Amidst the tightening budgets of recent years, a slew of county executives were able to give themselves hidden pay raises by exploiting a bureaucratic loophole known as a salary classification change.

That’s just one of the big bombshells dropping this week on the fifth floor of the Hall of Administration as the county’s performance auditors go into the final stages of privately briefing county supervisors on their long-anticipated report (six months in the making) about the county’s human resources department.

In addition to the classification compensation issues, the management audit, due to be formally unveiled by months’ end, looks at how officials are handling (and mishandling) numerous areas of the department such as recruitment, training and employee benefits.

Human Resources has had longstanding issues and been the focus of numerous grand jury reports in recent years.

For example, an August 2005 grand jury report – “Another Crisis: Pensions, Health Care and other Benefits” – was severely critical of HR officials and how they mishandled performance incentives as well as pension deals. ( )

As the department that incubated several pension enhancement deals like the 3 percent at age 50 benefit for deputy sheriffs and the 2.7 percent at age 55 benefit for general employees, Human Resources was in many respects the backdrop the 2006 election cycle.

The basic allegation in GOP-inspired campaigns was that HR officials were too cozy with unions and not open enough with elected officials about the impacts of policies being adopted.

County Supervisor John Moorlach largely based his 2006 campaign on the behind-the-scenes dealings between HR officials and labor groups.

HR woes at the county government were even highlighted when county supervisors hired current CEO Tom Mauk back in 2004. Mauk happens to be up for a performance review on today’s closed session supplemental agenda.

Mauk – who sent out a scathing email criticizing the work of Performance Auditor Steve Danley on the HR audit – could not be reached for comment Monday evening.

Danley declined comment.

Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Orange County CEO Tom Mauk did not return calls seeking comment. He did return calls, but could not be reached Monday evening.


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