Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas is calling for the formation of a public integrity unit to respond to what he calls “the growing number of complaints and investigations of crimes involving people holding public office.”
Also acknowledging a rising tide of complaints from the worker ranks against top executives, Rackauckas’ budget request also notes: “Additionally, we have received increased complaints that allege the County and/or County employees may be victim(s) of crime.”
The request is a departure for Rackauckas, who in recent years has been criticized for being soft on public corruption cases.
That was before Rackauckas charged Carlos Bustamante, a Santa Ana city councilman and former Orange County Public Works executive, with multiple sex crimes.
In the request, slated for Tuesday’s public agenda:
Rackauckas makes the case for a public corruption unit: (), “The citizens of Orange County have the right to expect their public officials will carry out their duties in a lawful, ethical, and professional manner. The citizens also expect that all necessary steps will be taken to protect County resources from theft and corruption. It is the goal of the District Attorney to ensure that public officials, and their subordinates, fulfill their required obligations. Therefore, the Office requests your Honorable Board’s approval to establish the District Attorney Public Integrity Team comprised of seven (7) prosecutorial, investigative, and support staff positions referenced in the Recommended Action.
Rackauckas estimates the new unit will cost more than $1.1 million and feature a staff of seven, including two senior deputy district attorneys and two district attorney investigators. Rackauckas’ budget request also acknowledges that the new unit may require new allocations from the county’s public safety tax.
Since Rackauckas charged Bustamante with more than a dozen sex crimes against seven female county workers, the top echelons of the county bureaucracy have became paralyzed by one high-profile exit after another in the ensuing months.
In the meantime, Rackauckas has told supervisors his staff continues to investigate the entire official response to the Bustamante allegations.
Bustamante was allowed to quietly resign in October 2011. After a probe by the county Internal Audit Department in March noted the problematic handling of the Bustamante allegations, Public Works Director Jess Carbajal was placed on administrative leave. Then shortly after the Bustamante arrest in July, Carbajal was fired with cause.
Just after Carbajal’s public exit, Deputy CEO Alisa Drakodaidis placed herself on administrative leave and had her attorney send a politically explosive letter making a series of allegations against county supervisors, specifically Pat Bates, over the transferring of political aides into county bureaucratic positions and exploration of the application of sex offender ordinances.
While county officials attempted to keep the Drakodaidis claim a secret, Voice of OC successfully sued the county in court to release the letter.
Drakodaidis’ attorney has since informed county officials that she would be back at work by Aug. 30.
The most high-profile exit to date was that of county CEO Tom Mauk, who left in early August after a private stand-off with county supervisors over the Bustamante matter.
County supervisors last week announced that they will stick with former county Financial Officer Bob Franz as interim CEO while they continue the political deliberations around the selection of another top executive to run the county’s nearly $6-billion bureaucracy.