New County CEO Starts by Reaching Out to Employees

Nick Gerda/Voice of OC

Newly-appointed county CEO Frank Kim is sworn in by supervisors' Chairman Todd Spitzer.

New Orange County CEO Frank Kim began his tenure Tuesday with a shout-out to county employees, who he said have “kept their eye on the ball” during years of difficult times brought on by the Great Recession.

“And because of that, we’ve accomplished so much,” Kim said just after taking his oath of office.

He added: “I want to say to all the county employees, you have my commitment that I will work with you to make this county a better place for the citizens of Orange County, the businesses that operate here and for the employees that show up to work every day.”

With his comments, Kim sent a clear message that he intends to address the morale problems that persisted during the relatively short tenure of his predecessor, Mike Giancola.

A recent and widely circulated county survey of employee attitudes showed that responses to the statement “I have confidence in the leader of [the] County of Orange” were 29 percent below he benchmark for other government agencies.

Kim, who until Tuesday served as chief financial officer, was named interim CEO in January after Giancola went on medical leave following back surgery. Then, last month, Giancola announced plans to retire early, which were abruptly moved up again last week.

With their choice of Kim, a Korean American, supervisors appointed the first non-white CEO in county history.

His contract calls for him to be paid $248,000 per year in salary plus benefits.  And because Kim’s wife and sister also work for the county, the County Counsel’s office was tasked with writing up letters how to handle any workplace complaints that might involve them.

In an interview with Voice of OC, Kim reiterated his commitment to deal with the issues raised by the employee survey, which included thousands of individual responses.

“We need to engage our employees, because morale and dedication and job satisfaction – all of those kinds of things are important,” he said. “We can’t accomplish anything without [them].”

Another key priority for Kim is shoring up technological and physical infrastructure that was put on hold during the recession.

The projects include improvements to county utilities such as water piping and electricity for Civic Center buildings, along with computer system upgrades.

Kim will also be evaluating centralization efforts at the county, including that of human resources and the possibility of centralizing IT and contract procurement services.

He also pointed to the county’s low share of property taxes – which are less than half of what other large California counties receive back from Sacramento – as a key issue to tackle. Kim noted that it’s unclear how Orange County could convince the state Legislature to give those funds, though he remained optimistic.

“It’s important to continue to engage” on the tax equity issue, Kim said, given that creative solutions come from many different places.

Kim has worked at the county for nearly 20 years and rose through the ranks to become its top finance official. And, at least for now, he’s being universally praised for his fairness and honesty.

“I cannot tell you the amount of trust that you have earned over the years from the department heads as well as certainly the board and the employees in the county,” Supervisor Andrew Do told Kim at Tuesday’s meeting, noting that Kim led the county through a “really difficult time” in 2008 and 2009.

“You have the requisite leadership character, strength, knowledge in order to guide us into the future,” Do added.

“I’m so pleased you’re here,” said Supervisor Shawn Nelson.  “You are one of the most ethical, honest people I know.”

Supervisors’ Chairman Todd Spitzer noted that history was made Tuesday with the swearing in of a person of color to the county’s top job.

“I think this continues this county’s commitment to diversity,” Spitzer said, noting the historic nature of the appointment.

Supervisors also thanked Giancola for his service, with Spitzer saying he is leaving county after “three-plus decades of exemplary service, and you have everything today to be proud of.”

Giancola said “it’s been humbling trying to guide and work collaboratively with all my 18,000 dedicated county colleagues,” and thanked his executive staff and the supervisors.

“These guys get no credit, each of them, in their own way, [for] the passion, the care and the dedication and hard work,” Giancola said of the supervisors.  “Some of these folks are on 18 boards, 15 boards.”

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Kim’s salary is $3,000 more than Giancola’s.  Giancola received raises since his appointment as CEO that the county says put his salary at about the same level as Kim’s.

