Santana: County Government’s Full Employment Act for Local Politicos

Brian Probolsky (left) is the chief of staff to Supervisor Andrew Do (right). (Photo credit: Twitter and Andrew Do for Supervisor 2016)

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This morning, Orange County taxpayers and county workers once again get to welcome county Supervisor Andrew Do’s chief of staff, Brian Probolsky, back into the civil service ranks – this time at the county landfill, after finishing his latest campaign stint helping narrowly re-elect Do this past November.

Apparently, Do’s narrow margin of victory may have soured their relationship as well as all the questions raised about the mountain of taxpayer-funded county mailers sent out by Do’s office in the last few months of the campaign.

According to multiple sources, there has been an ongoing blitz inside the county to find a landing spot for Probolsky since the campaign ended.

Apparently, in December that connection arrived with a middle manager job at – you guessed it – OC Waste & Recycling, where many influential county execs (including former county CEO Mike Giancola, current deputy CEO Cymantha Atkinson and current state Assemblyman Matt Harper) have spent time in the trenches.

OC Waste & Recycling – as an enterprise fund (which means supervisors can argue they are bilking industry insiders and not taxpayers) is an easy landing pad for political hacks.

Numerous sources have been reaching out in recent weeks signaling that the fix was in for a county job for Probolsky, also an elected Moulton Niguel Water District Board member, as he and Do sought to part ways.

Insiders knew who was going to get this public sector job. I just feel bad for the person who thought they might actually have had a chance and bothered with the hassle of providing all the detailed information required in the application.

I will never comprehend why county managers (who oddly enough have their own union) allow themselves to be gamed by politicians steering jobs and contracts to their network of aides and contractors – especially when it involves the use of state and federal government funds – which is at the heart of every county transaction because of grants and pass-through allocations.

Yet, given the absolute lack of any kind of real law enforcement in our county regarding political crime, our anemic ethics commission and no performance auditor, it’s no surprise.

I still recall several years back when then-HR Director Steve Danley (and former performance auditor) flew up to Sacramento to fight back a bill sponsored by former state Senator Lou Correa seeking to take away hiring authority from county of Orange officials based on corruption and politicization concerns.

Danley passionately argued to state legislators that officials like himself were reforming HR hiring practices.

Yet within a short time, he retired in protest as HR director after – ironically enough – confronting Probolsky about attending his water district board meetings on county time.

Months after retiring, Danley co-authored a book with former Internal Auditor Peter Hughes choc full of stories about management dysfunction at the county of Orange.

Speaking of dysfunction…

Probolsky is the second chief of staff to part ways with his boss this month (Supervisor Todd Spitzer’s chief of staff, Jeff Lalloway, also abruptly quit).

Late last week, OC Waste & Recycling confirmed that Probolsky starts Monday as a contract program-support manager (admin manager II) – earning as much as $138K – for what looks like a pretty technical job.

Odd that no one inside OC Waste & Recycling was competitive for such a technical gig, given all the talk in recent years about succession planning for executives inside agencies.

I would be curious to see how Probolsky’s answers to the posted questions for the job compare to other candidates.

For all the talk of fiscal conservatism and hiring freezes from Orange County supervisors, every time in recent memory that an insider from the fifth floor of the Hall of Administration wants to move into the civilian side of the county, the wheels are greased.

For the record, I like Brian Probolsky, know he is capable and considered hiring him myself when Voice of OC first launched back in 2010 to work with our digital efforts. I also have had to report his dealings with county HR staff – which sanctioned him for not properly documenting his time off for attending his water district board meetings as an elected official and also threatening county HR staff with political payback for their probe.

Now, as many supervisors have indicated in recent years, there are advantages to having executives in agencies that also have worked on the political floors of the county Hall of Administration.

Yet it’s also critically important when that kind of staff transition occurs that it be handled in a very transparent manner so it’s clear what taxpayers are getting at the agency level and why.

Politicizing the civil service ranks can be very dangerous.

Consider the case of former Santa Ana City Councilman Carlos Bustamante, a rising OC GOP star whose party connections with county supervisors forced taxpayers to hire him as an executive in the planning department and protected him throughout his public sector career. Bustamante later pled guilty to a host of sexual crimes involving his female subordinates.

Former Public Administrator John Williams took over that office with glowing support from county supervisors. And little experience. He just about destroyed the office until he was forced out.

The examples of politicized executive hiring, especially in Orange County, never seem to run out and I feel like I’ve been writing this same story for more than a decade – just substituting a different name, political mentor and receiving agency each time an aide needs an exit.

In this case, I reached out to the director of OC Waste & Recycling to hear about his plans for the new high-level hire. I’m still waiting. I also reached out to Do to hear about the transition and I’m still waiting – even though this transition comes during the Lunar New Year, albeit a busy time for Do and the First District.

That collective silence leaves one to conclude that taxpayers are, once again, on the hook for another county supervisors’ political bar tab.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that state Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) sponsored legislation to change Orange County’s hiring practices. The legislation was sponsored by former state Sen. Lou Correa, who now represents Orange County’s 46th District in the U.S. House. We regret the error.

  • John Claxton

    I’m glad you mentioned the corrupt John Williams and the PA/PG, for it ties in nicely to this story. If you remember the real person in charge over at the PAPG was HR Director (self appointed) Ann Barlow. She promoted herself from an admin mgr II to a III. She was later demoted back to a II. She was so diabolical in her shenanigans, they not only allowed her to keep her job – she is now the HR manager in charge at OC Waste and Recycling – where all EA’s are transferred where they get paid a heft salary and they don’t even have to show up to work.

    • OCservant_Leader

      PREACH! OMG you speak the truth. Keep it alive! These people should have at the least been fired if not put in jail for this corruption but yet they collect insane pensions paid by US – the taxpayers.

