DA’s Chief of Staff to Disclose Financial Interests Dating Back to 2010

Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff to District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, will be required to file conflict of interest forms going back at least five years, the Orange County Register reported Tuesday night.

Schroeder, a lawyer, agreed to retroactively file the forms after County Counsel Nicholas Chrisos, in a report for the Board of Supervisors, determined she was legally required to report outside income, investments, gifts and other assets since 2010 when she first received the title Chief of Staff, according to the Register.

Schroeder declined to be interviewed by Voice of OC.

Voice of OC reported in February that Schroeder, even though she holds the title chief of staff, was the only one of the DA’s five highest-ranking executives who wasn’t required each year to reveal personal financial interests on public disclosure forms.

According to a range of government experts, Schroeder’s exemption from the 40-year-old requirement meant one of two things: either she should be disclosing her financial interests, or her title and job description made her sound far more important than she is.

Chrisos’ report, the Register said, recommended that Supervisors vote to officially require Schroeder to go back and file the conflict of interest reports, also known as 700 forms.

The Register wrote: “When Rackauckas’ office caught wind of that recommendation last week, it voluntarily agreed to provide the information retroactively and eliminated the need for supervisors to take up the issue, according to Senior Assistant District Attorney Michael Lubinski.

“Lubinski said he didn’t know when Schroeder’s documents would be available.

“’She’s trying to get stuff done,’ he said. ’She’s trying to get as much together as possible.’”

Until last year, Schroeder was married to Michael J. Schroeder, 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.

Susan Schroeder’s conflict of interest forms will have to list Michael Schroeder’s sources of income and investments, as well as gifts she received from anyone who has had dealings with the DA’s office, according to the state Political Reform Act.

Susan Schroeder has worked for Rackauckas since 1999 and for more than a decade has served primarily as his chief government spokeswoman. Last year she also was Rackauckas’ re-election campaign manager. She is rumored to be a candidate for DA when Rackauckas retires.

Since 2013, Schroeder also has co-supervised the District Attorney’s Human Exploitation and Trafficking Unit, a special team known as H.E.A.T. that prosecutes crimes involving the sexual exploitation of women and children.

At the same time she was co-head of H.E.A.T., Voice of OC reported, state records list Susan Schroeder as president of a company she formed with Scott Foster, a guitarist and singer who volunteered to perform at two H.E.A.T. public concerts and then, via his business partnership with Schroeder, published video from the events to promote his career.

“The founders of m3Connection, Susan Kang Schroeder and Scott Foster, have chosen to keep the meaning of the three ‘m’s in their company a secret,” according to a web site description of their company.

But, it said, “we create and promote your brand andsound(sic) with impactful messaging across television, radio, print, and social media.”

In April, Shirley Grindle, author of Orange County's local campaign finance ordinance in 1978 and a longtime critic of Rackauckas, asked the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission or FPPC, to investigate whether Schroeder should have been disclosing her outside business interests and other potential conflicts of interest.

The FPPC told Grindle to refile the complaint with Chrisos because it is up to the Board of Supervisors to determine which non-elected county officials have to file conflict of interest forms.

Last month the DA’s office decided to have all of its lawyers, roughly 275 people, filed conflict of interest forms, rather than just add Susan Schroeder to the list of about 20 top executives who already were filing.

Supervisors in March ordered a countywide review of all positions that are required to file.

Asked about the decision to have Susan Schroeder file retroactively, Grindle said Wednesday, “I want Tony Rackauckas to explain to us why she (Susan Schroeder) was not required to file when he promoted her to that managerial position. What are they hiding? How come he, as a DA, did not know that she should have filed? Where was he? He had to know.”