OC Supervisors Have Chosen an Ethics Director

Nick Gerda/Voice of OC

Local watchdog Shirley Grindle flashes a victory sign the day after county supervisors placed the ethics commission proposal on the ballot.

Nine months after Orange County voters overwhelmingly approved an ethics commission to enforce county-level campaign finance and lobbying laws, the Board of Supervisors has taken the first step toward its creation: picking an executive director.

A county staff report quietly posted online Wednesday shows they chose Denah Hoard, the senior assistant city attorney for Orange.

There still is no schedule for when supervisors will name members of the Campaign Finance and Ethics Commission, but Hoard was offered the top staff job Feb. 14 at a supervisors’ closed session discussion.

Supervisors will vote on her employment contract Tuesday during the open session part of their meeting, according to the staff report.

Hoard didn’t return a phone message requesting an interview.

As the commission’s top staffer, Hoard will be tasked with enforcement of county ethics laws – including those governing campaign finance limits, lobbying, gifts, and the employee code of ethics.

If her contract is approved, Hoard will leave her current job and start at the county on April 10.

County officials did not announce the selection, and the news took Shirley Grindle – the county’s longtime campaign finance watchdog who co-authored the ethics commission ordinance – by surprise.

In an interview, Grindle said she knew supervisors had chosen one of the two finalists for the job, but didn’t know her name until contacted by a Voice of OC reporter Thursday afternoon.

Grindle said she supported the other finalist for the position, former Anaheim City Attorney Christina Talley, and doesn’t know Hoard. But Grindle said she heard that supervisors chose “a pretty good person” for the job.

A lawyer since 1994, Hoard worked as an assistant city attorney for Santa Ana from 1999 to 2007, a legal counsel for the California State University system from 2007 to 2012, and an assistant city attorney for Orange starting in 2012.

She was promoted to senior assistant city attorney – the number-two attorney position in Orange – in December.

After being read Hoard’s past work experience, Grindle said it “sounds like she’s certainly qualified.”

“From what I’ve been told about her background, she’ll do fine,” Grindle said.

For years, ethics advocates have complained about lax enforcement of the campaign finance rules by District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’ office.

“The District Attorney’s office has shown little interest in enforcing voter-approved campaign finance violations,” the county grand jury declared in a reportRackauckas’ office has disputed the allegation.

Supervisors were pressured into putting the commission before voters by Grindle and other activists, who had threatened to collect enough signatures to put their own ethics commission proposal on the ballot.

The county’s proposed employment contract stipulates that Hoard will work “under the direction of the Board of Supervisors,” rather than the ethics commission or county CEO.

County supervisors are elected officials who are among those whom the commission is supposed to enforce campaign finance rules.

The contract says Hoard will work “at the sole pleasure,” of the board, and supervisors will be able to fire her at any time for any reason.

Hoard will “have none of the due process rights of a regular, full-time [county] employee,” the contract states.

(Click here to read Hoard’s proposed contract and her resume.)

Grindle said she doesn’t like this arrangement, and wanted the director to report to the ethics commission. But, she said, the county counsel’s office said the law requires such positions to serve under the supervisors.

“That arrangement is not ideal, and we’re just gonna have to see whether the [Board of Supervisors] will keep their hands off her fair and independent evaluation,” Grindle said.

She said several supervisors have told her that they want to make sure the commission director is independent and that the board doesn’t interfere with Hoard’s work.

At the same time, Grindle has been frustrated at how long it’s taking supervisors to set up the commission.

Voters approved it nine months ago at the June primary election, with the commission gaining the support of nearly 70 percent of the vote. Then, the November election campaign came and went without a commission to monitor campaign finance limits.

And with candidates now already fundraising for the 2018 elections, there’s still no public timeline for when the ethics commission will be established, or when the county will accept applications for commission positions.

“I think they’re dragging their feet, big time,” Grindle said. “The voters voted on this, the first part of June last year. And here we are…nine months to get an executive director.”

“We’ll see if it takes ’em another nine months to appoint the commissioners.”

The supervisors’ chairwoman, Michelle Steel, didn’t return a message through a spokeswoman asking when the commission will be established.

Asked the same question, county spokeswoman Carrie Braun said a timeline for applications and appointments will be addressed when Hoard takes office.

“Once Ms. Hoard has begun employment, she will work with the Board on the creation of the commission,” Braun said.

