Controversy Heats Up Over DA Outsourcing Proposal

Controversy continues to swirl around a DA proposal seeking to outsource background investigations, with Orange County’s chief prosecutor irked over questions about a lack of disclosure regarding a longtime work relationship between the vendor and a top DA official recommending the contract.

At last week’s county supervisors meeting, Chairman Todd Spitzer raised questions about the contract, which was recommended by the DA’s investigations chief, Craig Hunter.

Hunter was trying to outsource part of his staff’s work to a longtime colleague from his time at the Anaheim Police Department.  But Hunter didn’t disclose his connection to the contractor in his recommendation.

This “doesn’t mean there’s any impropriety, it just means we should know about it,” Spitzer said at the time.

“It’s very disconcerting when you start seeing all these relationships that go on for decades, and you have no idea.”

In a letter sent Monday, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas went right after Spitzer, accusing him of using his position to make “misleading allegations” that harm the public.

“Releasing misinformation to the public is bad government,” Rackauckas wrote.  “I respectfully urge you to obtain facts before you speak and to discontinue unmeritorious attacks that affect the hard working professionals of the OCDA, and ultimately the public.”

The DA acknowledged that Hunter worked with the owners of the firm, RCS Investigations & Consulting.

But Rackauckas has yet to publicly address Spitzer’s main concern: that Hunter’s connection to the contractor wasn’t publicly disclosed.

The DA’s three-page letter doesn’t mention the disclosure issue, and his office declined to discuss the concern when Voice of OC reached out about it last week.

Spitzer, meanwhile, fired back at the DA, calling him a “bully.”

“Tony Rackauckas has been in office so long that he has become a bully threatening anyone who raises questions about his policies, even when they are reckless, poorly thought out and costing taxpayers millions of dollars in lawsuits,” said Spitzer Spokeswoman Melanie Eustice.

“Supervisor Spitzer raised legitimate policy issues related to contract awards and called it the ‘Iqbal-Bradjic’ policy based on controversial contracts in OC Parks. That was not an attack on the District Attorney and then Tony Rackauckas fires back with name calling and scare tactics,” Eustice added.

Spitzer is also now being joined by the DA investigators’ union in raising questions about the contract.

An attorney for the union, the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, wrote a letter to top officials saying that because the contract could allow work to be taken away from its members, the county must enter into labor negotiations known as “meet and confer.”

The county counsel and human resources offices agreed that a meet and confer process is required, according to Spitzer’s spokeswoman, Melanie Eustice.

Rackauckas, meanwhile, is defending the formal process of choosing the vendor, saying it was fair and that Hunter was not involved.

“I agree that conducting business on behalf of the people of Orange County should be professional, transparent, and fiscally sound.  I also believe that before one assumes anything, and even worse, makes accusations, one should first gather seminal information,” the DA wrote in his letter.

He also accused Spitzer of unfairly harming Hunter’s reputation.

“You hold a very important office, and what you say in public matters, especially when the accusations are unfounded and besmirch people’s reputation,” he concludes.

(Click here to read the DA’s letter.)

Spitzer’s spokeswoman cast the attack as part of a political vendetta by the DA.

“This is pure and utter retaliation against Todd Spitzer for exposing that Tony Rackauckas’ then-girlfriend now-wife, Peggi Buff (Assistant Public Administrator) had a cushy job that she was not qualified for and removed from, with the now tarnished John Williams (Public Administrator/Public Guardian).

“Supervisor Spitzer remains committed to working on behalf of the families of Orange County and will continue to raise questions undeterred.”

(Click here to read Spitzer’s response.)

The latest allegations, regarding the proposed contract, center on a deal that would outsource the DA’s background investigations to RCS for $85,000 per year.

In his staff report recommending the RCS contract, Hunter, the investigations chief, didn’t mention his connection to a partner at the firm, Steve Rodig, who is also the proposed project manager for the contract.

Hunter supervised Rodig at the Anaheim Police Department before they both rose through the ranks, according to Spitzer.

That omission was called out last week by Spitzer, who focused on the lack of disclosure in the DA contract and a county parks contracting scandal involving grad school colleagues.

In his response letter, Rackauckas acknowledges that Hunter “did work with the owners of RCS, who were police managers at [the Anaheim Police Department] before their retirement.”

The process for choosing RCS was conducted fairly, Rackauckas wrote.

“A public bid was advertised complying with all County rules,” the letter states.  “Chief Hunter was not part of the [request for proposals] process or scoring.”

Only two firms submitted bids for the work, Rackauckas wrote, with RCS offering a lower price than the other firm, which is based in Los Angeles and “had never done police background checks.”

The DA’s letter, meanwhile, didn’t discuss why Hunter’s staff report didn’t disclose his previews relationship with Rodig, who is listed as the contractor’s project manager.

In his comments at the end of the meeting, Spitzer called for the creation of a new disclosure policy regarding officials’ relationships with proposed contractors.

He directed staff to draft a policy requiring that past and current professional and personal relationships be disclosed with vendors up for approval.

That “checklist” would include a list of vendor employees who have been county employees, and retirees receiving public pensions who will be working on the contract.

The RCS contract was supposed to return for a decision by supervisors at their meeting on Tuesday.  But on Monday, the DA’s office delayed the item to next week’s meeting.

Spitzer’s proposed policy on contractor disclosures is expected to return to sometime in Spring.

You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.