Santana: Will OC Supes Expand Office of Independent Review?

While there will be a lot of focus this week on whether county supervisors opt for a countywide campaign finance ethics commission, their most far reaching actions could come Monday morning as supervisors hold a hearing at 10 a.m. to consider expanding their Office of Independent Review to reach beyond the Sheriff’s Department.

Orange County could soon become the first county board of supervisors in California to adopt an oversight model where an auditor reports to them and examines conduct across a wide array of agencies – Child Custody Services, Public Defender, District Attorney, Probation – critical to public safety but often missing from the traditional oversight debate.

It’s also shaping up to be a particularly gut wrenching week for District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and his heir apparent, Chief of Staff Susan Kang Schroeder – whose collective performance (or lack thereof) is the silent star of both films: expanding campaign finance regulation and oversight of law enforcement agencies beyond the Sheriff.

Rackauckas’ operation of an apparently illegal snitch network is quickly blossoming into a national media embarrassment with the New York Times recently calling for a federal investigation into “blatant and systematic misconduct” around the clandestine network.

Prosecutors and sheriff’s officials are accused of coordinating an effort to continue interrogating people accused of crimes secretly while they are housed in Orange County jails by utilizing snitches – criminals who cut deals with officials in exchange for information. State attorney general investigators are reportedly investigating — and federal officials seem interested in better understanding — the scheme operated by Rackauckas and Sheriff Sandra Hutchens to systematically interrogate prisoners for prosecutors while simultaneously withholding evidence from defense attorneys.

In the meantime, scores of hardened criminals have been released through plea deals with Rackauckas because cases with connections to the snitch network have been fundamentally weakened.

Conversely, Supervisors’ Chairman Todd Spitzer is in a position to offer a starkly contrasting narrative this week – positioning Orange County into a leadership position among counties in California with a unique county ethics commission and Office of Independent Review.

Spitzer’s challenge will be to cobble together vote majorities for both initiatives while avoiding the perception that he’s using the opportunity to advantage his expected run for district attorney in 2018.

In that aim, Spitzer has been greatly aided by the initial report of options compiled by Mike Gennaco, the former director of OIR in LA County who now works as a consultant assisting public agencies dealing with public safety oversight issues.

Gennaco’s report – which was formally delivered to county supervisors Friday afternoon – offers a nuanced analysis of several law enforcement oversight models – mainly commissions and auditor models – as well as how oversight is approached.

“The same principles that support the continued existence of oversight of the Sheriff’s Department could be used to make a case for oversight of other County Departments that interrelate regularly with the criminal justice system,” Gennaco concluded, backing up Spitzer’s public arguments on the issue when supervisors authorized the Gennaco review a few months ago.

The move to expand the board of supervisors’ investigatory powers has reportedly already triggered concerns from some department heads like Public Defender Frank Ospino, who already sent the board of supervisors a very detailed critique of the proposal, raising a host of legitimate privacy concerns that would have to be addressed in any independent review.

Gennaco has done a good job of framing the different approaches that county supervisors can opt for, even coming up with the novel function of establishing an auditor that can delve into a host of tough issues involving nearly a half dozen large agencies.

The challenge for county supervisors will be weighing whether they want to spend the money needed for that kind of investigative prowess.

Indeed, Gennaco ended his report noting that the board’s appetite for expansion would be directly related to its pocketbook.

“If any or all of the menu options for increased oversight within the Sheriff’s Department or incorporating other County Departments are accepted, it will necessarily mean increasing current staffing of the oversight entity,” Gennaco wrote.

Keep in mind, the county does employ a host of other auditors such as the County Performance Auditor. The Auditor Controller controls Internal Audit and the County Counsel runs the county fraud hotline.

And remember, the current crisis within the Orange County Office of Independent Review doesn’t come from any agency misdeed or systemic problem.

It’s all about budgets.

In the wake of the 2008 Chamberlain jail beating death, county supervisors responded to questions about a civilian review board (a commission approach, typically expensive and politicized) by establishing an auditor position (much cheaper and professional but less transparent).

Yet they sold that four-cylinder engine as a roaring big block V8 to the public.

Many people – even county supervisors – seemed to think they were getting an investigatory agency with public sessions and ability to process public complaints. Even though the budget and staff (one attorney and one staff) were meager – about a half million annually —by government standards.

