Three of the four high-ranking county staff members involved in a controversial filing-deadline frenzy at the Registrar of Voters correctly took time off from their jobs before engaging in the political activity, according to records reviewed by Voice of OC.
The only one who didn’t, according to March 7 timecards filed with the county, was Dennis Bilodeau, chief of staff to Supervisors’ Chairman Shawn Nelson.
The actions of the aides drew attention, including from county prosecutors, after a Registrar of Voters lobby video showed them in the room as political consultant Brett Barbre made a last-minute dash to meet the deadline for submitting nomination papers on behalf of Troy Edgar for county clerk-recorder.
The event often draws political junkies as spectators.
Bilodeau — who is also an Orange city councilman and elected member of the Orange County Water District — said he did file for time-off to account for his political activities that day but mistakenly filed for the leave on a different day.
He said he took an hour off during the days of March 5, 6, 12, 13 and 14th.
“The hour on the 14th was intended for the 7th,” said Bilodeau. “I got my Friday confused because the close of filing was extended a week.”
Three other high-ranking aides didn’t get mixed up.
Fellow Nelson aide Scott Carpenter, along with Chris Nguyen — who works for Supervisor Todd Spitzer — and Brian Probolsky from OC Community Resources all filed for an hour of time off on March 7, according to records.
County attorneys generally advise county workers to avoid engaging in political activities during work hours unless time-off is utilized.
“Non-elected county officials and employees may not give speeches, may not make public appearances, and may not do staff work in support of or opposition to ballot measures or candidates for elected office during their normal county work hours, unless the time they spend on such activities is charged to personal leave time,” read a October 2011 County Counsel opinion on the issue.
The presence of Bilodeau and the other supervisors’ aides also became an issue in a lawsuit filed by Edgar, a Los Alamitos councilman, after Barbre alleged that top officials had influenced a decision by Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley to invalidate Edgar’s nomination papers to run for clerk-recorder.
The lobby video went on to become a key piece of evidence in the Edgar case with a judge ultimately agreeing with Kelley’s assessment that Edgar was still gathering signatures after the 5 p.m. deadline.
Yet for many viewers, the video also raised questions about why top aides were at a political event during office hours.
It isn’t the first time that job attendance issues have been raised with Bilodeau — who wears many hats as a top supervisors’ aide, city councilman and water district elected official.
Last year, a former human resources official who lost a whistleblower-lawsuit against the county, said she never saw Bilodeau at the office during his short stint at the county trash department in 2010 — one that coincided with a gap in political jobs between outgoing Supervisor Chris Norby and incoming Supervisor Shawn Nelson.
Bilodeau also drew attention in a 2010 Voice of OC investigative report showing that he billed the Orange County Water District nearly $3,500 for meetings he either didn’t attend or that didn’t occur, according to official Water District records.
Bilodeau denied receiving any money that was not due him and said the questionable billings were publicized as part of a political vendetta by Carol Rudat, whom he defeated in a 2006 race for a seat on the Orange City Council.
“I have not been compensated for something I was not entitled to. Period,” he said at the time.
Yet a close review of Water District minutes and expense reports showed that between June 2001 and November 2007, Bilodeau billed the district $3,070.16 for 17 meetings for which official minutes show him absent. And, records show, he claimed another $382.04 in stipends for two meetings that never occurred.
When asked by Voice of OC about these meetings at the time, Bilodeau said that he did not keep his own records of attendance and that if mistakes were made, they were the fault of Water District staffers.
Last year, the OC Weekly reported that that Bilodeau incorrectly billed taxpayers for five meetings since the Voice of OC 2010 review, totaling $1,230.