You can contact Nick Gerda at, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

  • Ed Romero

    How about reaching out to me. I have sent word to Supervisor Todd Spitzer that I would like to address the Board of Supervisors, but I have not to this date received any reply. I have somewhere between 30 to 40 pages of information about the Drug Dealing, Marijuana Smoking, Cocaine Snorting, the abuse of power by those Lesbians that ran the Orange County Probation Department, hiring and promoting their lesbian friends to positions that should of gone to more qualified applicants. The Drug Abuse at the Los Pinos Detention that was so bad that it earned the name “The Lesbian Drug Den”. There were too many Probation Department employees drinking the lunch right out of the bottle in our Employee Parking Lot, one Deputy Probation Officer arrested 8 times for drunk driving and another one 5 times for drunk driving and both kept their jobs for years. Supervisor’s taking 4 hour lunch breaks, I hope that I have caught your attention.

    • John Claxton

      You have the right to speak at any BOS meeting. Don’t wait for an invitation. It gets their attention when someone shows up with documents wanting to put them in the record.

  • OCservant_Leader

    Since Kim already violated nepotism…what about cronyism ? Will he agree to keep all future payments to Giancola transparent?

    Now that ex- CEO is moving to disability retirement…it would be wrong to make him a “double dipper” right? This Republican Board wouldn’t support that kind of welfare would they?

    We know he needs his “40 quarters” (retirement scam) to collect social security (he hasn’t paid into) in addition to his HUGE tax free pension- right?

    Will Mr Kim approve “consultant” contracts to Mr. Giancola for 40 quarters? At what rate?

    Blank stare….crickets….

    I challenge a journalism intern attempt to track the different “incorporated” fronts Mr ex-CEO will use across the agencies to get PAID.

  • OCservant_Leader

    “And because Kim’s wife and sister also work for the county, the County Counsel’s office was tasked with writing up letters how to handle any workplace complaints that might involve them.”

    Nepotism and it’s ugly siblings of cronyism & patronage are the basic ingredients of a Corrupt Government.

    It also creates an incompetent Management layer that can’t execute effectively because they are placed to continue fraud and protect the “family” only.

    County Council’s policy to deal with Nepotism? Let me guess- Retaliate, intimidate, harass and destroy any foolish employee who thinks they work for the public and not the FAMILY.

    This is organized crime 101.

  • Trudy White

    I officially call BS. Big, heaping, steaming pile of BS. Tell you what, Frank, set up an anonymous hotline that employees can use to tell you what the problems are. Better yet, go ask the CoS folks for the agency heads and BoS.

    • David Zenger

      There is a hot line run by the Internal Auditor.

      • Trudy White

        I wonder whose brother/lover/cousin/spouse they are.

  • octaxpayer

    How about reaching out to past employees who were directed to shut up don’t rock the boat and tired of covering up the real cost of services or projects for CEO/IT, CIO. Has anyone every really looked into metrics from the ceo/IT or PMO office around what they told the BOS they would save in cost before and after? CEO/IT as a unique way of hiding the true cost and redistricting cost. When any of this is brought up employees are told be quiet and either leave on there own or become a target of some trumped up nonsense. If more employes sued the County they would win as the HR department does a poor job of following legal process and procedures and would lose about every case. They use scare tactics and employes give up or never follow up to see if they actually have a case. HR would be hard pressed to really prove out anything.

    • Trudy White

      Amen. We need class action and one attorney with the guts to go for it.

    • Kathleen Tahilramani

      Here is how OC government works regarding employee lawsuits: what they don’t have as evidence they fabricate and make up. When they need some testimony to refute the truth they manipulate someone with promotion or favors to twist the truth or outright lie. Why keep records? If they don’t exist or cannot be found then there is no evidence. And, trumped up nonsense – you nailed it. They will investigate you until they think they have found a tiny little crack and blow that up into the crime of the century – it’s nothing of course but that matters not a bit.The county will hire an outside law firm and throw money at any suit until the other side grows weary or runs out of patience and/or money. Most OC attorneys don’t want to alienate the county elite or the judicial system so these kind of suits are toxic. Class action? Well it is hard to find one person let alone scores who are willing and able to set fire to their reputation, career, finances and privacy. For most folks putting the ability to pay bills, house payments, medical coverage, school/college funds etc. at mortal risk is not acceptable.. And, to top it off I know for an absolute fact that outside county attorneys will verbally threaten county staff to try to force them to “testify correctly.” The County of Orange has had years to perfect the draconian system of keeping it’s subjects in line – so far it is working just fine….for them.

