Orange County's political watchdog has asked the state Fair Political Practices Commission to investigate whether District Attorney Tony Rackauckas should require his chief of staff, Susan Kang Schroeder, to file an annual conflict of interest report.
“I believe this matter deserves investigation as to the real reasons behind this omission: namely, the close relationship” between Susan Schroeder’s ex-husband, Michael Schroeder, and Rackauckas in 2010 when Susan Schroeder was named chief of staff, Shirley Grindle wrote in her April 6 complaint.
Michael Schroeder is a multi-millionaire former state Republican chairman and a strong behind-the-scenes political player who was instrumental in getting Rackauckas elected in 1998 and has served as his re-election campaign chairman.
If Susan Schroeder was required to file a conflict of interest form, she would have had to list Michael Schroeder’s sources of income, as well as gifts she received from anyone associated with the DA’s office, according to the state Political Reform Act.
Rackauckas and Susan and Michael Schroeder, who divorced last year, didn’t return phone calls seeking their response to the FPPC complaint.
The conflict of interest statements, also known as 700 Forms, are required of all state and local elected officials and government workers who are in a position to make decisions that could affect their personal assets. However, it is up to the individual agencies themselves to determine who among their ranks is required to submit the disclosures, unless the FPPC rules otherwise following a complaint.
Grindle based her complaint on two Voice of OC articles. One reported that Susan Schroeder is alone among the DA’s five highest-ranking executives in not being required by Rackauckas to file a conflict of interest statement.
The other story described how Schroeder and musician Scott Foster created a music promotion company and used two DA office public concerts organized by Schroeder to promote his career. There also are questions about trips on private jets that Susan Schroeder may have received.
In her complaint, Grindle said based on California law, Susan Schroeder should have filed conflict of interest statements every year since she was named chief of staff in 2010.
She included a list of eight current or former county and DA’s office employees whom, she said, could support her complaint.
If FPPC officials determine the complaint is within their purview, they then will decide whether it merits investigation.
If there is no apparent violation of state law, the issue is dismissed. If it appears the law may have been violated, an investigation is begun and all parties are notified, according to spokesman Jay Wierenga.