Supervisors Start Preparing for Possibility That Ethics Commission Passes in 2016

Members of the Orange County Board of Supervisors are gearing up for the possibility voters next year will approve an initiative, spearheaded by local watchdog Shirley Grindle, to create a countywide ethics commission.

“My gut tells me [that] if it gets on the ballot, like Measure E, it passes,” supervisors’ Chairman Todd Spitzer said Tuesday, referring to a county ballot measure this past November that contained “Ethics Commission” in its title but didn’t actually create a commission.

“The voters seem to think that there needs to be oversight and they’re willing to support it,” he said.

He urged his colleagues to get involved in trying to make changes to Grindle’s initiative.

As an example, Spitzer said the measure should include a provision for training elected officials on ethics laws and regulations.

Supervisor Shawn Nelson, meanwhile, criticized the commission proposal as wasteful.

In off election years, ”you’d have people on the payroll full time” with nothing to do, he said.

Under Grindle’s proposal, an ethics commission would enforce not only campaign finance limits for countywide offices, but also receipt of gifts and unethical conduct by managers and employees.

It would also receive tips regarding ethics issues through a hotline, and have the power to subpoena witnesses and documents, such as bank records.

Finalists for the panel would be screened and recommended by former grand jury members, with the commissioners chosen by former grand jury forepersons.

(Click here to read the latest version of Grindle’s initiative.)

Grindle said Wednesday the initiative has been updated to incorporate several suggestions by Nelson.

She also expressed hope fundraising for signature-gathering won’t be necessary to get it on the ballot.  Instead, supervisors can place it on the ballot directly.

The commission push comes amid widespread frustration over what many say is lax enforcement of local campaign finance limits by District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.

In recent years, county grand juries have twice recommended the Board of Supervisors create an ethics commission.  Both times, county supervisors rejected the suggestion.

Instead, Spitzer and Nelson sought to have the county contract with the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission to enforce the county-level campaign contribution limits, known as TINCUP.

But that model, which would have had a far narrower mandate than the grand jury sought, was killed in Sacramento after heavy opposition from organized labor groups like the Orange County Employees Association.

Spitzer acknowledged Tuesday that the FPPC route likely won’t come to fruition.

“It stalled.  And I think we need to own that,” he said.  “It doesn’t look like we’re going to be successful in Sacramento.”

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

  • Jacki Livingston

    I got some news for ya, Nelson, unethical conduct by management would keep these people busy full time, every year. Hmmmm, what examples could I think of? How about a senior manager caught by his wife in the parking lot receiving a sexual favor from a subordinate? Or, my personal favorite, the same senior manager rigging the new social service provider system so that vendors can double and triple bill the system, of which he gets a huge kickback? Oh, wait, I know! The same manager, now married to that subordinate, using promotions to garner sexual favors from other subordinates. My goodness! And that is just one well connected sleazeball. Imagine how many more Shirley and Company might find! Hope that prospect makes Nelson and his crew of dunces choke on their taxpayer paid Starbucks coffee and croissants.

  • OCservant_Leader

    I think it is difficult for the citizens to connect how the corruption of politicians impacts them.

    I’m going to give an example and put the dots really close here:

    1. Corrupt politician without any oversight stuffs their pockets with donor’s money
    2. In return corrupt politician will steer public funds to said donor
    3. Corrupt politician needs their “inside guy” an EA/family inside the Agency
    4. EA/inside guy is only good at steering $ to donor – not Managing healthcare
    5. Persistent and Severe mentally ill go untreated due to management incompetence
    6. Please read headlines from any news source to find out how this story ends

    Do I need to give another example? Go ahead to try out that new food truck in OC – it could be a real killer crab taco!

  • OCservant_Leader

    The governance model in OC is broken.

    The bureaucracy has no leadership and is a floating shipwreck just crashing from one scandal to the next.

    “Supervisor Shawn Nelson, meanwhile, criticized the [ethics] Commision proposal as wasteful”

    Really? With all do respect Supervisor – that is your same response to everything. Can’t your PR Firm change the script just a teeny bit?

