What Happened With Spitzer’s Order on Financial Interest Disclosures?

The order was clear.

In March, Orange County supervisors’ Chairman Todd Spitzer wanted to get down to the nitty-gritty of who among county employees are supposed to file financial disclosures, known as Form 700s, but aren’t.

Specifically, he directed County Counsel Nick Chrisos' office to “conduct a comprehensive review of every county department to ensure that the Form 700 filing code for each department includes all the positions that should be included.”

The state's Political Reform Act requires that lists of Form 700 filers include any county job where the worker is involved in decisions that could affect his or her outside financial interests, and therefore perhaps be a conflict of interest.

If their job is on the list of filers, officials usually have to list their outside income, real estate ownership, stocks and other financial interests. About 2,400 of the county’s roughly 18,000 employees are currently required to file form 700s, with the positions ranging from department executives to computer technicians to an executive secretary.

Spitzer's order came soon after Voice of OC revealed that District Attorney Tony Rackauckas wasn’t including his chief of staff, Susan Kang Schroeder, on the list of employees who have to disclose.

For years, Rackauckas -- who along with Schroeder is a bitter political foe of Spitzer's -- didn’t require Schroeder to file the disclosures, despite a job description that includes advising the DA on high-profile criminal cases.

Schroeder ultimately filed disclosures after Chrisos' office suggested that fines be levied against her if she doesn’t file.

Fast forward four months from the March meeting, and Chrisos is coming back to the Board of Supervisors with an update on the directive.

But in his staff report for Tuesday’s supervisors meeting, the “comprehensive review” that Spitzer ordered is nowhere to be found.

Instead, there is a one-sentence statement from Chrisos that describes the directive as an order to “provide recommendations to your Board regarding the review and approval process of conflict of interest codes and code amendments of local government agencies.”

In essence, Chrisos asked department heads to give him their word that they're following state law when it comes to determining who has to file a Form 700, but apparently did not provide the detailed rundown that Spitzer asked for.

Through a county spokeswoman, Chrisos’ office declined Monday to explain what came of that order.

“My understanding is that whatever is going to be said will be said at the meeting” on Tuesday, the spokeswoman, Ruth Wardwell, said via email.

For his part, Spitzer did not return Voice of OC's calls regarding whether he is satisfied with the response.

However, when he issued the directive Spitzer made it clear that he was more than a little concerned that he and his board colleagues are responsible for approving the lists but have no idea whether they’re properly including all the positions they should.

“It’s literally coming to us without a review by legal. So we’re literally on our own," which is “very scary," Spitzer said when giving his directive on March 3.

He didn’t mention Schroeder specifically, rather pointing to examples like an effort to lower the disclosure requirements for “significant executives” at the county’s public healthcare plan, CalOptima.

“I just feel like this is a sleeping giant that’s gonna kick us in the head one day,” Spitzer said.  “I hate the words ‘I didn’t know.’ ”

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