For the first time in county history, individual County Supervisors are using public funds to promote themselves – something that is usually done using their campaign funds.

At least two Supervisors are either contracting with private “Communications Consultants” or sending mailers to their constituents to announce events at which they will be present – all at county expense which means your money and mine.

The most egregious example is the long-term contract Andrew Do made this year with a private “Communications Consultant” to write his speeches and communicate with his constituents, among other things.

Normally speechwriting and constituent communication would be the responsibility of his Aides who are county employees and are subject to strict ethics rules which prohibit them from campaigning for their boss on county time. But no such restriction applies to an outside contractor.

The Do contract is for 5 years at the rate of $97,500 per year. Wonder what happens if Do isn’t re-elected – is the county on the hook for this contract for 4 more years?

Since the first of the year the county has paid for over 475,000 pieces of mail sent to Do’s voting constituents with his name prominently displayed several times. He sent out different mailers announcing events at which he will be present and inviting his voting constituents to attend. Some of these events were “Community Coffees” which are typically paid for with campaign funds. To date the county has spent over $175,000 for producing and distributing Andrew Do’s mailers.

Supervisor Bartlett also has issued a number of mailers (8 to date at a cost to the county of $137,000) with her name prominently displayed several times and which announce county events at which she will be present. Unlike Mr. Do however, Supervisor Bartlett is not running for election this year, but nevertheless these mailers reek of “campaigning at public expense”.

Supervisor Nelson, to his credit, did not display his name anywhere on the 2 mailers sent out to his constituents.

This is the first time in Orange County history that County Supervisors have used county funds to blatantly promote themselves. In Andrew Do’s case it is particularly offensive because he is up for re-election in November.

The county needs to address the propriety of spending public funds on private contracts and mailers that primarily promote themselves. Supervisors Do and Bartlett need to reflect on how they would feel if they were the challengers to incumbent Supervisors who have unlimited access to county funds to pay for their mass mailings.

I am sure this will be on the agenda of the new “Campaign Finance and Ethics Commission” passed by the voters last June. It can be argued that county funds are being used for personal benefit – a violation of the County Code of Ethics.

Shirley Grindle, OC Campaign Watchdog

Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

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