    One advantage to this commission – is it can be a repository for “all” wrongdoings—a database the Board of Supes can’t control. That is gonna be an ugly list lighting fires they can’t put out.

    Bless Grindle for not giving up the fight! I read how our DA T-Rack Chief of Staff/Campaign Manager- Kang-Schroeder made inappropriate, unprofessional, personally attacking this “real” public servant in the press.

    My friend from New York asked – what is wrong with this woman-this Kang? are we witnessing an alcohol or drug problem or is it organic? How do you explain her odd behavior?

    I really don’t know. I don’t have the 411 on her. Don’t care really.

  • David Zenger

    “a provision for training elected officials on ethics laws and regulations.”

    What a joke. Ethics is about morality. Laws are about….laws. You either obey them or you (should, if we had a real DA) go to jail. Spitzer is deliberately conflating obedience to laws with ethics. The former is real easy to do; the later is a lot more troublesome, especially when you spend most of your time as a politician paying off campaign debt and/or running for your next office.

    The last thing we need is a stupid taxpayer funded “commission” to help Todd & Co. fill out their forms right.

    What I don’t understand is why Voice of OC seems perfectly willing to go along with this nonsense.

    • Steve W.

      Why do you think the Voice of OC WOULDN’T go along with this nonsense? This site buys into the same discredited mindset that the answer is always more government regulation. The money source that keeps the Voice afloat, the OCEA, loves this idea. It’s another way for them to throw sands in the gears of county government, intimidate any county employee from trying to be innovative, and to stop any outsourcing. The problem is if you put something on the ballot and slap “government ethics reform” on it, voters will support it.

      And where is this “widespread frustration” Nick Gerda writes about? As if there are more than twenty people in Orange County who are “frustrated” the DA isn’t throwing people in jail for reporting mistakes on their campaign reports.

      • Philmore

        Do you know more than twenty people? I can think of several times that number in my city alone. You should get out more. And, perhaps news to you, the DA did NOT run unopposed, and I believe about a thousand times that number vented their frustration in the ballot box.

      • Jacki Livingston

        Steve-O, untwist your panties, bud. The fact is, county managers are largely in their positions because of corruption or nepotism. I have seen the most rotten and incompetent people rise to the top like congealed cream from last week’s forgotten coffee mug. This commission wouldn’t be helping Toddykins and Co fill out their forms. They just might have a shot at stopping the multi-million dollar fraud and corruption that the County is indulging in, and that no one will stop, because they lack the guts, or they are involved. Fresh eyes just might give us a shot at change, because I assure you, no one is listening when people are screaming helplessly into the wind. As it is, now, anyone who dares to challenge them is left broken, without a career, without any hope of a new job. These vicious, lying, backstabbing criminals need to be reined in, and since TRack is part of the problem, then this is the best hope. I will personally campaign for this, by copying all of the files and documents in my possession, and passing them out at ever swap meet, shopping mall and grocery store in the County.

  • octaxpayer

    Maybes best to just get rid of the BOS. They seem to get off track more than anyone else. They surly have not saved the County any tax $$$

    • David Zenger

      I’m really starting to think this is the answer. Make the job part time. Get rid of the million dollar office budgets that are wasted on self-promotion and PR. You’d save five mil right there.

      I would dearly love the Supervisors to put out an annual report card proving how much they have actually saved the public. What a scary idea!!

      • Philmore

        Hey, not scary, – many of us members of the public could always USE an extra blank notepad !

      • OCservant_Leader

        A Board of Supes – Score Card! This is actually a good idea!

        It can’t be a list of statues and parades – the stupid campaigning crap that makes them look busy.

        It can’t be a list of schemes cooked up to reward EAs and Donors. Although I will admit these are fantastical in creativity.

        It has to list “Real” governance. Solving problems of Government providing services to the public.

        …Crickets…blank stare

  • Paul Lucas

    “The voters seem to think that there needs to be oversight and they’re willing to support it,” he said.”

    Gee when you put it that way, it almost sounds like a baaad thing. Almost.