Spitzer’s Proposal to Hire Lalloway Raises Conflict Questions

Nick Gerda/Voice of OC

OC Supervisor Todd Spitzer.

Last week, Irvine Councilman Jeff Lalloway threatened to have his city sue Orange County.

Next week, he might join the county payroll.

On Wednesday, Supervisor Todd Spitzer – whose district includes Irvine – placed a short item on next Tuesday’s supervisors agenda to have the county pay Lalloway $190,000 over the next year as a policy advisor to Spitzer.

There were no other details, other than a promise to provide a copy of the proposed contract by this Friday.

Spitzer’s move is raising questions about possible conflicts of interest, given that Irvine and the county often have opposing interests.

As the Orange County Register reported, the city has sued the county to block a planned expansion of a county jail, and the county sued Irvine a couple years ago to fight the city’s efforts to get a $134 million refund from the Orange County Fire Authority. And Lalloway threatened to sue the county last week to block a county development near the Great Park.

The proposed arrangement “is not a technical conflict of interest, but it impairs [Lalloway’s] ability to provide objective advice regarding some matters,” good government advocate William Mitchell told the Register.

Spitzer said the contract will prohibit Lalloway from discussing or advising on anything related to Irvine.

“Jeff will be walled off from Irvine issues,” Spitzer told the Register. “The burden will be on Jeff to make sure that he doesn’t engage in any conflicting issues, and it will also be on me to make sure I don’t involve him on any conflicting issues.”

Lalloway told the paper that when county-related issues come before the Irvine City Council, he might recuse himself if recommended by the city’s attorneys.

The effort comes as Spitzer has lost two of his top advisors in recent months. Chris Nguyen left this week to take a job in the Auditor-Controller’s office, and Carrie O’Malley left this summer. His previous chief of staff, Martha Ochoa, left late last year.

Update: After this post was published, Spitzer sent the reporter a message saying: “Martha [Ochoa] left to become the clerk of the board at [the Transportation Corridor Agencies]. A promotion and greater pay. Carrie left because her father and sister died and she is the executor of both estates which is a significant full time job given assets and business holdings she had to deal with.”

Nick Gerda covers county government and Santa Ana for Voice of OC. You can contact him at ngerda@voiceofoc.org.