeau is an engineer, right? Is he still licensed to do air quality review? Then no problem. That also counts for staff conducting campaign work, while not putting in a full 40 hour week, or taking vacation time to do it. But apply it to ALL. Watch that get stuck in paperwork purgatory as Spitzer reconsiders. Todd doesn’t give a rat’s behind about the taxpayer, he wants to smack a political enemy. and fails to see his own glass house.

    Now, for the record, I have NO IDEA who does what on what time, and I am not defending everyone involved, I am simply saying what Todd is doing doesn’t address the issue of whether taxpayers are getting what they pay for in the time and paychecks we are paying out, and I don’t imagine Toddie will want anyone crawling all over HIS meeting calendars any time soon. Set a standard and stick with it or go home.

    FULL DISCLOSURE I am an appointee of Nelson to the OC Cemetery District, a position that pays mice nuts, has no power or glamour (but I find emotionally satisfying) I am not seeking reappointment to that board and don’t need to suck up, and he cannot remove me from my seat ahead of the end of my term. but I disclose that to be fair, You may now return to beating me senseless, which I knew would happen when I opened my mouth/keyboard.

    • David Zenger

      “If someone works two jobs they should get two paychecks.”

      Why should someone get two (or three or four) paychecks for the same 40 hour week? Bilodeau is a civil engineer. He was never licensed to do anything involving “air quality review.” He has no more technical qualification to review AQMD reports than you or I do. Period.

      • John Claxton

        And EA’s and managers never take vacations – at least on paper. They disappear for weeks but they some how never use any time. They let all that time accumulate til they cash it out when they retire – for the sole purpose of boosting retirement.

    • M.e. Fuelleman

      i’m not going to beat you, senseless or in any other way. i appreciate your perspective and, by and large, you are correct. the part that everyone seems to be missing, and which i addressed in another post, is that there is no such thing as a 40-hour workweek for a manager. “manager” is defined in labour law. is the entire situation smelly? oh, yeesssss! does it reek of system manipulation? ditto! is it illegal? no…unless the laws of california and the employment contracts approved by the board (within the confines of those laws) are changed.

      • John Claxton

        I think the laws are different for unionized workers. I have no problem if they are actually working. All the managers I knew hit the doors at 4pm to beat the traffic.

  • OCservant_Leader

    We are getting a view of how the OC Elites conspire together to pull off these self-enrichment schemes. These two are excelling at scamming the public.

  • John Claxton

    Ok let’s say you own are hardware store in South Gate (like your parents did Mr. Nelson). They had 4 employees who were paid full time wages. One of these employees had two additional jobs, however, he did these other jobs while he was supposed to be working at the hardware store. How long would this employee be employed at the hardware store? Not long. If it’s not acceptable at the hardware store then it shouldn’t be exceptable at a government agency where all the salaries are paid by the tax payers. Mr Nelson argues that since he took a huge pay cut by helping us all out and taking this job, he should just be able to steal what he needs. So tired of this mentality.

  • Cynthia Ward

    OK I will bite. I will likely regret it, but I will bite.

    We have several issues at hand, and NONE of them are being addressed by Spitzer’s bit of grandstanding, and I hope the rest of the Supes send his sorry behind packing with this one, or their own fiefdoms will be targeted next.

    Here is the deal:

    Whether Nelson or Bilodeau are doing the jobs they have been paid for is up to A) the taxpayers B) Bilodeau’s employer/Nelson/County HR. None of that is addressed in the Spitzer proposal.

    Are Nelson or Biodeau TAKING SOMETHING THEY ARE NOT ENTITLED TO? Are they receiving pay beyond what someone else in the same service would be paid? If not, there is not an issue being addressed by Spitzer. If they are, then that needs to be addressed, which is not subject to what Spitzer is doing.

    CASE IN POINT:

    Car allowance. Is it paid as part of the compensation for the job? Yes. So who is Spitzer to whine about it? If someone already has a nice car and wants to be magnanimous and offer the money back to the taxpayers, or swap it for funding for some other perk, as long as the budget comes out the same or better for taxpayers, I don’t know that Spitzer has a case here. Does Spitzer give back his car allowance because he bought a car before running for office?

    We get it, both the car funds come from taxpayers, but they are two separate pots of money and perhaps we can address what the AQMD pays people for the service on their board above and beyond what they are supposed to be doing in another office. Shawn and Dennis do not appear to be demanding anything not offered to all Board and staff at AQMD. Nor do they appear to be demanding anything not offered to all Board and staff at County.

