The Orange County Board of Supervisors is contemplating a November ballot initiative that would make the county auditor-controller an appointed rather than elected official.

The move comes as the county is being hit with a $73-million lawsuit from the state over how former Auditor-Controller David Sundstrom allocated property taxes throughout Orange County.

Sundstrom, who resigned in January to fill a similar elected post in Sonoma County, backed up supervisors’ contention that Sacramento owed them the property tax money after Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget staffers took away the county’s slice of vehicle license fees.

Apparently no top official at the auditor-controller’s office wants the job permanently.

Deputy Auditor-Controller Shaun Skelly abruptly retired last month after supervisors balked at appointing him to fill Sundtrom’s shoes. Now Jan Grimes, whom Skelly appointed as interim auditor-controller, has told supervisors she doesn’t want the job either.

These developments have made supervisors wonder whether any top finance official will want to step in for the remainder of Sundstrom’s term and then run for office.

“It does raise the question [of] … whether this job should really be an elected office,” said Supervisor Shawn Nelson this week at the supervisors’ weekly meeting.

Nelson pressed his colleagues, calling it “risky” to put another official in the post, given that its “responsibilities are so intricate.”

Nelson won the unanimous support of his colleagues on a motion regarding making the position an appointed one.

While Supervisor Bill Campbell wondered aloud whether the state constitution mandated an elected auditor-controller, Supervisor John Moorlach said that is not a concern.

“They [elected auditor-controllers] are fair game, at their choice,” said Moorlach, noting that the statewide association declined recently to have the post designated a constitutionally mandated office like sheriff, district attorney and assessor.

Supervisor Janet Nguyen also said appointment may be way to go.

“I support the recruitment,” said Nguyen after she and her colleagues voted to spend $35,000 for a national search, “but I don’t have much hope there.”


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