Todd Spitzer, a former state assemblyman and county supervisor who was hired as a senior deputy district attorney two years ago after exploring a run against incumbent Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, has been fired, according to multiple sources.
Spitzer was escorted out of his office by a DA investigator late Friday afternoon, according to sources close to the district attorney’s office and county government. Also Friday, the county’s human resources department was contacted and advised of the termination.
Niether Spitzer nor Rackauckas Spokeswoman Susan Kang Schroeder immediately returned calls seeking comment.
Speculation is running rampant over why Rackauckas fired Spitzer.
Indeed, it’s a far cry from June when Rackauckas all but anointed Spitzer as his successor after winning what he said is his last term as district attorney.
“I brought Todd Spitzer into the office with the hope and the expectation that he would develop the skills and the experience necessary to be an excellent district attorney,” Rackauckas said an email statement to the Orange County Register following the primary win.
“I look forward to supporting him when that should occur.”
While Spitzer also offered kind public words toward Rackauckas at that time, many observers wondered aloud whether the DA would actually support a Spitzer candidacy. Many local Republican insiders are terrified of the prospects of Spitzer having subpoena power.
Rackauckas has a reputation among Republicans and Democrats for not prosecuting politicians. He and others in the DA’s office bristle at such commentary, saying they don’t have lots of high-profile political prosecutions because the courts have ruled that district attorneys have limited power to investigate other elected officials.
In 2006, when he was a state assemblyman preparing to run for DA, Spitzer seemed to offer a potential break with that tradition, arguing that he would provide a more active presence on the political scene.
While in the Assembly, Spitzer had a reputation for taking up controversial positions and being talkative with the press. He was also a high-profile county supervisor from 1996 to 2002.
He aborted his 2006 bid to unseat Rackauckas after county Republican leaders pressured him to back off. But he would have presented a formidable challenge in 2014, mainly due to a $1 million carry-over balance in his campaign war chest from his Assembly campaigns.
Since coming into the DA’s office, Spitzer had kept a low profile and was credited by many county officials as helpful to Rackauckas in navigating the 2010 budget negotiations, which were fraught with cuts.
However, despite Rackauckas’ public support of Spitzer immediately following the election, there were signs months earlier that the sands had shifted. A key indicator came on April 2, after the filing deadline for candidates in the June primary, and Spitzer’s last chance to really challenge Rackauckas, had passed.
That day Rackauckas appointed his spokeswoman, Kang Schroeder, as his chief of staff without changing her job duties. Kang Schroeder is married to Republican heavyweight campaign activist Mike Schroeder, who was instrumental in the elections of both Rackauckas and former Sheriff Mike Carona.
Many insiders actually warned Spitzer after the Schroeder appointment that the writing was on the wall — that the peace accord he had brokered was coming to an end.
Apparently, it officially died on Friday.