When OIR couldn’t unearth a scandal like the snitch scandal, supervisors like Spitzer publicly criticized the agency for failing the board.

Yet county supervisors never paid to build a race car.

They funded a nice, sensible Yugo.

As supervisors enter this discussion, their best approach would be to try as much as possible to strip the politics out of their collective decision making process and think long term.

OIR could be expanded – and the snitch scandal is as likely a candidate as any to start – maybe on a pilot project basis.

County officials already have invested several years in establishing a solid semi-independent auditing model functioning at the Sheriff’s Department.

And while it’s unlikely that Steve Connolly will be back when the current contract expires in December, indications are that the function has won important backers – like State Senator John Moorlach — based on internal risk management data. Hutchens also has publicly warned supervisors that removing OIR would likely trigger adverse reactions from federal justice department officials.

If a new director is put in place, new agencies could be added to the review process.

Gennaco – in what seems like a public admission that Connolly was seen as too close to Hutchens’ command staff – recommends that the function be moved more directly under the board of supervisors (which means it could be more subject to politicization given a five-member board of supervisors with diverse opinions).

Yet it’s very unclear what the board’s appetite is, from a budget perspective, for another investigatory/auditing oversight agency to look into as many as a half dozen agencies.

Some, like Supervisor Michelle Steel, are already balking at the potential price tag of a county ethics commission.

And Supervisor Shawn Nelson in many ways triggered the whole OIR debate earlier this year during budget deliberations, questioning whether given the limitations on public disclosure, OIR is worth even a Yugo investment.

Race cars can be built on a pay-as-you-go, Yugo budget.

The key is to have the right blueprint and vision.

Yet whether Orange County supervisors have the patience or collective will to craft that kind of approach in the coming months remains to be seen.

Maybe our faith is better kept with the feds …

  • buzzookaman

    It’s a shame that millions of American soldiers have fought and died for our constitutional rights and those rights are being stolen by OCSD and OCDA and all we get is an oversight committeee.

    • Debby Bodkin

      The feds have full knowledge of what has transpired in the OCSD, OCDA and corruption in OC courts. If the feds fail to act in the fair administration of justice and hold those public officials responsible, then the federal government should accept full monetary responsibility for the lives and families that have been destroyed because of the OSCD (before and after Carona’s reign) and the OCDA.

      Is it a coincidence that it took 7 years to commence scrutiny of OC’s OIR….. is the statute of limitations for fraud 7 years? I am not sure. If it is, how convenient for the OCSD and OCDA…. Again, where are the feds?

      • Jacki Livingston

        I had the FBI agent that came to my office to interview me say that if there is not some huge amount of money that the feds can get from it, they will not waste their limited resources. Imagine that…an FBI agent saying that RICO level conspiracy and fraud is okay, because it isn’t costing the feds enough money for them to care. So cheating the taxpayers is fine.

        • Debby Bodkin

          This is shocking that the feds use “not enough money” for them to care. I am not an attorney, but civil RICO penalties are very costly, especially when criminal RICO crimes are also filed. If you feel SAFE doing so, please send me the FBI official’s name as I would like see if it is the same agent that received thousands of pages of RICO evidence sent by me. The FBI agent I sent thousands of pages to disappeared without any notification that another agent should receive evidence submitted by a private citizen.

        • LFOldTimer

          Very surprised that a sworn agent would tell you that. I assume it was an unrecorded interview. Did he or she appear to be in the retirement age category? Government employees with access to full retirement benefits are sort of like children. Sometimes they say the darndest things 🙂

          • Jacki Livingston

            But of COURSE it was unrecorded…by them. (eyedart) But it was an FBI agent and with her was an investigator from the federal Department of Health and Human Services. They both said the same thing. Essentially, they will not interfere with the County’s business unless there is a huge sum of money involved that DIRECTLY comes from the feds.

          • Andrew Mikhail

            Here’s some food for thought, a major part of what supports the OCDA and OCSD financially is their decietful ways of ACTUALLY making their mental health patients have the illnesses that would require them to be on SSDI and other FEDERAL resources for Inpatient institutionalized care and outpatient services, which cost TRIPLE the cost on their SSI and State medical insurance budget than INPATIENT.

