Supervisors Take Step Toward Removing Public Guardian

The Orange County Supervisors Tuesday took a first step in stripping Public Administrator/Guardian John Williams of his guardian role by adopting a budget overhaul that includes appointing a high-level executive to oversee his office.

The move comes in reaction to an attorney’s confidential report that contends Williams is creating liability for the county as he disburses large probate matters.

Sources who have seen the report, and are close to the tense negotiations between Williams and supervisors, say the next move is to split the offices. That would move the Public Guardian’s office back into the county machinery and leave Williams just as Public Administrator.

However, county lawyers say that even if Williams is ousted as public guardian, he will still receive his $153,000 salary for both offices because voters elected him to a four-year term as guardian last fall.

His removal would likely to come in March, said sources close to the negotiations.

Williams has been under fire since a grand jury issued two scathing reports  about his office in 2009. Last year, his office was catapulted into the news after District Attorney Tony Rackauckas fired his one-time protégé Todd Spitzer, who heard complaints about Williams and looked into a case being handled by his office.

Rackauckas’ fiancé Peggi Buff is the second in command at the office under Williams.

Spitzer (a former county supervisor and state assemblyman) is now expected to run for an open county supervisor’s seat in 2012.

Williams’ dealings with other senior Republican leaders recently triggered an FPPC complaint.

Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated the title that Public Administrator/Guardian John Williams might be stripped of.



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