Mainero: Voters Themselves Can Spur Government Ethics This June

Come this June, County voters will have the opportunity to amend the County Charter to create a non-partisan, non-political Ethics Commission to enforce these County ethics laws: the County Campaign Reform Ordinance (TINCUP); the Gift Ban Ordinance; the Lobbyist Registration and Reporting Ordinance; and the prohibition on revolving-door lobbying and misuse of County equipment provisions of the County Code of Ethics.

As Chief of Staff to then-Supervisor John Moorlach, I had the privilege of working with Shirley Grindle on an earlier draft of this measure. Now, as a law professor at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law, I have had the privilege of working with Ms. Grindle, Chapman colleague Professor Fred Smoller, and others, with the significant assistance and support of the Board of Supervisors, to bring this forward.

Currently, there is no regularized enforcement of these ethics laws.

The District Attorney has shown no interest in enforcing TINCUP or monitoring campaign contributions on a regular basis and, given that any District Attorney is also subject to these ethics laws, he or she has an inherent conflict. The FPPC does not enforce local ordinances, and even if they did, they have 58 counties to monitor.

The Charter Amendment has the following features:

• It prohibits persons affiliated with elected officials, candidates, lobbyists, County public employee bargaining units, County employees, Department Heads and Managers, officials of partisan political committees, and anyone who provides services to candidates and elected officials from serving on the commission—banning some of these people for ten years—ensuring a non-politically influenced membership of the commission;

• The Commission and its Executive Director monitor compliance with the ethics laws, receives and investigates complaints, reviews County Conflict of Interest statements for accuracy, provides ethics training to elected officials, candidates, and staffs, and create a manual for compliance; and

• It creates a fair and streamlined process of a confidential investigation and administrative hearing, to protect candidates from unfair accusations of violations being used as political attacks, and a final appeal hearing that is public, along with remedial measures and penalties that include civilly enforceable fines and cease and desist orders.

No measure is perfect, since it was drafted by fallible human beings, but this is a great start at finally enforcing these ethics laws, and provides a basis for improving those laws, and their enforcement, as we move toward a more ethical future for Orange County government.

Professor Mario Mainero is a Chapman University Fowler School of Law professor and a former Chief of Staff to Supervisor John M.W. Moorlach

  • Jacki Livingston

    You could not be any more ridiculous if you tried. Oh, I remember you, Mario. I remember in the early days of my issues with the County, I emailed and wrote to your corrupt boss, and all I got was an email asking me for info. Then, nothing. Oh, wait…not nothing. No, not nothing. The County then embarked on a six year vendetta to force me out, to discredit me, to silence and intimidate me. Your crook of a boss was getting “contributions” (read:kickbacks and laundered money) from the very same operators of substandard nursing homes where these crimes were being committed. Instead of trying to find the truth, which was so obvious, not just from my documentation, but from others, you and your ilk spent a lot of time and money to cover it up, and to try and shut me up. Well, Mario, I have some sad news for you…are you listening? I won’t shut up. Your boss profited from the horrendous abuse of men, women and children who could not defend themselves. You knew this, because you were his “hatchet man”. So, puh-leeeeeze spare me your pretentious pontificating about ethics. Your former boss and his Thugs o’ Five colleagues wouldn’t know an ethic if it came up and slapped them up the side of their empty heads. And, happily, I have six boxes of internal files, documents and letters to prove it. So, seriously, stop. No one believes you, because your association with Moorlach and his ilk have besmirched your rep, Professor.

  • David Zenger


    I have had a real problem with the (mis)use of the term “ethics” in this discussion. Making politicians adhere to the law is not an issue of ethics as you know. In the old adage, ethics are what you do when nobody is looking. We already have plenty of laws and regulations governing campaign contributions, reporting, etc.

    True, the DA has no interest in pursuing political misfeasance, but who will enforce any new criminal activity? Surely not an appointed commission.

    Meantime, the real ethical problem at the County is the nonstop politicking that goes on at the expense of real governance. The Supervisors are constantly running for reelection, or for some other office in State government, and are always fundraising. The endless stream of useless vanity projects, of picking the favored, if not superior, vendor over another, even the hare-brained ideas like kayaking in the Santa Ana River all have their genesis in the posing and posturing of candidates, not governors.

    What we really need is a requirement that the County-wide electeds be required to submit to the public an annual report card in which they tell the public what they have accomplished, what it cost, or what it saved. Thias report would be accompanied by a report by a completely objective auditor who would comment upon the validity of each claim. It would be like a shareholders report. Until the politicians stop campaigning and start governing there will never be ethics at the County.

    • LFOldTimer

      Are you telling Mario something he doesn’t aleady know, David? Isn’t he an attorney by trade who worked on the 5th floor for a few years for the Moorlach administration? Wasn’t he Moorlach’s Chief of Staff?
      Oh, he claims the commission will be “non-partisan”. How could that be if the commissioners are hired by the supes, work at the pleasure of the supes and can be fired by the supes? Looks to me that the Commission is under the control of the BoS. How is that “non-partisan”?

      • David Zenger

        I think Mario understands the “pay to play” and “look the other way now so I’ll look the other way later” ethical culture very well. Those are the symptoms of the real problem, and that has zero to do with making sure 12 elected officials fill out their paperwork right.

        I’m pretty sure Mario has also studied Ethics as a moral and philosophical subject, not as a law and order issue.

        • LFOldTimer

          “I think Mario understands the “pay to play” and “look the other way now so I’ll look the other way later” ethical culture very well”
          Oh, ya think? This commission ballot measure that will pass by a wide margin is nothing more than another huge waste of taxpayer dollars – just like the OIR. Those with half a brain should clearly recognize that. The voters are so desperate that they’ll jump at anything with the word “ethics” next to it at the ballot box – even if it’s a ruse that will get nothing accomplished and waste millions of our tax dollars. Voters are generally stupid. If you doubt that look at who holds elected offices these days.

    • Jacki Livingston

      Until the politicians are forced to stop taking money from those breaking the law, and from those who are paid with County, state and federal funds, there will be no chance at all for anything that even looks like ethics. Example: Unscrupulous operator of substandard nursing homes is given double and triple billing numbers, so that they can fleece extra funds for patients that are often even dead. Nursing home steals the patient trust accounts that is federal payout to the client, and the Public Guardian agrees to not take over the assets of the patient, so the nursing home has free rein. Next, the nursing home, now hundreds of thousands of dollars richer, “donates” money into the candidate’s war chest for their campaign, under either false names of fake employees (money laundering) or through their bigwig political fatcat attorneys and their wives (sleazy pay for play). Then, not only does that sitting BoS member vote their way on issues, and coverup their illegal manipulation of the new computer billing systems, but they also help them settle for pennies on the dollar when some poor schmuck attorney files class action suits, and refuse to take any look at their abuse of the patients in their care, including robbery, rape, neglect and death. The press never does anything about it, because it isn’t “sexy” enough. Employees who attempt to intervene are forced out, villified and discredited. Meanwhile, thanks to the aging of Baby Boomers, more and more victims are falling into their hands, every day. As an added bonus, the unscrupulous officials get a nice, juicy little goodie when they steal the patient’s homes, now worth ten times what they paid for it. Sweet deal, for the politicos. So, David, you are off to a good start, but the rotten orange is crawling with the maggots, and no commission, no matter how well intentioned, is going to stop this very profitable business. That is one small example…there are many more. As my former boss told me, once, when he was drunk, “For a politician, poor folks are their bread and butter, because the services provided to them are ripe and full of sweet, illegal juice they suck up, and get addicted to.”. The abuse is never ending, and the money is sweet. This commission is a joke.