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Orange County officials Friday released a redacted version of a claim filed by an attorney for Deputy CEO Alisa Drakodaidis in which she alleges several acts of retaliation in response to her efforts to root out corruption at the highest levels of county government.
The county’s release of the redacted claim, which was submitted by attorney Joel Baruch, comes two weeks after Voice of OC first reported on its existence and a week after the news organization and Californians Aware, a First Amendment advocacy group, sued to make it public.
The claim states that Drakodaidis felt threatened by the Orange County district attorney’s investigation of sex crime allegations against former county Public Works executive Carlos Bustamante and that she was unfairly targeted because she looked into efforts by county supervisors Pat Bates and Janet Nguyen to help place their political aides into county jobs.
Drakodaidis also accused Bates of attempting to “change” a sex offender ordinance to help the son of a friend.
Along with the release of Drakodaidis’ claim, the county issued a response by recently departed CEO Tom Mauk, which stated that “there is very little substance” to her accusations and accused Drakodaidis of “attacking” members of the Board of Supervisors.
Drakodaidis is the Deputy CEO in charge of Public Works and supervised Bustamante, who is also a Santa Ana city councilman. Earlier this month, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas charged Bustamante with a host of sex crimes against at least seven women who worked for him at the department.
The Bustamante case has paralyzed the county bureaucracy, with questions mounting about how officials initially handled the allegations against him and whether there was an attempted cover-up.
The scandal has cost Mauk his job. After weeks of wrangling with supervisors, he resigned Thursday, receiving a $270,000 payout. Earlier, Public Works Director Jess Carbajal was fired with cause for how he handled the Bustamante allegations.
Many expected Drakodaidis to follow Carbajal out the door. But she went on medical leave, then filed her claim.
She Said, He Said
Drakodaidis’ claim paints an ugly picture of the county bureaucracy, DA investigators, county supervisors and their staffs. Her most alarming accusation is against Bates:
Ms. Drakodaidis, on behalf of herself and employee Brad Gross, also addressed the efforts of Supervisor Bates to “change” the application of a sex offender ordinance which the Supervisor had previously approved, so as to allow the sex offender son of a friend of Supervisor Bates to continue working at his job at the Dana Point Harbor.
In his response, Mauk acknowledges that Bates did advocate on numerous occasions for exempting a sex offender from the county ordinance.
Supervisor Bates and I discussed, on a number of occasions, how the sex offender ordinance applied to Dana Point Harbor, how a sex offender would be able to get back and forth to work if in fact employed in the Harbor. We explored a number of options and found no good solution, so the matter was not pursued any further. Supervisor Bates behaved in all conversations in this matter in a professional manner and in a way that had utmost concern for sex offenders being in the Harbor on a recreational basis.
Mauk added that whatever Bates tried to do regarding the sex offender ordinance, Drakodaidis wasn’t involved.
“As respects to the suggestion that Supervisor Bates was involved in changing the application of a sex offender ordinance, again, Alisa was not involved in anything of that nature.”
Bates told the Orange County Register Friday night that she was “really disappointed to read what I consider to be political innuendo … close to a political hit piece. … My defense is that the facts don’t support her allegations.”
Drakodaidis also takes aim at Bates and Janet Nguyen over controversial transfers of their top staff aides into bureaucratic positions at county agencies.
The most notable instance is the transfer of Brian Probolsky, an elected director of the Moulton Niguel Water District, from being a political aide to Bates to the OC Community Resources Department.
Probolsky got an 80 percent raise in the transition, moving from the rate of $31 an hour to an Administrative Manager II position at the rate of $56 an hour.
Drakodaidis stated in her letter that she strongly objected to the move, saying it “violated the public trust and appropriate OC recruitment processes.”
Drakodaidis’ own steep salary increase drew intense criticism from county supervisors after a performance audit of county Human Resources last year. Her salary eventually was cut.
Mauk agrees in his memo that Drakodaidis was vocal about Probolsky’s transfer — so vocal that “it finally got to the point where I had to tell her not to bring it up anymore.”
Mauk insists that the transfer was handled properly.
Drakodaidis also highlights her efforts to investigate emails regarding the transfer of Huntington Beach City Councilman Matt Harper from Nguyen’s office, asserting that the review triggered problems for her as well.
Mauk acknowledges in his memo that county officials did investigate whether Harper was deleting emails in response to a Voice of OC records request but stated that no evidence was found.
Drakodaidis also takes aim at Rackauckas, saying that the Bustamante case was a “garden-variety sexual harassment civil case” and suggests that the prosecution was “revenge for CEO Mauk’s participation in the removal of John S. Williams as Public Guardian.”
Mauk declares “nothing could be further from the truth,” adding that he never spoke with Rackauckas about the Williams issue.
However, Mauk doesn’t mention that he quietly transferred Rackauckas’ then-fiance Peggi Buff from Willliams’ agency to the same agency where Probolsky landed, county Community Resources.
The Public Record Battle
The version of the letter released by County Counsel Nick Chrisos redacts portions that address Drakodaidis’ health condition. CalAware General Counsel Terry Francke says this is a violation of the California Public Records Act.
Baruch said he agreed with the decision to redact Drakodaidis’ health condition but disagreed with Chrisos’ intent to redact other information, which Baruch sees as clearly public.
Because Baruch doesn’t want his client’s medical condition publicized, he said he wouldn’t release a complete version of the letter.
According to sources that have seen the letter, county officials have redacted allegations made by Drakodaidis about fraudulent billing of staff salaries to state and federal funds by Bates’ office.
Calling the redacted document a “piece of Swiss cheese,” Francke said, “this is not a complete or compliant response to a public records act request.”
He also said county officials have not explained their redactions, which is required by the public records act.
“We won’t even be able to judge the lawfulness of this response until we see that kind of response from county counsel,” Francke said.
“I don’t think there’s any basis at all for any redactions. … It’s clearer to me than ever this is a virtual claim,” Francke said.
Francke noted that the county counsel had communicated with him earlier asking him to stop his legal work on the issue while they analyzed the public request.
Francke interpreted that as signaling that county lawyers acknowledged they weren’t standing on solid legal ground and would comply with the records request.
“What’s just happened has started the clock again,” Francke said. “This phone call, I’m going to bill on.”