Rackauckas and Spitzer Clash Over Settlement Talks on DA Investigators’ Claims

District Attorney Tony Rackauckas (left) and county Supervisor Todd Spitzer. (Photos by: Nick Gerda/Voice of OC)

The election-season battle between Supervisor Todd Spitzer and District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has taken another turn, with the two DA candidates clashing over whether Spitzer should be kept out of county supervisors’ closed-door discussions on whether to settle legal claims filed by three DA investigators against the county.

The latest feud began Monday, when Rackauckas sent a letter to all five supervisors saying Spitzer shouldn’t be allowed to participate in the discussions, including one Tuesday that Rackauckas was invited to join.

“Supervisor Spitzer should not attend Tuesday’s closed door meeting and should be recused from all future discussions related to the subject matter,” Rackauckas wrote in his letter to supervisors Monday, a copy of which was obtained by Voice of OC.

“As a candidate for district attorney, Supervisor Spitzer benefits from harming the incumbent District Attorney’s reputation and public perception; thereby strengthening his campaign in the upcoming election,” Rackauckas wrote.

But Spitzer said County Counsel Leon Page, who advises the supervisors and other county agencies, disagreed.

County counsel informed me tonight that all of [Rackauckas’] claims are bogus and I have absolutely no conflict. Indeed it’s actually my absolute duty to attend,” Spitzer wrote in a text message Monday evening to Voice of OC.

Rackauckas’ letter did not name the investigators whose claims are being reviewed by the supervisors. But three DA investigators filed legal claims in May alleging, among other things, that Rackauckas interfered in corruption investigations of his political allies.

Among those who filed claims is Craig Hunter, the former chief of the DA’s investigations division.

It’s up to county supervisors to decide whether to settle the claims, which would prevent lawsuits. It takes three of the five supervisors to authorize a settlement.

During their closed session discussion Tuesday, supervisors “will consider settlement offers” to resolve the investigators’ claims, according to Rackauckas’ letter.

If supervisors agree to exclude Spitzer, Rackauckas would be able to provide supervisors his arguments related to settling the legal claims, without Spitzer there to question or challenge him.

Rackauckas also claimed in his letter to supervisors that one reason Spitzer is running for DA is to benefit himself financially.

“Supervisor Spitzer likely has a host of personal reasons – economic and noneconomic – to be elected district attorney,” Rackauckas wrote.

(Click here to read Rackauckas’ letter to the supervisors.)

Spitzer, in turn, called Rackauckas “really pathetic and desperate.”

In his May legal claim, Hunter alleged Rackauckas violated numerous laws, allowed his chief of staff to work on a fundraiser for Rackauckas during county work time, and interfered with political corruption investigations into his political allies.

He also also alleged Rackauckas failed to file disclosures, mandated by state law, that money was raised under his name for a charity event that promoted his chief of staff’s business partner.

And Hunter claims Rackauckas fired him in April in retaliation for testifying to the county grand jury about wrongdoing at the DA’s office.

Rackauckas’ office has disputed Hunter’s claim, saying in a statement it was “filled with false [allegations] and factually inaccurate information” and that it was submitted “clearly with the goal of trying to get money from Orange County Taxpayers.”

Hunter’s attorney later filed a Public Records Act request seeking documents about the DA’s criminal probes of three high-profile elected officials whom Rackauckas declined to prosecute: Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, county Supervisor Andrew Do, and state Sen. Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove).

Two other DA investigators, Tom Conklin and Abraham Santos, followed up later in May with legal claims alleging they reported misconduct within the office to higher-ups but faced retaliation for whistle-blowing, especially after testifying to the Orange County Grand Jury.

Among the allegations, Santos said one of Rackauckas’ top executives interfered with an investigation into former Fullerton Police Chief Dan Hughes, by telling Santos they wouldn’t look into an alleged cover-up of the former city manager’s drunk driving because he and the chief are friends.

Santos said he told Assistant District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh that he was concerned about a possible cover-up of the city manager’s DUI and criminal obstruction of justice by Hughes.

According to the investigator, Baytieh responded: “I am friends with Chief Hughes and we are only going to be investigating the DUI and not anything else.”

The DA’s office has said it can’t comment on Santos’ claim because it relates to “personnel matters involving litigation.”

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

  • occynic

    If Rackauckas possibly covered up a criminal probe of Andrew Do why is he being allowed into closed session. Doesn’t he have something to gain by helping to direct the counties response?

  • Bill421

    No county meetings should be behind closed doors

  • Jacki Livingston

    I have spent years trying to get that sleazy loser to do his job, and all he does is threaten and hide and slither around trying to avoid being held accountable. I don’t want to be a cheerleader for T Rack, but Spitzer is scum.