            Also, incriminating and franchinsing a “career criminal” discriminatory cases and ENTRAPMEMT of LAW ABIDING RESIDENTS of the county by means of snitch system reporting and set-ups of possible unaware, JUST CAUSE incidents between NORMAL people would lead to a discreet log of ILLEGALY OBTAINED INCRIMINATION TACTICS that would MANIPULATE the ACTUAL INCIDENT to reverse the defendants role in such “PLANNED CRIMINAL CHARGED CASES”, USING BRIBES, SOCIAL integration and NON AFFILIATED and persons NOT ON OFFICIAL PAYROLLS of the Sheriffs Department Investigations. THEY FISH AND SET THE BAIT to the majority of “one time misdemeanor offenders” to insert them into the DOJ criminal database, which IS ALL PAID FOR BY THE FEDERAL BUDGET for the County.

          • Jacki Livingston

            And, setting aside the mental illness cases, which used to be called Category 53, and assigned special workers, my focus was with patients in nursing homes requiring a level of care that costs up to $35,000 per month. Much of this is federal funding, some state. These nursing homes had already been sued and settled out of court for the most revolting list of charges you can imagine, including dropping an 87 year old woman on their head, causing her death. Patients had bedsores so bad, they screamed in agony when they had their diapers changed, because no one moved them. These nursing homes were receiving billions from the feds and the state, then hiring illegals and others for minimum wage. Many of these homes have spoiled food, rats, mice, roaches and other violations that no one deals with. The comatose and paralyzed patients’ families told me that the nursing home financial manager strongarmed them into making the corporation the rep payee for the patient’s Social Security. So, the patient gets a lump sum, after they are approved, the nursing home falsified the records, pocketed the cash, and then had the nerve to double bill the state. They payed out a pittance, in the lawsuit, because many of the patients had already died. The County installed a very expensive, mandated computer program called Cal-Win. Each doctor, nursing home, hospital…any vendor…has ONE billing number. Of the one hundred ten nursing homes in the county that I looked at, forty eight percent had two billing numbers. Twenty percent had three and fifteen percent had four or more. This means that they can double or triple bill for each patient. Some are bound to be caught, but many will not be. So, in addition to stealing from the clients and their burial plans or children’s support, they were stealing from US, the TAXPAYERS. This is not small money. I, personally, in one nursing home, found over two hundred thousand dollars in fraud, in a month. I sent letters, emails, documents and pleaded with every member of the Board of Supervisors. NOT ONE OF THEM ever responded. One had his chief of staff call to “handle” me. When you consider that there have been federal prosecutions of crooked doctors, over the last ten years, but not the OCDA, and when you consider that Janet Nguyen sat on the CalOptima board, with a mysterious slush fund that no one can account for, and that there are proven cases of fake donations to her campaign? It’s called money laundering, bribery, embezzlement and fraud. The attorney for the nursing homes is a major GOP mover and shaker who made very large donations to the campaigns of sitting board members. I found it by a fluke. If I had not gone to law school, and knew the difference between a contract and a quote, I would be in the dark, still. I lost my entire career, because I would not shut up and let it go on. I lost everything because Spitzer, Bates, Nguyen, Nelson and the others ignored this information, along with the DA and the Sheriff. There are only two explanations for this…one? They are on the take and making money off us and off the misery of fragile, unprotected seniors or…two? They are simply the most incompetent bunch of morons that ever put their hands on a Bible and swore to defend and protect the citizens that elected them. There is no middle ground. I know what one I think.

  • buzzookaman

    Norberto, a better question would be , why doesn’t the State Attorney General, FBI or DOJ do their job so we don’t have to keep expanding local governmnent with bs oversight committees that do nothing but perpetuate the status quo and raise more taxes?

    • Debby Bodkin

      It is common knowledge in California that private citizens and/or government employees report violations of the law have their reputations, career and future efforts to obtain employment DESTROYED. Someone very wealthy and influential is controlling the fair administration of justice in the not only in the OC but throughout California.

