Santana: Failing to Show Up for Work

Orange County Supervisors (Andrew Do, Shawn Nelson, Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett, Vice Chair Michelle Steel, Todd Spitzer, lft to right) break ground on a modern county animal shelter.

An angry Orange County Supervisors’ Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett called me last week upon reading my new column in the Orange County Register’s editorial pages, where I raised the prospects of whether county supervisors should be made part-timers with a one, six-year term in office.

Nearly every person I talk to say seems to think it would attract much better qualified and less political candidates, seasoned residents willing to cast tough votes and think long term.

Bartlett said she took personal offense at me suggesting she doesn’t’ show up for work, noting that she regularly attends a steady stream of regional meetings on behalf of Orange County taxpayers.

Bartlett insists she works hard.

Yet if that’s true, I challenged her, as I have all of her four colleagues, to show taxpayers their meeting schedule and office calendars – showing where they go and who walks in their front door to meet with them on county business.

As Reagan said over and over again through the 1980s, “trust but verify.”

Bartlett said she considered releasing her calendar but won’t allow it because she fears for the privacy of the people that meet with her.

Apparently, our county supervisors’ offices have become some sort of private confessional for a secret array of special interests.

What could be so secret at the Hall of Administration in downtown Santa Ana that they can’t tell us who walks in the front door to talk business?

The Darkness of POBAR

County supervisors also continue to operate in the dark when it comes to public safety.

This month, in a rushed session just after the Labor Day holiday, county supervisors took a $13 million, three-year pay package handed to them from their professional negotiators and blew it up into a $62 million contract over three years.

All without saying a word.

They will surely get great endorsements from the deputies union.

Yet imagine how the contract cities will react when they see the real price tag.

At the same time that spending soars, accountability over what county supervisors themselves call the number-one priority of local government (public safety) comes up short again and again.

Consider the jails, where nearly a year ago several violent criminals went walking out the front door and were only recaptured thanks to a miracle.

So what happened? Has any senior public sector manager or deputy been held accountable?

Was it staffing levels on the roof of the jail or infrastructure funding challenges as Sheriff Sandra Hutchens has hinted in the past?

Or was it just bad management by then-jails chief Chris Wilson?

Who knows?

According to some, Wilson was recently placed on leave after being taken out of the jails and put in charge of the Coroner’s office.

Yet when I asked whether that’s the case, Hutchens declined to comment through a spokesman and the department cited the Police Officer Bill of Rights (POBAR) as a manner of avoiding any sort of comment on what happened to Wilson and who has been held accountable.

Again, legislation aimed at protecting rank and file officers from political retaliation for doing their job seems to be increasingly gamed by Sheriff Department leaders to avoid comment – even on a basic management shift.

And this is where county supervisors want to send every discretionary dollar?

Sleep Walking Through Homelessness Response

Speaking of sleep-walk spending, this past month we learned that when it comes to homelessness, vendors never change.

After promising a top-down review of homelessness policy last year and hiring a new six-figure executive dubbed the “homelessness czar,” county supervisors this month announced that the contractor selected to run the new Anaheim homeless shelter would be…drumroll please…the same embattled contractor, Mercy House, that has been criticized intensely by so many homelessness activists in past years.

Their own chief, Larry Haynes, even admitted to our own Nick Gerda in a past interview that he had issues and had to work on his relationships in the homeless community.

So what happened?

Did they fix the situation?

You would think that county supervisors would have asked some questions in public before handing over a pivotal contract.


Again, it’s all about headlines.

My favorite was the line credited to Supervisor Andrew Do in the county press release earlier this month – once again announcing the hiring of someone else – Mercy House – to do their job.

“Yes to action, no to excuses – that’s our new mantra,” read the quote from Do in the Sept. 13 press release from the county.

Yet if Do – who is up for re-election this November – has been leading the county’s homelessness response for the past few years (as his election mailers indicate), then who’s excuses is he referring to?

His own?

  • LFOldTimer

    Did anyone else read that the Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund is on the verge of collapse. Beneficiaries are attempting to withdraw their shares before the house of cards finally falls. So the police and fire unions are demanding a $600mm taxpayer bailout to keep it afloat. ha.

    Coming to a theater near you soon.

  • LFOldTimer

    Good analysis, Norberto.

    Like nearly all politicians Bartlett speaks from both sides of her mouth with forked tongue. But this has been going on with the BoS for many years. Nothing new to see here. Bartlet knows the other have gotten away with it so ‘monkey see, monkey do”. That should be the motto of the BoS. It pretty much tells us everything we need to know about county government in 4 simple words.

    The police union “pay to play” political system is alive and well, as you’ve pointed out. And the BoS is all in. Not a single dissenter in the bunch. So they continue to make workers rich and richer in a job that pays on average about $230,000-$240,000 a year and has an entry educational requirement of a HS degree or GED. ha. Can you name one other job with that educational standard that pays such a compensation? Of course not. Not only has OCSD been silent about the workers responsible for enabling the jailbreak, what about informant-gate? Scott Sanders continues to uncover more dirt and Hutchens is as quiet as a church mouse. ha. There are two sets of rules and laws in our society. One for us. One for them. No wonder most people have lost faith in our leaders. Most of us don’t recognize our country anymore.

    The system is rigged, Norberto. Most of your commenters have made that clear over the years. But those at the top refuse to demand reform. They love status quo. That’s because being part of the problem is the only way to ensure a long and prosperous political career. Reformer activists in political circles are analogous to an abortion doctor at a “Right to Life” convention. Expect to be escorted out the door.

    The homeless? Eventually they will make it illegal for the homeless to congregate at the Civic Center based on the “health and safety crisis” executive order. That way they can push them off on other neighborhoods away from the county seat of government. Out of sight, out of mind. But the homeless population will explode in years to come since the US economy is built on a foundation of sand. Stay tuned.

  • David Zenger

    “Bartlett said she considered releasing her calendar but won’t allow it because she fears for the privacy of the people that meet with her.”

    Why is it that a cluster of people can act so overtly self-righteous and yet virtually in the same breath cook up some lame tale that can only be construed as shame avoidance.

    Too bad Bartlett doesn’t fear for the interests of her constituents like she does the secrecy of those who lobby her.