An entire section of a government draft report prepared by Anaheim City Councilman Jordan Brandman while he was campaigning for his council seat last year appears to largely have been copied from the Wikipedia entry on Orange County, a Voice of OC review of the report has found.
The revelation about the copy-and-paste job in the report prepared for the county clerk-recorder’s office – for which Brandman has so far been paid $24,000 – adds to growing questions about his consulting contract and work product, with two county supervisors alleging last week that the councilman was inappropriately compensated for work he didn’t finish.
(Click here to see a side-by-side comparison of Brandman’s draft report and Wikipedia)
County Supervisor Todd Spitzer said that Brandman should not have been paid a dime for draft work. And Supervisor John Moorlach said the report could have been done in a few hours. In Moorlach’s estimation, the county has already paid 24 times what the report is actually worth.
After learning about the Wikipedia entry in Brandman’s report, Moorlach indicated that he questioned whether the councilman’s contract to prepare the report, which was awarded by former Orange County Clerk-Recorder Tom Daly, was merely a guise by his mentor to support Brandman with county funds while he campaigned for office.
“It puts into question the authenticity of the request” to prepare the report, Moorlach said, adding that a refund demand from Brandman is “certainly on the table,” along with new rules on county contracting.
Moorlach stopped short of directly accusing Brandman and Daly of impropriety, saying that “everyone has their day in court” and that he would hold off on such conclusions until after a “thorough investigation.”
Meanwhile, interim Clerk-Recorder Renee Ramirez wrote in memos to supervisors late last week her explanation of the contract arrangement, laying most of the responsibility on Daly and arguing that the payments adhered to county policies.
Her defense notwithstanding, Ramirez also indicated in a March 15 memo that she is hunting for other questionable contract arrangements.
Moorlach and Spitzer said they are not satisfied with Ramirez’s explanation and her attempts to blame Daly. “The lack of documentation is troubling,” Spitzer said.
Ramirez is jockeying for the permanent clerk-recorder appointment along with 10 other candidates.
Brandman received payments for submitting sections of the report in $4,800 installments while he was campaigning for his City Council seat last year. Payments from the county clerk-recorder’s office to his consulting firm, Jordan Brandman Consulting, were among the only sources of income the councilman had declared on a public statement of economic interests, which covers most of 2012 and part of December 2011.
Brandman did not disclose any other income collected during the time he was campaigning except for a salaried position at the clerk-recorder’s office that ended before Brandman received his consulting contract on Jan. 31, 2012.
The “context” section of the report, which is supposed to be a study about whether west Orange County needs a clerk-recorder’s branch office, consists of six paragraphs and bears a striking resemblance to the Wikipedia entry.
(Click here to read Brandman’s draft report)
The report and Wikipedia entry also had the same population error. A mistake about the number of African-Americans present in Brandman’s report and in a previous version of the Wikipedia entry, was later corrected in Wikipedia. The error remains in Brandman’s report.
Wikipedia’s entries are authored by its millions of viewers. But it is unlikely that Brandman wrote portions of the Wikipedia entry, Voice of OC determined after reviewing the entry’s database of editing.
The Wikipedia text that resembles Brandman’s report was written by several authors over a period of years. The authors credited with that specific text are “Ram-man,” who identifies himself in a biography as Derek Ramsey; “Mr. Whipple”; “Monterey Bay”; “Dthx1138”; and Carlossuarez46.
Brandman’s report contains no attribution to Wikipedia. The only indication that the information came from elsewhere is a footnote in the section that states “some information incorporated from outside multimedia sources.”
Spitzer said that Brandman has “an obligation” to answer growing questions about the contract and work product. “He’s a public figure,” Sptizer said.
Brandman and Daly haven’t returned phone calls for comment since Voice of OC first began reporting the story.
Meanwhile, Moorlach and Spitzer said they are unsatisfied with how Ramirez has handled the controversy since Voice of OC revealed the payments and draft report last week.
After supervisors raised questions about the arrangement, Ramirez wrote two memos that explain little but places most of the responsibility on Daly, who vacated the clerk-recorder position when he won election to the Assembly last year.
According to the memos, dated March 14 and 15, Daly had crafted the scope of work and payment terms. The contract at first gave Brandman a July 31, 2012, deadline to submit the completed report, but Daly extended it twice and increased compensation by $1,500, according to the memos.
Ramirez wrote that the payments followed policies “proscribed by the Auditor-Controller and based upon the County’s 2012 Contract Policy Manual.”
Daly had also insisted that the report remain in draft form until all 13 sections of the report were finalized, one of Ramirez’s memos states. With the report designated as draft during the Daly and Brandman election campaigns, it allowed the county to withhold its release under an exemption in the California Public Records Act.
The county counsel determined after a Voice of OC article about county officials’ refusal to turn over the report that it could be released “in the interest of transparency,” Ramirez wrote in an email.
Ramirez also wrote in a memo that in a March 12 conversation with Brandman she insisted that “he make finalizing the report his top priority” and that Brandman had agreed to a March 22 deadline to complete the report.
Under the contract, Brandman is still entitled to another $2,400 payment for submitting the final “conclusions of Analysis/Recommendations” section of the report.
Brandman has also been asked to beef up sections of the submitted draft. “Additional information and details, which were not included in the document released to the public have been requested,” Ramirez wrote in a memo.
Ramirez also indicated that she is looking for other questionable contract arrangements. “I’m in the process of reviewing all open contracts. Upon completion, I will share my findings with you,” she wrote in a memo.
Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/adamelmahrek.
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