      • Trudy White

        All that is true. Sadly, for old Frank, there’s a case coming up to bat where the employee has impressive documentation and does not care at all what they do. This one has some very ugly and scandalous misconduct in it, makes Carona and Bustamante look like choirboys. There is always that one person with nothing to lose. They have file cabinets full of proof, And are not afraid to use it.

        • Kathleen Tahilramani

          Interesting, what the County tends to do if there is a smoking gun is offer a “settlement” to make it go away. And, the County knows that to go all the way to a civil case/jury trial is a huge financial risk for most plaintiffs.

          • Trudy White

            What has happened is that they got cocky, and have pushed some people past the limits of endurance. Those are the kind of people who cannot be bought. I think that some people stop thinking of themselves and focus on the common good. It stops being a case and becomes a quest. Someone like that isn’t in it for money. If they are old enough, they may have other pensions. Besides that, in this media world, they can make money blogging and selling their story. All of that spells bad news for the County, because once they spill those beans, none of the usual fixes will work. This particular individual is way past the point of being intimidated or being bribable. In short, they don’t give a rat’s behind. That is very bad news for the power elite. With the documents that someone like that has? It’s gonna get all kinds of messy, especially for both DA candidates and Nelson. Kim could potentially come out smelling like a rose, but he would have to bite the hands that feed him…HARD.

          • OCservant_Leader

            “Cocky” is a good word. They think they are untouchable. They control the Board now. The Board had to pick from the Band of Brothers who control the bureucracy with HS Graduates.

            They couldn’t pick someone from the EA Fraternity- so they held their nose and picked someone-anyone with a degree- who can produce a spreadsheet with County “funny” numbers showing no reaction. Kim is perfect.

            An Eagle Scout intern could investigate & solve 90% of scams because they are in plain sight. Remember the OC Parks scandal ? Got caught cutting large checks to a donor? What happened to those employees? Where are they? They travel in gangs so I guarantee they set up shop in another Agency. Probably got promoted.

            Maybe they hired Kim’s sister a few months ago when they working the new CEO deal?

            Thank god for a free press (Voice of OC)! And social media! Corruption needs secrecy! Come on employees….Speak!!!!

        • John Claxton

          Makes no difference what kind of smoking gun someone has against the county. The judges get paid in part of their salary and medical benefits from the county. They are very protective of those benefits in that they protect the county’s back and the lucrative benefits continue. The judge in my case against the rotten to the core PA PG did not let anything in or let any witness say one negative word against the county nor any positive remarks in my favor. Note, the county’s hired attorney had already been vetted for a judgeship in Santa Ana – but I did not find out until after the fact.

          • Trudy White

            There is more than one way to skin a cat. I think she has them by the short hairs. The best part is that she does not care what they do.

  • David Zenger

    “These guys get no credit, each of them, in their own way, [for] the
    passion, the care and the dedication and hard work,” Giancola said of
    the supervisors.”

    O! The humanity! What tribulation. What sacrifice.

    • Trudy White

      Why, I am just prostrate with emotion over the terrible trials and tribulations of these magnificent knights of valor! *faints dramatically*

      Ugh…I may Spitzer up.

    • Kathleen Tahilramani

      Ah but let up remember, Giancola is the official “bobble head” for Orange County government. When an empty suit with an empty head speaks – well you know garbage in garbage out.

  • David Zenger

    “I’m so pleased you’re here,” said Supervisor Shawn Nelson. “You are one of the most ethical, honest people I know.”

    Hmm. Irony enjoyment aside, I’d offer that Frank knows where lots and lots of bodies are buried. Does he have the ethics and honesty to begin exhumation? Because once you start it’s impossible to stop.

    • Trudy White

      Having Shawn Nelson proclaim that you are the most honorable person he knows is a bit like being the smartest person on the Board of Supervisors…this is probably not a huge achievement. Nelson got called out by a Congressman in another district, and he still did nada to fix the problem. Anyone with so little morals and ethics probably doesn’t have that many folks around who are decent and law abiding. Dogs and fleas, you know that old cliche.