    AID PAY: Does an AQMD Board member need an aid to read through the mountain of agenda items and various reports? I have to believe so. Should that person be compensated for what appears to be part time work with part time pay? Yeah, the only unpaid people in government are us suckers/activist. But if you are a professional in government and providing a service with your time, you should be compensated. Want to address how much AQMD believes their part time aid should get for offering input to the PT AQMD Board people? Sure, I choked when I saw that, and if Bilodeau cannot read docs for Nelson I am more than happy to offer him my resume’ for that pay scale (I can read an agenda like nobody’s business and I am happy to drive my own car, thanks.) but NONE of that is addressed by Spitzer here.

    Is Nelson taking what is NOT his to take? No. Is Bilodeau? No, with the assumption they are performing all of the duties expected of them by the various jobs they are being compensated for.

    Now if Spitzer wants a better method for tracking staff time spent in the office, he can do that. But tracking direct report staff in other offices is an in-your-face to his colleagues that I think even he won’t do. And that is not what he is trying here.

    Nothing that Spitzer is doing with this policy will save the taxpayers of OC a nickel. Nelson can hire someone else tomorrow to take Bilodeau’s place (see my offer above, please) and it will STILL cost the taxpayers of AQMD the same money. If Dennis is doing AQMD work on County time, that is for Nelson to deal with, not Spitzer, or maybe it is for HR to review Dennis’ time cards. But again not Spitzer’s deal.

    In fact, if Spitzer wants Dennis to NOT be paid by AQMD, but Nelson for his own reasons has determined Bilodeau gives him the best advice, then Spitzer is expecting Dennis to do Shawn’s AQMD work on his own time without pay, or on County time at County pay, and frankly I want Dennis doing County work on County time for his County paycheck. So which is it? Is Spitzer trying to shift AQMD work onto County taxpayer shoulders?

    You can certainly come up with an argument that Supes acting in the capacity of other agency boards MUST hire separate aids for each and every one of those positions, and/or track hours/work for both the Supe and their staff to ensure no cross over of positions takes place on the time of other agencies, and in a perfect world life would work that way. In that same perfect world, we would then pick up even more benefits to cover each and every one of those separate aid positions, and the redundancy of coordinating when Nelson the AQMD leader can be at an event when he is scheduled to be Nelson the County Supe during that same evening, and/or Nelson the OCTA Director. So there is going to be cross over and incest, it is the nature of the beast.

    Does Spitzer’s proposal keep County staff focused on County work? Does it save the taxpayers money to have different people doing different tasks for different agencies? It all depends on whether you think the same time is being compensated twice, which is NOT addressed in Spitzer’s smackdown. I get what he wants to APPEAR to be doing, but what he is really doing is flexing his arms in the mirror after a shower wondering if he can “accidentally” tweet that selfie and pretend he wasn’t trying to make himself look good. We know better. It’s Todd.

    • David Zenger

      This issue isn’t Spitzer’s grandstanding. It’s about whether one person should be able to pull down a quarter of a million bucks pretending to do four different jobs and actually doing NONE of them for the benefit of the people paying all that loot. Legal? Sure.

      The issue isn’t legality. Bilodeau knows to hair’s breadth where every legal line is drawn.

      It’s about ethics. And not surprisingly it has nothing to do with filling out campaign forms.

      • Cynthia Ward

        But Zenger, that is not a POLICY issue to be determined by Spitzer, it is a PERSONNEL issue to be determined by HR. If Spitzer has evidence of Nelson/Bilodeau doing other than County work using County resources, that should be brought to the attention of HR to be handled according to procedures for such accusations, and that is NOT what I see him doing. The premise of this new policy is that one is limited to ONLY a 40 hour workweek, which would be news to those who work more than one job, and that Spitzer is somehow qualified to play HR Director and decide who may or may not take a second part time job or consulting gig, which is WAY WAY outside his authority of office. If Spitzer wants to subject ALL County staff to greater scrutiny in reporting their hours and how time is spent, that is fine, but he WON’T because then he and his own have to be subject to the same standard. This policy does not fix what Spitzer claims is broken, and that is what I object to here.

        • John Claxton

          Cynthia, did you read the scathing grand jury report on County HR a couple years back were one of the managers stated “They (BOS) are our bosses”. That pretty much sums it up. Another example is all those time the ex PAPG John Williams was in some exotic destination when he had the chief deputy Tim Beason fraudulently submit Williams timesheet to HR Director Ann Barlow, who new Williams was not in the office. So much for HR! Spitzer’s trying to do something good here!

