Supervisor Pat Bates has hired a top county government executive currently under investigation by the human resources department to become her new chief of staff.
County human resources officials earlier this month began an investigation into Brian Probolsky, a senior executive at the Orange County Community Resources agency who also serves as an elected member of the Moulton Niguel Water District in South County.
Probolsky has drawn fire because he rarely takes time off on his government timecard when he attends morning subcommittee meetings at the water district.
The status of the HR probe is unclear.
Yet just after the investigation began, Probolsky transferred to Bates’ office to cover for her current chief of staff who is on government leave.
County officials confirmed the move this month saying Probolsky was “on loan” to Bate’s office in his current classification of Admin Manager II.
His work on the Fifth Floor of the Hall of Administration is considered a temporary reassignment so his job will stay open at OC Community Resources and his salary will remain the same, officials said.
Probolsky drew headlines in 2012 after after a departing deputy CEO in a claim letter against the county highlighted his original transition from Bates’ office as a political aide into the OC Community Resources department at an 81 percent salary hike. His pay jumped from $31 an hour as a board aide to $56 an hour as an agency executive.
He has now been reunited with his former boss for the next several months. Bates is considered an automatic for election to the state Senate this November, only facing a write-in candidacy by Ladera Ranch Civic Council Member Gary Kephardt.
There are also indications Bates may be trying to take care of her own new chief of staff, putting pressure on government auditors to back off.
Earlier this month, during county supervisors’ public meeting, Bates quietly asked Supervisors’ Chairman Shawn Nelson to hold off on approving the audit plan for internal auditors.
Bates said she wanted a full review of the yearly audit plan asking auditors to detail exactly how they’ve allocated time between different audits.
Those are likely the very kinds of questions that internal auditors are asking Probolsky.
The pressure from the fifth floor comes just as several supervisors – most notably Bates - prepare to potentially leave office and hand their staffers the traditional parting gift: a county government job.
Bates earlier this year publicly called on county executives to make more room for political aides. Supervisor Todd Spitzer also called for the formation of a special county program allowing political aides to get special training and treatment that could enhance their ability to compete for county jobs.
Yet given a host of recent controversial disclosures about supervisors’ use of questionable transfers to get their executive aides into the civilian bureaucracy, county human resources in 2013 enacted a policy restricting how executives aides compete for open county jobs.
That has made it much tougher for political aides to transfer.
According to county officials, only two aides have secured jobs since the policy change.
Presently, county officials estimate there are 43 political aides from county supervisors’ offices who have transferred into the county government since 2004. There are five other political aides with executive pay grades like Probolsky at the top levels of county government.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Brian Probolsky's transfer to OC Community Resources was highlighted in a 2010 OC Performance Audit report on the human resources department.