      • Jacki Livingston

        It isn’t one person of wealth or influence. It is a systematic issue. Here is how it goes…

        Some person or entity, in my case a major nursing home chain, pays off some public employees to rig the multi billion dollar system to give them multiple billing numbers. They bill the state several times for the same patients, some of whom are dead. Nursing home care runs from 7 to 35 thousand a month, per patient. Okay, so, they also steal the patient trust accounts for those who are incompetent or comatose, which holds their lump sum Social Security payout. This is covered up by them claiming that they bought the patient a burial plan or even did private pay for a couple of months, so the money is under the federal limit. This adds about twenty grand or more to each patient pot. The same dirty officials make sure that the employees who are tasked with monitoring these patients’ accounts rubber stamp whatever is done, annually, thus meeting the feds requirement. So, the nursing home is not only paying off the employee, who is on the rise, but they also make a bunch of dirty donations to the campaign war chests of the public officials, who are not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. Remember Janet-From-Another-Planet Nguyen’s mysterious CalOptima slush fund with over a mil in it? There ya go. Anyone wondering where that went? Right into her “campaign fund”. The donations from the nursing home and doctors are not just in their own name or their spouse’s name, but also in fake names and addresses of people who are either dead or who do not exist. This is the same as any organized crime organization, in corruption, bribes and money laundering. People think Social Services is a big money spender. They are, but they are a much bigger money maker, because the state and the feds shell out billions to the agency, based on false monthly statistical reports. I cannot even COUNT how many times we got emails during Stats months telling us to give fake numbers to the feds, for funding. SSA brings in BILLIONS, kids. Add into that, the Public Guardian takes over the homes, businesses and other assets of elderly and incapacitated people who have no dependents. I remember at one point we were told not to go to the Public Guardian to seek help for any client who did not own real estate, to let the nursing home act as their rep-payee.

        This is not Al Capone’s organization or the Russian Mob. This is the OC, and it is a dirty, filthy game, a criminal organization given the protection and blessing of the state and the feds. They are not about to change.

    • Jacki Livingston

      Kamala Harris wants to be Attorney General of the US. She is not going to rock any boat, not for anything. I reported wrongdoing to her, and got a form letter back saying that Ms. Harris didn’t have time to respond to every report of crimes. It referred me back to T-Rack.

  • David Zenger

    BTW, Moorlach didn’t/doesn’t back the OIR based on “internal risk management data.” If there were any such data, it would have been published long, long ago.

    Moorlach backed Connolly because the OIR was largely HIS idea in the wake of the Chamberlain murder inside the jail; he just refused to let it go for ego reasons.

    • LFOldTimer

      I couldn’t count on both hands and feet the number of times Moorlach turned a blind eye to Connolly’s failure to complete simple assigned tasks like turn in monthly reports soon after he was hired in 2008. I have no idea why Moorlach always had his back. And I won’t speculate. But there must be one heckuva story behind it.

  • LFOldTimer

    Look, Norberto, even Yugos are designed get people from Point A to Point B. The OIR Yugo that the Supervisors purchased didn’t even start. The County put the key into the ignition, turned it and all we heard was a “click”. So let’s be frank. The OIR has been a total waste of taxpayer monies for the past 7 years. Please….show me just one OIR investigation of ANY of the multi-million dollar judgments or settlements against the Sheriff’s Department during Connolly’s stint. You can’t. Connolly’s desk was inside Sheriff’s headquarters for God sakes. How could he possibly be ‘independent’ when he’s eating lunch with those he was tasked to oversee and monitor? IMO Connolly was nothing more than a placeholder for the County leaders. The name ‘Office of Independent Review’ sure looked good on paper. But when those in charge FAILED to make Connolly do his job – exactly what outcome did you expect? And make no doubt about it. Connolly reported directly to the BoS. The entire charade was a scam. And what makes you think that a ‘new and improved’ OIR would change any outcomes? The BoS will again be at the controls. The BoS will select the overseers and monitor their progress (or lack thereof). And just because it’s an OIR Cadillac as opposed to an OIR Yugo it doesn’t mean it’s going to run any better. My guess is that you’ll get the same outcome…turn the key in the ignition and hear a ‘click’. The only difference is that the taxpayers will likely spend 6 to 10 times more for the inoperable Cadillac than we spent for the inoperable Yugo. You see, effective oversight requires a deliberate intent on part of those who design the agency to actually hold people accountable. Not mere appeasement like we’ve had for the last 7 years. You gotta keep your eye on the ball. Especially the curveballs. Otherwise you’ll go down on strikes each and every time.

