Santana: Calling Out the Obvious

Nick Gerda/Voice of OC

County Supervisor Todd Spitzer at a supervisors meeting.

Are the wheels coming off at Todd Spitzer Inc?

When County Supervisor Todd Spitzer’s top legislative staffer – Chris Nguyen – left his office abruptly last month to go work for Auditor Controller Eric Woolery, I heard the County CEO’s office had prepared a contingency plan in case Spitzer’s office went into full meltdown.

They might want to start unrolling the fire hoses.

Late last week, I heard yet another staffer – Christine Richters – flew the coup.

There have been many abrupt Spitzer staff exits in recent years but with these latest, I’m starting to hear rumblings about potential workplace harassment claims.

Readers also alerted me last week to a new Facebook page, called “Todd Spitzer, Armed & Unhinged” that made its debut – reportedly under protest from Spitzer.

I put in several calls last week to Spitzer press secretary Melanie Eustice and got a rare radio silence. Spitzer Chief of Staff George Cardenas also didn’t return calls.

Richters and Nguyen follow in the steps of another high-profile Spitzer staffer, Carrie O’Malley, who left earlier this year along with former Chief of Staff Martha Ochoa.

Spitzer also has had more staff turnover than any county supervisor in recent memory.

The staff vacuum comes at a tough time for Spitzer and his new, expensive (chief of staff?) political heir and fixer, Irvine Councilman Jeff Lalloway, who has been brought in – under chief of staff-type pay – at an estimated $190,000.

Note that the city of Irvine and the county of Orange are regularly in court over a host of land use issues such as commercial developments and critical public services like the Orange County Fire Authority.

The timing is also particularly bad for the county CEO’s office because the premium level executive fixer who would have likely led the clean up crews for any fifth floor job at the Hall of Administration – longtime insider and county Chief Operating Officer Mark Denny – also has left the building.

Denny found himself a great slot in the management ranks at the city of Dana Point – where he was sent to investigate this summer after a critical audit uncovered problems at the county harbor.

While Denny has attracted negative headlines in the past, Dana Point scored big here.

Denny is smart and effective…a great fix-it artist, a solid technocrat with great political skills and background who pretty much kept the county government functioning under the previous CEO Mike Giancola – a short-time CEO installed under a shaky board majority – and was critical to helping current CEO (and former chief financial officer) Frank Kim shore up operations when he was picked to head the county government last year.

Denny also doesn’t return phone calls.

Housing For Homeless

Orange County’s homeless may have finally gotten they’re own set of political cleaners.

It’s people, like OC homeless czar Susan Price and homeless activists like Larry “Smitty” Smith and Igmar Rodas from the Civic Center Roundtable that are increasingly the faces of change on homelessness.

After waiting so long to deploy a response at the county Civic Center to the homeless explosion, Price became the face of the county response last month – handed a political deadline of setting up a new facility in a month.

She pulled it off.

The opening of the Courtyard Transition Center was smooth and by all accounts a success.

Contracting with Midnight Mission and City Net to open the facility instead of the traditional route – Mercy House – was a really smart move. It not only brings in a new player but seems to have ushered in a smart approach toward security based on trust-building and not shows of strength (ie: wanding).

There are also a host of homeless activists – organized around the Civic Center Roundtable – that were the first to stand up years ago and offer a voice for the civic center community.

They should be key partners alongside a strong county workforce and nonprofit community in creating sensible uses at the center and developing the best program approaches possible.

Price seems smart enough to get that.

People like Smith and Rodas, who wrote a story on the opening of the bus terminal for Voice of OC, are both the kind of people that can help tailor services onsite immediately to help fit current needs and plan for the future.

They know because they have lived it.

They also know the harsh reality that homeless people need one thing above all else.


That was the first thing that Price said to me earlier this year when she was hired, during what is probably the shortest and most on-point interview I’ve ever done.

It was also the conclusion from this weekend’s county-sponsored forum on homelessness.

We need to build more affordable housing and especially focus on special housing tracts connected to key health and human services for vulnerable people.

Yet that is where every public policymaker and elected official across Orange County continues to fail miserably.

County officials this weekend had no answer and it’s an election year.

If we allow that silence to continue, then we all deserve the mean streets our children will surely inherit.

