County supervisors acknowledged Wednesday that they have yet to read the report by a law firm they hired to investigate the actions of Waste & Recycling Director Michael Giancola, whom they’ve informally picked to be the next county CEO.
After announcing this week their decision to place the hiring of Giancola on their meeting agenda, supervisors said they received a briefing on the report but haven’t read it themselves.
Giancola has been accused of being involved with a salvaging operation at the county landfills and using county workers to do private work for him, according to sources and documents filed in a whistle-blower’s lawsuit against the county.
The approach by supervisors regarding the Giancola report is similar to how they handled a law firm’s investigation that resulted in criminal charges being filed against former Public Works executive and Santa Ana City Councilman Carlos Bustamante last year.
Supervisors have maintained they never read that report, receiving only spoken updates. Bustamante was quietly allowed to resign in late 2011.
The ensuing March, supervisors were directly confronted with the results of the investigation because of an internal audit and were forced to refer the matter to the district attorney, who filed criminal charges months later.
It also prompted questions for County Counsel Nick Chrisos about why county lawyers seemingly didn’t refer the case earlier.
The criminal charges triggered the resignation of CEO Tom Mauk and dismissals of other top officials, such as Public Works Director Jess Carbajal. Deputy CEO Alisa Drakodaidis was fired last month largely because of her connection to the affair.
Just after the incident, county officials were inundated with anonymous allegations against a host of elected officials and other executives, including Giancola.
Supervisors developed an approach to flesh out the complaints, creating a special panel that would take such allegations and hand them over to an undisclosed law firm that would investigate.
Last year just before the November elections, Human Resources Director Steve Danley announced that former Clerk-Recorder Tom Daly had been cleared by the law firm’s investigation into a series of sexual harassment charges.
Again, no county supervisor read the report.
This week after Chairman Shawn Nelson announced the Board of Supervisors was ready to appoint Giancola on May 7, it quickly became apparent that they hadn’t read the investigation report.
Nelson slammed the whistle-blower leveling the complaints against Giancola, saying the spoken reports he had received about the investigation led him to conclude the allegations were baseless.
Yet after being pressed by reporters as well as receiving a letter from an attorney representing the whistle-blower, Nelson said he asked county attorneys to give him the actual report.
“We’ve asked to look at it,” said Nelson late Wednesday after announcing Giancola as his choice for CEO.
County Supervisor John Moorlach said after being pressed by reporters that he may also ask to see the report.
Yet neither Moorlach nor Nelson said he expects the written report to change his mind.
“I only care if the conclusion of the investigatory report is what I’ve been told,” Nelson said. Looking over the actual written report, Nelson said, is “just for the sake of reviewing it. I’m certainly not going to reach a different conclusion.”
Nelson maintains that county supervisors are legally limited in what they can review about such allegations, given their defamatory nature.
“I don’t have a right to just walk into human resources and just look at investigations,” Nelson said.
“I need to know what the conclusion is, and that the investigation was thorough,” Nelson said.
Yet an attorney representing whistle-blower Kathleen Tahilramani in a workers’ compensation and civil case against the county alleged the report on Giancola wasn’t even finished.
In a retraction demand sent to The Orange County Register in which attorney Stephen Dial accused the newspaper of misstating his client’s case, he argued that the county investigation was incomplete.
“The investigators and the county’s attorneys informed me as recently as last week that the investigation and report had not been completed, allegedly because of a ‘family emergency’ and both specially denied that the County had a copy of a draft of the report on the investigation,” wrote Dial.
Clarification: A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled County Counsel Nick Chrisos’ name.
Please contact Norberto Santana Jr. directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/norbertosanana.
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