    • David Zenger

      What he said.

  • Jacki Livingston

    In 2008, employees of the Social Services Agency reported to the District Attorney’s office, through ADA Frasier, and to the Public Guardian’s office, that nursing homes owned by the same parent corporation were engaged in both illegal and dangerous practices regarding their patients. In fact, a class action suit against the company, settled the following year, showed widespread abuse and negligence, which lead to the deaths of several patients, including a woman who was dropped on her head, and killed, by incompetent and untrained staff. I reported that individuals within the one particular home had been stealing the patient trust accounts of residents who were incompetent and unable to handle their own financial affairs. I, personally, found a quarter of a million dollars stolen. I also found that this same nursing home was double and triple billing the state, for millions, even for patients who were deceased. I brought this to the attention of the Grand Jury, and to my superiors, and to the Board of Supervisors. For six years, I was retaliated against, as I found more and more links between the BoS, CalOptima and these unscrupulous nursing home providers. I brought evidence that was ignored, and my own career destroyed. The only change that came from this was that the agency, through higher management, cracked down on the ability of workers being able to examine financial irregularities, or to examine the billing codes that were multiples, created expressedly for the commission of fraud. I gave testimony to the FBI, Health and Human Services and the state Attorney General, all of which declined to get involved, because it wasn’t enough money for them to worry about. As a public employee, my loyalty was not to the politicians, or to management. It was to the clients who had no other voice, and to the taxpayers being ripped off. I have emails from upper management, copies of letters I sent to the Board members, and my own area congressman even called Shawn Nelson, asking him to examine. I have emails from the Chief of Staff to both Nelson and Spitzer, emails from Michael Ryan, the head of SSA and they all blew off the evidence. In fact, persons from the County created a new groundbreaking elder abuse task force and had their pictures in the paper with Eric Holder, until they got the evidence I provided the DA, and then all of a sudden? Nothing. In the end, Todd Spitzer’s wife, Jamie, assigned my stress related worker’s comp case to one of Todd’s personal clients that he was close to, in order to steamroll a settlement that the County has not lived up to. By the way? My claim was for eight hundred dollars, and they spent four years and hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to discredit me. I was accused of things I never did, my job and home were threatened, and I was intimidated and assaulted. Everywhere I turned for help, I was patted on the head and told they would handle it. The primary person involved, who is very well connected, rose to the top, along with his cronies, while anyone who dared to speak out was destroyed. I have boxes of documents, screenshots and emails, and no one lifted a finger. I don’t care if they helped me. I care that they are still ripping off patients and the taxpayers, A lot of public employees don’t care about the taxpayers, but I do. To rig a billion dollar system so that medical providers can double and triple bill, and then they pay off the politicians with “donations” to their campaigns. Don’t believe me…read the documents and check out how many donors to these rats’ campaigns have been indicted by the feds for scamming Medicare. Do you seriously think that they were not scamming the State MediCal system and Caloptima? Puh-leeze.

    Internal risk? Where were they, when I was terrified and screaming into the political wind? Where were they when this nursing home company was killing patients, stealing every dime they had so they could not even be buried, and then stealing from the overtaxed people of the state? While I was being railroaded, assaulted, abused and lied about, where were they? Oh…right…they were doing nothing. Nothing. Just like Todd Spitzer and his chief of staff Martha Ochoa. Like Shawn Nelson and his CoS, Dave Wiggins. Like Michael Ryan, who “handled” me for Dr. Michael Riley, before he took the top job. Like the ADA and the Grand Jury. Like the FBI investigator and DEFH investigator Rice. Like the dozens of people I went to and asked for nothing for myself, just to put a stop to the abuse of my clients and my ultimate responsibility…the taxpayers. These “public servants” do not serve the people. They serve each other, cover for each other and commit crimes and violate ethical standards for each other, so that they can all feed at the trough filled with the hard earned dollars of the public taxpayer. It is all out there, public record. Go look.

    • Debby Bodkin

      I am sorry for the evil that you have experienced because of corrupt public officials in the OC. I too have boxes of documented crimes committed against my entire family, all within the OCDA, OCSD, and California DOJ, in addition to a storage unit full of evidence. This is a disgrace!