      Her little game (scam) still counts towards her pension. This is SOP. Even though they “demoted” her – the high salary is what she is collecting for LIFE.

      This is organized crime people!

      Thanks John

  • Ed Romero

    I have noticed that the Voice of Orange County does not include my comments. If the reason being that there is Political Pressure being applied then I understand. If the Orange County Probation Department, the Orange County Sheriff and the Board of Supervisors do not like my comments, then they better clean up their own dirty filthy behavior first.

  • OCservant_Leader

    This is an old. tired, story. Thanks Norberto for summarizing how the BOS runs their campaigns and stays in power by hi-jacking the bureaucracy.

    Obviously, LAWs are meaningless in the OC.

    I also competed for one of the Probe’s past appointments, but I didn’t even get an interview because I had 25 years public sector experience (10 years OC Management) and a graduate degree. HR did not rank me on the A or B list. HA. now that is a funny list!

    Anywhere else USA – he wouldn’t make the first cut without a degree or experience. The political campaigns would have to support him – not the taxpayers.

    The OC – “where the Wrong people…are in the Wrong jobs”. Quote from former HR Exec Danley

    • LFOldTimer

      Your story just illustrates how far off the deep end county government has gone.

      I don’t even feel like I’m living in America anymore.

      The Supervisors make Tijuana’s government look honest.

      • OCservant_Leader

        They have created chaotic – insanity on the inside.

        Call an Agency information line (if you can find it). Good luck.

        I dare you to find who works in what department doing – what? HA

        I worked at one of the most successful private businesses in the world when I first came to LA – over 20 years ago and they had public websites so the public knew who worked where, why and who to contact for what reason.

        In the OC – who are paid by the pubic – to do the public’s business – are clothed in secrecy. It is secret on the inside too. I would get a new neighbor & find out they are working on “special assignment” while they ran their school board campaign on the taxpayers dime.

        This happened ALL the time folks.

  • verifiedsane

    same old, same old

  • Jacki Livingston

    I once sat in a meeting at SSA in Anaheim where Danley admitted to falsifying my signature on a document to withdraw my request for a transfer.

    Ahhh, good times…

    • OCservant_Leader

      Classic.

      HR is famous for manufacturing documents.

  • David Resendez

    Probolsky is the new Jordan Brandman. I hope Adam doesn’t copy and paste his work from Wikipedia.

  • Paul Lucas

    Old story. Keeps happening has happened for decades. You should look into the nepotism too its insane.

    • LFOldTimer

      Just like fake county oversight has happened for decades. Nepotism and fake oversight are 2 necessary ingredients in the county recipe to keep corruption alive. Expect more of the same.

  • LFOldTimer

    Probolsky reminds me of an older version of Lumpy Rutherford from Leave It To Beaver.

    Not much has changed since the days of Peggi Buff. Has it?

    History continues to repeat itself.

    Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Don’t expect reform or a watchdog to come to the rescue. You’d only set yourself up for disappointment.

    • Jacki Livingston

      I have a good joke for you…EEO officer is sick of my complaints about sleazy manager, so he hires, on taxpayer dime, outside investigation company called RJN Investigations, who specialize in nailing employees on behalf of companies so that they can fire the employee. Investigator grills me for six hours, interviews senior manager and others. Writes up the report, finds in my favor, that I am telling the entire truth and that the senior manager is a lying dog who is completely untrustworthy and a liability. I ask the EEO officer if he is going to use this very expensive report that the taxpayers of the county paid for, and he said that it was a total waste of money, because they would not. I asked him if they would have used it if it had been negative against me, to which he replied, of course.

      Your tax dollars…at work. True story, bro.

      • LFOldTimer

        Why didn’t OCERS help you? Didn’t you pay union dues? Couldn’t you provide a copy of the RJN report to OCERS? If the EEO officer ordered an investigation wasn’t the report an official record in your personnel file? How could they bury it?

        • Jacki Livingston

          I was a member of AFSCME..nuff said?

  • Steve W.

    Did Brian Probolsky kick Norberto’s dog or something?

    • Jacki Livingston

      *snicker*

  • Shirley L. Grindle

    No doubt Brian Probolsky was the mastermind behind Do’s narrow win by only 0.2% of the votes cast. Both Do and Probolsky used county funds to put out over 1 million mailers to voters in his district prior to the June and November elections. Mailers that had Do’s name prominently displayed on both sides of the mailer. This is no more than campaigning at public expense and should be prohibited. Was unpleasantly surprised that Andrew Do would resort to this unethical practice just to get re-elected.

    • David Zenger

      “Was unpleasantly surprised that Andrew Do would resort to this unethical practice just to get re-elected.”

      Why? Do was affiliated with Janet Nguyen. She was great at using public money – and lots of it – to promote herself. Remember her “special” County office on McFadden no other supervisor had in their districts. I believe Do kept that scam going too.

      Shocking!

  • Carol

    These folks are despicable!

    • OCservant_Leader

      Check your facts. I was a Manager and I went 8 years without a raise or COLA -AND lost almost 20% of paycheck to retirement.

      Every promotion and raise went to an EA or sibling and performance evals were manufactured foolery. The nonsense this High School educated gang comes up with and gets away with is unbelievable.

      They can’t advertise as a government entity because it is not. You work for the GOP bosses. No laws or regs are followed.

      Welcome to H*ll.

  • David Zenger

    “Now, as many supervisors have indicated in recent years, there are advantages to having executives in agencies that also have worked on the political floors of the county Hall of Administration.”

    Yes that argument has been made for years. But it always rings hollow.

    The only advantages accrue to the Supervisors who embed their cronies and expect that their own pet projects and finagles will be expedited later on.