  • Jacki Livingston

    This is an email, word for word, sent to me today from Jack Golden, assistant County Counsel, threatening me with action because I have tried to file complaints and have requested assistance in the abuse and harassment from Todd Spitzer:

    Dear Ms. Livingston:

    This email is in response to the email that you sent to Supervisor Todd Spitzer on July 1, 2017, at 12:18 a.m., entitled NOTICE.

    Rather
    than continuing to make accusations that appear to be based upon wild
    speculation, we suggest you submit proof of your claims in writing;
    otherwise your comments will be considered potentially defamatory
    and actionable.

    If you
    believe your claims rise to the level of a claim against the County as
    regulated in the Government Code, beginning at section 900, we suggest
    you fill out the form at this link and file it with the
    Office of the Clerk of the Board:
    http://www.ocgov.com/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?blobid=7232

    If
    your claims are concerning the regulation of nursing homes, because the
    County of Orange does not have jurisdiction over nursing homes, we
    suggest you lodge any complaints with the State of California Licensing
    and Certification Division of the California Department of Public
    Health (DPH). This link contains instructions on how to do so: http://www.canhr.org/factsheets/nh_fs/html/fs_NH_complaint.htm

    Thank you for your attention to this correspondence.

    Sincerely,

    JACK W. GOLDEN | SENIOR ASSISTANT COUNTY COUNSEL | COUNTY OF ORANGE

    OFFICE OF THE COUNTY COUNSEL

    333 W. Santa Ana Blvd., Suite 407, Santa Ana, CA 92701

    Phone (714) 834-3357 – Fax (714) 834-2359

    • David Zenger

      Unfortunately, “County Counsel” doesn’t represent the County, it represents the Supervisors and the department heads. Any other tale is pure BS. There is hardly a scintilla of professional or ethical standard on the 4th Floor. I’ve seen it with DeMayo, Chrisos and now Page.

      Come sue me, Jack.

      • Jacki Livingston

        My reply was slightly more colorful…

  • Steve Grasha

    Tony Rackauckas is right to raise this with Supervisors. This is just too much responsibility for Todd to handle.

    • Jacki Livingston

      Walking and chewing gum at the same time is too much responsibility for Todd to handle…

  • LFOldTimer

    Both should be banned from the room. Both are bottom-feeders. It’s an enormous stain on the County of Orange that they are, at present, the top contenders for an office that demands a leader who exemplifies the epitome of integrity and character.

    We need Judge Goethals to step up to the plate and announce his candidacy. The County of Orange voters deserve a choice other than Frankenstein and Dracula.

    • verifiedsane

      OC government is thoroughly criminally corruption from top to bottom (including the courts). Elections are now meaningless, as is this silly public ego display; it is nothing but political theater dressing…With the money, connections, and endorsements it takes to get elected to public office even at the lowest levels…no one with any actual integrity, or of sound mind would even consider a serious political bid….we live in a complete top down oligarchy (this includes both the so called Socialist Dems & free market Rino Republicans – no substantive difference) with mountains upon mountains of worthless propaganda from corporate controlled media of both illusion sides of the ruling class spectrum being spoon fed to the blind public/citizens on a real time second by second basis…this truth premise shared in jest is not really comedy…it’s a testimony….https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5dBZDSSky0

      We the common citizen have already lost the war; and the vast majority of the population wasn’t even aware there was a war being fought in secret all along. Were done…we are all just slaves to our powerful masters.

      • LFOldTimer

        Yep.

        In that 4 minute monologue Carlin summarized what they’ve turned a once honorable system into – a house of ill repute.

        They’ve completely ruined our health care system. The only ones who have affordable health care are the non-producers and the illegal foreigners. They get theirs for free. The working class Americans have deductibles of $5000-$12000 w/ $400 premiums.

        Some 80 year old warmonger with brain cancer who gets free medical treatment gets to decide what health care system is best for me. lol. Of course he’s a member of the “big club”.

        They’ll spend millions of dollars to keep McCain alive for an extra 30 days but if an ordinary American can’t meet his deductible or pay his premiums and contracts a catastrophic illness the government will force the sale of his or her home to pay the doctors.

  • verifiedsane

    T-REX vs Toad Spitter….the battle of the inflated egos….this will be the most shameful DA race in History with a year long p*ssing contest to see who can out sleaze the other….this would be entertaining folly if our entire OC judicial system wasn’t at stake….

    • David Zenger

      It is pathetic that a county of 3,000,000 have this a a choice. But look at the bright side: things really can’t get much worse, and in the meantime the campaign is going to absolutely hilarious to watch.

      • Judge Goethals for DA! He will restore honor & integrity to the office.

  • Nicky Pierce

    Todd Spitzer protected Lyle Wilson when T-Rack fired him and wasn’t reinstated for years.

  • Daisy Lang

    Spitzer has always smoked out T-Rack games in closed session meetings

  • Roger Gill

    This is a desperate move by Rackuackas. Especially as he’s the one with all the conflicts, not Spitzer. Rackauckas should be the one that’s recused.

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