          • David Zenger

            The same folks that took such good care to protect County female workers from Carlos Bustamante – because he was well-connected with the Board of Supervisors.

        • David Zenger

          Sorry, but under the system you are defending the Supervisors are essentially left to police themselves. And that is what is happening here. Nelson has been condoning and even enabling Bilodeau’s absenteeism and quadruple dipping for years.

          Of course Spitzer is grandstanding – that’s a given; but the Bilodeau scandal should have been cleaned up years ago. It wasn’t because the Supervisors answer to nobody – except themselves.

    • Rivett

      I don’t know if you’ll regret it or not, but I did.

    • John Claxton

      Usually your logic is pretty sound. Completely disagree with you on this one. I think enough constituents have had enough of the waste. Let’s put this money towards housing vouchers for the homeless or something. Billsomedough has not worked a full days work in his life. He shows up at these other agencies during his county job time period (we taxpayers assume he should put in a full days work for $170k per year plus benefits and retirement) and without doing any additional work and says “check please”. I think it would have been better for Spitzer to tackle this when he was chairman, but regardless, he it trying to do something Noble here.

      • Alan Costello

        John Claxton. You were found by an arbitrator to be dishonest and lacking in integrity. Why should any of us believe what you are saying?
        http://www.perb.ca.gov/decisionbank/pdfs/2350M.pdf

        • Rivett

          No one has to believe what he’s saying, he’s just corroborating what everyone already knows.

        • John Claxton

          Look out, I’ve pissed someone off now! Think what you want of me – couldn’t care less. I was there and know what the truth was. Otherwise I would hide behind an anonymous loggin.

    • Paul Lucas

      I see this as they are getting compensated twice for the same thing and pocketing the surplus. The sti[ends of you will are meant to cover expenses for doing the business of the county and to get comped twice for the same thing is double dipping.

  • Debby Bodkin

    I am not an attorney, but in my personal opinion, this so called “double dipping” sounds like fraud against the taxpayers. Collecting a full time salary at one full time government job, while collecting part time income while working at several additional government jobs — all during the same 40 hour work week. Is there a government official, federal, state or county, willing to open an investigation?

    • John Claxton

      It is fraud – according to the tax payer.

    • M.e. Fuelleman

      it should be pointed out that managers don’t work a “forty-hour” workweek. they are paid to do their assignments in whatever time it takes, within reason. sometimes that means a 60-hour week. that being said, if one works for different jurisdictions then the rules are separate. i think i agree with cynthia’s analysis. it’s sad but true except, perhaps, for the muscle-flexing/selfie-taking part.

      • OCservant_Leader

        You think OC Managers are paid a salary? Oh no – you couldn’t be more wrong!

        This is a common misconception in the OC. Only Appointees – are salaried.

        In Orange County – Managers are hourly workers. All time is monitored closely – start times, breaks (only 2 – 15 minutes/day) and end time.

        Pay is cut according to Supervisor’s wishes.

        We have to work overtime without compensation and have to use personal Annual Leave AL if lunch goes longer than 30 minutes.

        Oh yes – this is one of the little ugly truths about Managers (not appointed) they don’t want to get out.

  • John Claxton

    Mr. Nelson. If pay and benefits are a major concern of yours, why don’t you just pack up your things and go back into law practice. Please don’t justify your need to screw the tax payers because you were making a lot more money I the private sector. Your firm is still paying you $100,000.00 a year for doing nothing! Your philosify speaks volumes as to your character.

  • John Claxton

    Todd, I have to say you have caught me off guard here. I have been calling out Denis Billsomedough for quite a while. Good job! I hope two of your colleagues have enough courage to vote for it.

    • David Zenger

      And yet, everybody in Building 10 has known about it forever.

  • Jacki Livingston

    Hellooooooo pot, meet kettle.

  • Paul Lucas

    Bravo Todd. this should apply to all elected officials at all levels in the whole state. Remember Shawn Nelson campaigned on a platform that derided this exact type of behavior.

  • David Zenger
    • John Claxton

      David, this is the exact reason Spitzer’s rule #39 should be enacted. If Billsomedough can attend these meetings during his regular work day, then he should only get his county salary. Period. Furthermore, if Billsomedough is attending on behalf of supervisor Nelson, then Nelson should not be getting paid either.

      • David Zenger

        From what I saw he shouldn’t have been getting a County paycheck at all.