Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas is firing back at Todd Spitzer for his allegations that district attorney’s office resources are illegally being used to aide Deb Pauly, Spitzer’s opponent in the race for an open county supervisor seat.
Last week, Spitzer — a former assemblyman, county supervisor and Rackacukas’ protege who is front-runner in the supervisorial race – accused high-level DA officials of improperly providing Pauly with a DA letter criticizing a media advisory in which Spitzer misstated his current title as assistant district attorney.
Spitzer corrected the mistake and sent another news advisory within an hour after the first one was sent. Nonetheless, Pauly got a copy of the DA’s response to the first letter before Spitzer received it in the mail. Spitzer cried foul, writing Rackauckas that his chief of staff, Susan Schroeder, “ignored the correction, wrote a libelous letter, tipped off my opponent to the letter and then intentionally mailed it …”
In a written response late last week, Rackauckas told Spitzer that he was making a “variety of wild and unsubstantiated allegations.”
The DA went on to state “there is absolutely no factual basis for you to allege that there is campaigning for Ms. Pauly or any other political candidate being conducted by this Office.”
Spitzer is running for county supervisor largely because of his conflict with Rackauckas. He was Rackauckas’ heir apparent until he began making inquires into how Public Administrator John Williams was handling a case in late 2010.
Williams, whose second in command at the time was Rackackas’ fiancee, Peggi Buff, complained, and Spitzer was abruptly fired. Williams later issued a rare weekend press statement that was discussed with Schroeder.
Spitzer reacted by putting a spotlight on Williams’ agency over the next year that ended with Williams’ forced removal and Buff’s quiet transfer into the county bureaucracy.
Schroeder last week declined to confirm whether Buff was still Rackauckas’ fiancee.
The recent controversy between the two camps started when Pauly cited Schroeder’s letter to Spitzer criticizing him for misusing his title. Pauly’s criticism was made Jan. 23, the day before an office postmark shows the letter was sent to Sptizer.
Schroeder’s version of events is that she put the letter in the outbound office mail around lunchtime on Friday, Jan. 20. When Pauly emailed a public records request at the close of business Friday seeking all correspondence sent or emailed to Spitzer, Schroeder forwarded the letter to Senior Assistant District Attorney Bill Feccia, who then released it to Pauly.
After doing his own investigation of the timeline, Spitzer fired off his letter containing his accusations to Rackauckas’ office and went to the media.
“It is my expectation that as the District Attorney of Orange County you will commit that campaign and political activity from your office will not be allowed,” Spitzer wrote.
Rackauckas says Spitzer is way off.
“I am not aware of anyone from this office who has given money to her or endorsed her candidacy, nor is there any coordination for an independent expenditure,” Rackauckas wrote.
Spizter is suspicious because previously, Schroder’s husband, Mike — a longtime Republican heavyweight closely connected to Rackauckas — purchased slate mailers on behalf of his former opponent, State Assemblyman Chuck DeVore. DeVore subsequently retired from the race when he moved to Texas last year and Spitzer since purchased the slates.
Susan Schroeder termed Spitzer’s allegations as “sexist” because of the implied coordination between her and her husband.
In his letter, Rackauckas also denies any ties.
“Ms. Schroeder neither controls/influences (sic) any slate mailer for your opponent, or your former opponent, thus I do not supervise any person who controls or influences slate mailers,” Rackauckas wrote.
Spitzer said he had yet to receive a hard copy of Rackauckas’ latest correspondence criticizing him, saying, “I’ll probably get it next Tuesday.”
However, Spitzer sticks by his allegations that Rackauckas’ senior staff is playing politics while on the public payroll. And, he said, it’s not the first time.
“The Enforcement Division of the Fair Political Practices has already found that Rackauckas violated section 89001 of the Political Reform Act and Regulation and issued him a warning letter for using taxpayer money to engage in political activity using DA resources in 2002,” wrote Spitzer in an email last weekend after reviewing a copy of Rackauckas’ letter forwarded by a reporter.
“Now his office, once again, is engaging in unlawful political activity.”
“His Chief of Staff, who the DA is now defending, has given three different versions of whether she received and opened a campaign advisory from my campaign to three different media outlets. She can’t get her story straight.”
Meanwhile, Rackauckas in his most recent letter to Spitzer leveled more criticism at Spitzer about how he uses his formal title. “You are continuing to misuse the ‘assistant district attorney’ title for political purpose, knowing that being a prosecutor gives you a cache while running for a legislative spot,” Rackauckas wrote.
Spitzer said he has never misused his title and the critique is simply a distraction.
“Then the DA shifts the subject matter (new shiny object) altogether to a whole new issue, whether I held the title of an Assistant District Attorney when Rackauckas allowed me to use that title and approved business cards bearing the title: “Assistant District Attorney,” wrote Spitzer.
Spitzer added: “It is time for an independent enforcement agency to review the evidence, interview the participants and then take appropriate action based on the evidence.”