      There are definite patterns of RICO crimes committed within the OCDA, OCSD and other public agencies affiliated with OC. The statute is 10 years and if the federal government and/or FBI based on reports of public corruption crimes brought to the agencies’ attention by multiple private citizens, then the feds should be held fully responsible for any emotional and monetary damages until RICO charges are filed. The main RICO pattern in the OC is to defame and destroy any individual who reports public corruption crimes in the OC even government officials that have a duty to uphold the fair administration of justice.

      • Jacki Livingston

        Maybe you and I should get together, and copy all these documents. Then we can get a political booth at the fairgrounds during the swap meets, and pass them out to the public. Let’s let the voters and taxpayers see how little their elected “leaders” (gigglesnickersnort) care about them.

        Maybe anyone who has been defamed and destroyed by these dirtbags should join us. Let’s release all of these documents to the public, and let the public decide.

        • Debby Bodkin

          Do you have a private email? Your idea is great and yes, I would be willing to compile evidence; however, there are very EVIL officials in the OC and also employed in multiple government agencies that need to be held FULLY accountable. This involves MILLIONS, despite what the FBI agent that interviewed you said.

          IMO, the evil and public corruption crimes committed against children, adults and employees now involve individuals with the resources to not only further defame Whistleblowers but also orchestrate Murder for Hire.

          My husband was poisoned in a public restaurant and spent time in intensive care and not one law enforcement agency I reported the potential crime to investigated the facts or made contact with me. In fact, efforts to further defame me and my family worsened. I can guarantee you that if one of Todd Spitzer’s family members became violently ill in a public restaurant resulting in a stay in intensive care, a law enforcement agency would have jumped all over it to find out who was responsible for attempted murder.

          In the eyes of law enforcement, women, children and ALL Whistleblower employees without resources to fight public corruption are considered non-relevant in the world of OC politics and law enforcement throughout California.

          I love my husband, children, grandchildren and family too much to put their futures and safety at risk, without guaranteed protections from the FBI. It appears that many are now covering each other and the deceitful web of lies, fraud and denied justice …. unfortunately, MONEY TALKS and crimes involving RICO statutes, fraud and conspiracy, once exposed in depth to the public, places too many innocent children and adults at serious risk.

          • Jacki Livingston

            PM me, and I will give it to you. I think you and I have some options to explore. I mean, what do we have to lose? If we put the emails and documents out there, at least people will see how these jerks act.

  • Jasenn Zaejian

    A truly independent review panel, isolated from political manipulations with members randomly appointed from the voter roles (much like jury solicitiations), with subpeona power, to investigate and report to the BOS AND the Public in investigation all County agencies for efficiency, corruption, political favoritism, and truth is what is sorely needed in OC, determined by some to be one of the most corrupt counties in the country.

    • LFOldTimer

      Amen, Jasenn. When high-powered ‘friends’ and ‘friends of friends’ are appointed and provided generous salaries to maintain the balance of power and keep the system clean, watch out. A train wreck is about to happen. (Evidence? See OIR for the past 7 years). We need an OIR that includes ordinary unpaid citizens without ties to the system who also have an official hand in the decision making process. Otherwise, expect more of the same at a much higher cost.

  • David Zenger

    “They funded a nice, sensible Yugo.”

    Excellent analogy – except for the “sensible” part. The Yugo was never sensible. It was broken out of the gate.

    I would dearly love to see that “internal risk management data.” In fact, I’m willing to bet there isn’t a shred of objective evidence to show Connolly ever accomplished anything. If the OIR is so critical to Hutchens, let HER pay for it out of HER budget.

    • LFOldTimer

      Allowing a Sheriff an incredible amount of influence over her own oversight when she won’t even hold her own employees accountable for refusing to execute their SWORN duties by testifying in open court resulting in hardcore criminals (ie. murderers) being cut loose, getting big reductions in sentences, getting new trials, etc…. can only be described in one word: LAUGHABLE. How long would any ordinary worker hold onto his/her job if he refused to perform his assigned duties because he was under investigation by the authorities? ha.

    • Jacki Livingston

      Non-conservative? It isn’t about conservative or liberal. There are just as many crooks in both. Most of these scumbags are from the GOP. The issue isn’t party, it is pandering.

    • Debby Bodkin

      I hope that the haystack is on fire. Until public officials in the OC are held fully responsible, no child, adult or employee is SAFE.