Krom: Justifying Jeff Lalloway as a Public Policy Advisor is a Stretch

Jeff Lalloway and Todd Spitzer

It’s not easy being an elected Democrat in Orange County.

You get few accolades for what you accomplish and can look forward to being a target in every election, just because you have the audacity to support public employees, investments in human services and a vision for your community that is inclusive and does not involve over development and massive give-aways to special interests.

Not that I don’t enjoy listening to the “conservative” rhetoric about integrity, transparency and fiscal responsibility offered by my republican City Council colleagues or our esteemed County officials while watching them feed at the public trough in ways that are self serving and indefensible.

The most recent case in point is the proposal by County Supervisor Todd Spitzer to “hire” Irvine City Councilmember Jeff Lalloway as a “policy advisor” for the astounding sum of $190,000 a year.

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Spitzer is quoted in the Orange County Register as saying the salary “represents a savings to the County” because it doesn’t include pension or benefits costs. I guess Orange County taxpayers should consider themselves lucky to see Supervisor Spitzer secure Mr. Lalloway’s services for just under $16,000 a month. What a bargain! And for those who might question the propriety of hiring a seated Councilmember from a city in your district to advise you, Spitzer assures us that they will not discuss any matters related to the City of Irvine.

Even if one accepts the preposterous notion that two public officials and republican allies who have a history of discussing matters affecting the City of Irvine would adhere to such a restriction, what of the interests of the citizens of Irvine who will see one of five votes on their City Council “conflicted out” every time an issue with the County is on the agenda.

This is, after all, the same County Government that is pushing a “bait and switch” proposal to build a massive mixed use development project on the 100 acres they secured through the annexation of the former El Toro Marine Base, despite public uses being contemplated and explicitly called out when the dedication was made. The County has not shown much respect to the City of Irvine in recent years and Supervisor Spitzer has not been much of an advocate. If Mr. Lalloway took his responsibilities as a public servant seriously, he would not take a job that would clearly compromise his ability to be an advocate for the citizens he was elected to represent.

Mr. Lalloway ran for office challenging the integrity of others.

He put cleverly worded propositions like Measure V — the Fiscal Transparency and Reforms for the Orange County Great Park Measure — on the ballot for the express purpose of creating a perception of impropriety where none existed. Then there was his participation on a two member “audit” subcommittee (with Councilwoman Christina Shea) that operated in complete secrecy and wasted $1.7 million of Irvine taxpayer dollars on a so-called “audit” that more closely resembled a political witch hunt, created a climate of fear at Irvine City Hall and revealed no misappropriation of funds. According to the California State Auditor, it also failed to meet any generally accepted auditing standards.

So the question must be asked: What would justify Mr. Lalloway being hired by Mr. Spitzer for $190,000 taxpayer dollars for a job that comes with no specificity, is sure to raise ethical and conflict of interest challenges and was not offered for a competitive recruitment? It would be bad enough had these two men not built their political profiles assailing the reputations, motivations and integrity of others. If this contract is approved by the board, it should call into question the interests of the other Supervisors, many of whom have feathered their own nests and given high paid jobs to political allies and friends.

In my sixteen years as an elected official, I have been struck by the disconnect between the quality of our citizens, our civic and social activists and our community organizations and the seeming indifference, strident partisanship and self-serving political gamesmanship of many Orange County political officials. When politicians hand lucrative jobs to their friends at taxpayer expense it is cronyism, plain and simple. When those same politicians hold themselves up as paragons of virtue while using their platforms to disrespect others, they reveal the disdain they have for the notion of public service and for the interests of the citizens they have been elected to represent.

I know a lot of local non-profits that could put $190,000 to good use filling the gaps in services that the County chooses not to provide. Let’s not add insult to injury by squandering those same taxpayer dollars on political patronage.

Beth Krom, Irvine City Councilmember

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