Hoard was chosen through an open recruitment for the position that yielded “a group of highly skilled applicants,” she added.

The new commission director is slated to receive $185,000 per year, plus the same benefits package as other executive managers at the county. Her total compensation package would total just over $291,000 per year.

For years, Grindle has nearly single-handedly tracked campaign contributions to county candidates and called out violations of the county’s campaign finance limit law, known as TIN CUP, which she co-authored in the 1970s. The name stands for Time Is Now, Clean Up Politics.

Now that the director’s job is being taken by Hoard, Grindle says she wants to show her how she keeps track of the money.

“My interest is in maintaining a tracking system, and I would very much like to sit down with her,” she said.

Tuesday’s supervisors meeting starts at 9:30 a.m., and public comment will be taken at the beginning of the meeting.

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

  • Shirley L. Grindle

    Okay – all you fatalists. Instead of griping about this, we need to hold the Board’s feet to the fire. I have reviewed Ms. Hoard’s background and feel she is eminently qualified for this position. So lets see if she will be independent. It will be up to us to make sure the Board does not interfere with her duties.

    • OCservant_Leader

      Shirley, although I appreciate your optimism, it comes down to her contract and reporting relationship.

      She is an “at-will” employee holding her employer “accountable” to ethics violations?

      In other words…if she wants to get paid…she will do what’s she’s told and keep her mouth shut. Period. It’s that simple.

      I doubt the new Ethic’s Director is confused as maybe the public is about this arrangement.

      • LFOldTimer

        “She is an “at-will” employee holding her employer “accountable” to ethics violations?”

        To you and me this is basic common sense, OCservant.

        $291,000 in compensation is a nice chunk of change by anyone’s standards. Only a fool would think the ED would risk that guaranteed stream of earnings by going after the Supervisors or their political buddies.

        The ED is an attack dog and the BoS holds the leash. She will act according to her master’s commands.

        We’ve seen this same movie many times before. Why would someone think there’d be a different ending this time around?

        Beats me.

        • OCservant_Leader

          Yea – this is Contracts 101.

          And if this ED is confused (she is not) she will find out that at the County of Orange – there are worst fates than being fired.

          Being fired would be welcomed (because you can sue). Oh no. Managers who think they are “independent” of the BOS find out quickly how bad the punishments really are.

      • David Zenger

        The relationship with Board would be a fatal flaw if the Ethics Ordinance had any real relevance. It doesn’t. Grindle got what she wanted – someone to take over her index card collection. However the ethical problems at the county have NOTHING to do with occasional mistakes or omissions on campaign reporting documents. That’s just about following the rules – not even an ethical issue.

        The real ethical problem at the county is the abuse of public trust via misdirecting public money into the Supervisor’s publicity machine as we saw with Do and Bartlett last year. That was all Janet Nguyen ever did. Remember Spitzer using staff resources for his silly self-glorifying “victims’ memorial?”

        Bill Campbell treated the Public Works Department as his own private construction company. Then there is the perpetual abuse of an honest procurement system to shake down campaign contributors, or conversely favor the voluntary donors as just occurred at JWA – none of which will stop.

        As far as I can tell Ms. Hoard’s only real function is to be a staffer for the impotent Commission – if it ever even gets appointed or meets.

        • OCservant_Leader

          Of course you are right but won’t this Ethics Committee be entertaining at least to watch how they avoid doing anything meaningful? I hope it will be broadcast on the Internet! You know transparency and all.

          Will they still be collecting ALL complaints of wrong doing in OC? If so, this list will be worth it!

          You are right about the 700 Forms excersize as well.

          I recall at the HCA – when the MHSA Medical Director was taking hefty kick backs for YEARS from the Big Pharma — when the 7th Floor including their “Compliance Officer” was caught -hand in cookie jar — their defense was “No one Directed us to READ the 700 Forms submitted! Remember that one?

          I wonder if Spitzer ever got anyone in Bldg 10 – to read them?

    • LFOldTimer

      “So lets see if she will be independent.”

      I spit coffee from my nose on that one.

      Hello??? She was selected by and works at the pleasure of the Board.

      25 to 1 we see a repeat performance of Stephen Connolly here.

      I’m only a fatalist because years of observation and reality have pushed me in that direction. I would dishonor whatever brain cells survived between my two ears to trust county government or hold out hope that those in charge would police their own or hold one another accountable.

      The only ones the county system holds accountable are their political enemies.

