County’s Ousted Internal Audit Director Appointed Head of Performance Audit

Peter Hughes, who was pushed out as Orange County’s internal audit director following audits that impacted several top government officials, was appointed this week as director of the county’s much smaller performance audit department.

In the new position, Hughes will be overseeing 3 employees rather than 16, and will receive a pay bump of about $27,000 per year, from $165,300 to $192,000.

County supervisors voted unanimously in closed session Tuesday to choose Hughes for the job and approve his new, three-year contract.

Very little was said about Hughes amid his appointment.  The only supervisor to comment, Chairman Todd Spitzer, congratulated Hughes and said the board appreciates his service.

Spitzer briefly elaborated in a statement after the meeting.

“Peter Hughes is a dedicated County employee who I helped hire in 1999 as Internal Audit Director,” said Spitzer. “His distinguished record speaks for itself and he is the right person to revitalize Performance Audit.”

In his 16-year tenure at internal audit, Hughes had a key role in producing audits that uncovered major fraud and abuse.

His work was central to the referral of the Carlos Bustamante sex scandal to District Attorney investigators, as well as a scandal involving $1 million in contracts at OC Parks under the supervision of Mark Denny, who is now the county’s chief operating officer.

Hughes has been serving as the interim performance audit director since the April firing of Philip Cheng.

Last week, Hughes’ entire internal audit office was transferred to Auditor-Controller Eric Woolery, who has been fighting county supervisors for such auditing powers since his election last November.  Woolery replaced Hughes with a manager from the auditor-controller’s office.

State Assemblyman Tom Daly (D-Anaheim) – the target of a Hughes audit when Daly was clerk-recorder – crafted legislation that would have forced the transfer.  While supervisors initially balked, they acceded to it earlier this month.

With the transfer of his office imminent, Hughes was privately encouraged to take the open position of performance auditor.

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

  • OCservant_Leader

    The politicians are running the public sector racket in the OC.

    The only reason Hughes got the salary bump was for whichever politico he reports to then submits an equity request because the supervisor has to make more $$ in relation to direct report.

    Future milk toast reports will target current enemies…but parachutes are packed in advance so expect soft landing.

    • David Zenger

      It sure looks like hush money doesn’t it? But Spitzer says the record speaks for itself.

      Keep your mouth shut and get a raise. Hughes always loves to publish the names of all his professional associations in his glossy, multi-colored reports. I always wondered if he cared about their professional standards of conduct.

      • OCservant_Leader

        He was another appointee – the wrong person in the wrong job from the start.

        What was his “first” career in…(Aerospace engineering/defense contracting bla- bla)

        Yea- that’s kinda close to the large majority of programs and operations in COUNTY PUBLIC SERVICE…um NOT!!

        He just a double dipper getting his piece of the taxpayer OC gravy train. Toot–Toot

        • David Zenger

          Think about the BS this move requires us to swallow.

          A guy goes from running a 15 or 16 person department to a four person operation (including himself). A pay cut? Ya think? No-o-o-o-o-o-o, a pay raise! A 20% pay raise, thirty grand MORE to run a department only a quarter the size. What for? Years of dedicated service? That’s a retroactive pension spike, kids, made obvious by the dude’s age and his three-year contract.

          Only at the County of Orange where Todd Spitzer thinks the only ethical problem is getting those underling’s Form 700s filled out to Shirley’s satisfaction.

          • OCservant_Leader

            but More importantly the Deputy CEOs (or whatever their new title is) just got a promotion too.

            They will each take turns as his supervisor — each one getting at least 5% bump from ol’ Pete.

            Oh Heck –that takes too much time…Just give yourselves the raise now like Mauk’s regime. Nothing happened to them.

            Now that we don’t have a head of HR to slow them down and say “come on – it makes us look bad when you promote yourself”!

  • David Zenger

    So a sixty something year-old guy gets a $30,000 per year raise to run a department of four people (including himself). Danley used to get about $140,000 as I recall.

    Of course this is a giant PENSION SPIKE.

    Hughes stumbled across the 30 page smoking gun report in the Bustamante case when it was suddenly provided to him. At that point Mauk and the Board couldn’t do anything but turn it over to the DA.

    “In his 16-year tenure at internal audit, Hughes had a key role in producing audits that uncovered major fraud and abuse.”

    Such as?

    I am curious to know who made this assertion besides Hughes. His record of uncovering anything was almost negligible as far as I could tell. How about a list of these audits? How about the names of the people involved and the jail time they spent? Really, Nick?

    What I saw was an operation that seemed stubbornly incurious about things and overly politically concerned. He certainly helped whitewash the disastrous Dana Point Harbor “revitalization” management contract at the behest of Pat Bates.

    His “audit” of Fund 12D was embarrassingly dilatory and in the end accomplished nothing as Daly skipped out unscathed to another political office. It ignored the malfeasance behind the purchase of 433 W. Civic center Drive and the legality of its use.

    If the Board were honest at all they would just pull the plug on the Performance Audit Department. It’s obvious they have no intention of using it to improve government.

    • Judy Allen

      Is anyone ever fired for poor performance in this county? Fron the inside, I know that folks do almost nothing and observe the “code of silence” to protect each other as they squander OUR tax dollars!!

      • David Zenger

        Not really. The underlings are protected by the union. The upper managers are protected by the CEO and the Board.

