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 ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.