  • Carol

    The BOS is one of the most unethical bodies in OC. It’s a conflict of interest.

    • David Zenger

      Yes, the BoS hiring their own personal Ethics Director is an ethical failure.

      • OCservant_Leader

        You got to love how this “closed regime” communicates with the public by hailing fire bombs from their tower.

  • OCservant_Leader

    Another highly paid- double dipping “Puppet on a String”? WOW

    She will report what her BOS bosses tell her! Just like all staff at OC. The corruption continues.

    I call FOUL!!

    Can we review her “political” background? This is her real qualifications. Part of the Club –to Protect the Club Members!

    I thought the Conservative GOP BOS didn’t support double dipping eh? She is now starting ANOTHER PENSION! OMG this is crazy.

    • LFOldTimer

      It really makes me wonder who’s connected to whom and whether a spinoff deal was concocted behind the curtains.

      We’ll probably never know the rest of the story unless there’s an inadvertent leak.

      But I’d bet ya a dollar to a donut the BoS never invited Shirley to the table for input on an ED selection choice.

      “Grindle said she doesn’t like this arrangement, and wanted the director to report to the ethics commission.”

      We luv ya, Shirley. But I think you’ve been had.

  • Ed Romero

    Ethics in Orange County, what a joke. I remember the Board of Supervisor’s selecting that corrupt Drug Dealing, Marijuana Smoking Asst. Chief Probation Officer that was caught shoplifting 8 times and never spent one day in Jail. I remember seeing her Gang of Drug Dealers (most of them Deputy Probation Officers) making Drug Deliveries in Brown Paper Lunch Bags right into her Office while on duty. I remember how she FIRED a male Hispanic for reporting to work late, but did nothing to her Lesbian friend that would follow the young girls into the Restroom at the Probation Department and get down on her knees and take a PEAK (at what I don’t know), nor did she do anything to the Detention Officer that was FIRED because the Director caught her Snorting Cocaine while on duty (a Felony), nor did she do anything to the Gay Deputy Probation Officer that was orally copulating all those young Mexican Boys and Men in his Officer. This is the same person that I caught STEALING a County Money Bag (numerous Bags were missing), I also caught her STEALING a Probation Department Employee Wallet (numerous wallets were missing), she use to Smoke so much Marijuana while on duty that my co-workers gave her the AKA/Marijuana Nancy. I hope in the future the County of Orange or the Ethics Director make a better selection when sending someone to represent the County of Orange at any future Seminar on Ethics in Government. That dirty Racist Drug Abusing Convicted Criminal should not have been selected by anyone.

    • LFOldTimer

      If half the stuff you write has any factual basis Rome is truly burning.

      • OCservant_Leader

        Thanks OT!

  • LFOldTimer

    “Her total compensation package would total just over $291,000 per year.”

    Let me guess. She’s “at-will” and works at the pleasure of the Board, correct???

    Watchdog? lol.

    Now pull my other thumb.

    What a waste of county tax dollars.

  • David Zenger

    The very first thing a municipal lawyer learns is cheap pettifogging to protect the city staff’s behavior. Ethics has nothing to do with the job.

    Good luck.

  • verifiedsane

    Ethics director? Really! Who is looking out for who here? This has the appearance of the BOS selecting another lap-dog insider to the tune of $291,234 a year…Maybe the article headline should read: BOS hires another career government plutocrat as watch-dog! This has the same rotten smell of another toothless & do nothing BOS controlled lap-dog named the OIR, which will amount to zero actual oversight! Of course, as with the OIR, it will take years to determine if the BOS has again flushed another huge chunk of tax payer funds down the toilet, with the voters receiving nothing in return.

    Just what the the citizens voted for & demanded; another big tax payer salary to run cover for the ruling BOS oligarchy….

    • David Zenger

      “…as with the OIR, it will take years to determine if the BOS has again flushed another huge chunk of tax payer funds down the toilet, with the voters receiving nothing in return.”

      No, I think we knew that as soon as the BoS put this footling nonsense on the ballot.

      If a real reform mechanism of some sort were possible the BoS would never have let the public vote on it. Whatever the electorate thought they were getting isn’t what they are going to get.

      Now we get a six-figure, pensioned public employee (and helpers) to pore over the form 460s looking for irrelevant errors – while the BoS keeps abusing the procurement process for their own monetary benefit – with impunity.

      • OCservant_Leader

        The Public got the shaft on this shell game.