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  • Jacki Livingston

    Holy crap, Norberto, you are thick. Don’t you read? Do you not think that the seven year torture I went through, and other employees have suffered, has a root? There is a nursing home guy buying up these cash cows, and the fraud going on had to be approved at the top. This buys into all of Spitzer’s triggers, from real estate to photo ops. This isn’t some local questionable behavior, this is organized crime, at the highest levels, that Brock Zimmons, Dean Fulcher, Ron Frazier and others at the DA know about. Spitzer risked DISBARMENT, to avoid testifying under oath in my case. I have boxes of documents showing fraud within the agency and the criminal links to organized crime, and you guys just ‘ladida’ around. NOW you seem befuddled? Read the SacBee’s articles, read about these huge companies being sued in federal court, read the documents I have offered to show you. Wake up!

  • Paul Lucas

    Jeez what the heck is happening at Todds 5fth floor office?

  • OCservant_Leader

    The purpose of becoming an Executive Assistant (EA) to the OC Board of Supervisors (BOS) is train them on GOP organized network laid out in the County and throughout OC City’s bureaucracies.

    They are looking for a “slot” to place the EA which will benefit the family. No education, qualifications or experience necessary. Knowledge of the organization’s membership and covert skills to keep regular workers and the public confused and bewildered by their actions is mandatory.

    How many of Spitzer’s EA’s have been placed throughout his two terms? I would love to see this list. They have all landed nice “slots” trust me. The public is on the hook to pay them the rest of their natural born lives. The BOS are the entry point of the appointee fraternity system and the biggest employer of the OCGOP.

    Spitzer is just aligning his team for his next main focus which obviously involves the City of Irvine.

    • Jacki Livingston

      When I asked Martha Ochoa, in May of last year, why Todd Spitzer would never, over five years, respond directly to me about the fraud and criminal activity going on at SSA, her response was very telling…”Because he has to have deniablity”. That is the quote. Shortly after, she and I were both gone from the County. Hmmmmm….

      • OCservant_Leader


        This is the operative word. The higher the Manager – the more insulted they become. Their “handlers” spoon feed them enough information- that they can memorize and repeat.

        Problems? Issues? Illegal behavior? – they can’t hear any of it so when they are questioned – they can say — they didn’t know. The OC deniability clause. The Fixers – do the dirty work behind the scenes.

        You can’t pin the top 1% elite club on knowledge of anything in the County under their direction. Pick any issue. This is why they DO absolutely nothing.

        It is not a crime to be incompetent. Ha ha jokes on you taxpayers!

        • Jacki Livingston

          It gets worse. Afscme 2076 leaders joined in with management, refusing to help their dues paying workers who reported misconduct. When I finally left, they refused to allow me to pay for my rightful benefits, refused to return calls or letters, even when I had nothing and no way for justice but to post to FB, they blocked me there. The unions will cry in their cocoa all the time about how management is so messed up, and they are mistreated, but make no mistake about it, they are all in bed together, and when the County got really scared about going to court, knowing that stories were coming out about the organized crime rackets buying the nursing homes, they got the union to make little deals, then they supported a scandalous new executive board, forcing out the one decent group still fighting the good fight. Now the union is completely in the hand of the County, and they are as much criminals as the rest. Read the SacBee and their articles about this horrible criminal buying up these cash cow businesses. The county rigged the computers for the scam, they take a cut off the top, and Spitzer and his ilk get their cut. This guy is a real piece of work. You should see the letters and emails…shocking!

  • David Zenger

    “Todd Spitzer, Armed & Unhinged”

    Stop it, yer killin’ me!

    There used to be a club of former Spitzer staffers called SOS – Survivors of Spitzer. Seems like the membership just keeps growing.

  • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

    There are empty Hanjin containers sitting in ports everywhere according to many news articles, due to their bankruptcy. It would be a great time to lobby into position to secure them and turn them into housing.

    Alternative use … Codes in our cities, do not allow them. If revisions were made, they could be plopped by cranes into backyards, there are many large yards in OC, and used as granny flats. Since we are trying to conserve water for the future that part of the yard can be made useful.

    If our leaders were serious about housing needs, they would offer tax credits to homeowners who did this in order to encourage this easy peasy remedy to housing needs.

    Why not?