        Consider this rather disturbing fact: Carlos Bustamante was permitted to quit and got three months’ pay. Mauk and Crown knew all about his activities and so did Campbell. But after the scat finally hit the fan Crown was allowed to retire and Mauk finally walked out the door with a huge payout (or payoff if your name is Campbell, Nguyen or Bates).

        Crown and Mauk should have been charged with a crime as accessories after the fact. But not in this County.

        • Judy Allen

          Thank you for responding David Zenger. I feel so sad and disappointed that Animal Control continued to NOT follow the rules about rescue/euthanasia even YEARS after they were found out. They seemed to just ignore the fact that they were in violation. AND animals were killed haphazardly and often. Someone should pay by being charged for abuse, neglect and taking innocent lives. Seemingly no one cared. Those at the top were morons and NOTHING was done to correct the infractions….. I’m disgusted that my tax dollars went and are still going to pay for these inhumane crimes against life!

          • OCservant_Leader

            The employees who speak up…are sadly –caged, processed by HR and then sent to the rendering plant along with the abused animals…for their carcasses to be chewed up, melted down and extracted for any profit.

            Just casualties of OC corruption.

          • Jacki Livingston

            That’s the truth. Then, when they finally walk away or are driven out, they are stopped from ever getting another job. And the band plays on.

      • David Zenger

        I should add that as in most governments, at the County there is an entrenched culture that is terrified of embarrassment. So instead of really cleaning up, the trash sort of gets swept around from corner to corner and under the furniture.

        Out in the departments the functionaries are terrified, too. Nobody wants to bring bad news to Building 10 so a huge effort is made to hide the impending disasters. Once they (inevitably) metastasize it’s the CEOs job to put a happy face on if he can; or get County Counsel to come up with some idiotic legal explanation as to why the big payout is proper; or as Mauk liked to do – go to Rancho Mirage for a few days.

        • OCservant_Leader

          Terrified- is a good description. I wish I had a video to show what a Management meeting looks like at OC.

          Everyone looking nervous. There may be a handout..but it’s outdated. No need to bring paper…because nothing will be written down.

          Then they play a game called “Hot potato” (I learned this in kindergarten).

          The manager with the HOT potato (decision) throws it to the next and says “you make a decision” – then they quickly toss it to the manager across the table “no- you make a decision” – and on and on it goes until the stupidist one is marked to write the email.

          The email stating the decision must follow County Form : Five equally spaced paragraphs of fluff- not acknowledging an issue and most importantly…not committing to anything.

          cc: 6 managers at your Agency and 2 EAs

          Then everyone returns to their office to look up their OCERS payout.

          • David Zenger

            “Then everyone returns to their office to look up their OCERS payout.”

            I know you’re joking, but unfortunately that is the number one priority. For some of the Supervisors, too.

          • OCservant_Leader

            I was sadly speaking the truth. The bureaucracy is run by the politicians and their relatives which has caused mass chaos.

            Mauk was a tyrant who ruled in fear. Managers are whipped into a frenzy – Go left – go left the Board wants to go left and then it’s a PR crisis and now reverse and go right — go right get everyone going towards the right…

            It is absolute insanity. Steering the titanic right into the iceberg.

            Most just give up. There is psychological term called “learned helplessness”. If you are lucky you can join the Band of Brothers or go the EA route and then you can become a prison guard over the inmates (county employees).

      • OCservant_Leader

        OC “Code of Silence”? You nailed it.

        Funny that wasn’t actually taught when I learned how to be a “public servant” @ the Leadership Academy– BUT I did learn it through the OC school of public sector hard knocks.

        They REAL OC Servant Leadership course includes “we will knock you around pretty hard until you shut up”.

        • octaxpayer

          I too was wondering, really a raise? Ahhhh; the Leadership Academy. When you look at those that have attended. It make you wonder did they learn anything? One main point with the Leadership Academy is to speak up and not tear people down. Well I learned one thing if you speak up you will be chastise and hammered to oblivion. The other thing you learn is you can make a choice and leave. I made that choice with a cost, but in the end I know it was right decisions and found you can get away from the mess of OC and do better. The grass can be greener. Unfortunately as a tax payer to see the repeated mistakes from the BOS and other management and know nothing will change makes me ill.

          • OCservant_Leader

            The Mangement style in the OC is similar to tactics used in prisons to control large populations. Fear based control. Rules? Ha – surprise there are no rules. Who’s running HR? Ha NO -ONE!!

            You can try to bribe your prison guard – that’s your only card to play.

            Yes –there are greener pastures out there and I feel most sorry for the newbies..especially those who took this Board’s rotten recent retirement deal.

            They don’t care about the employees…or the people they serve or the friggin animals being burned up at the shelter ovens.

            It’s corrupt –RUN!!!

        • Jacki Livingston

          Knock around? Yup. But, fortunately, some of us kept every letter, every email, every file. Some of us have all the paper we need to prove that these scumsuckers are criminals. And some of us, when lied to, intend to use them.

          • OCservant_Leader

            I hope you do. Your story is beyond scary because I believe it’s true. Unfortunately in the OC They will defend everything and anything to shut out the public.

            I am hoping that website I heard about (for employees to post directly) gets started soon- we shouldnt have to wait for polished press releases from the BOS to inform the public about what’s going on inside OC government.