League of Women Voters Urges Supervisors to Drop Plan to Change Ethics Commission

The Orange County Board of Supervisors. From left: Michelle Steel, Shawn Nelson, Todd Spitzer, Lisa Bartlett, and Andrew Do. (Photos by Nick Gerda and Katlin Washburn)

The League of Women Voters is “disappointed and dismayed” by the Board of Supervisors’ plan to give supervisors more power over the ethics commission that was approved last year by county voters and called for supervisors to back off.

The supervisors’ plan “jeopardizes the independence of the commissioners,” Michelle Musacchio, member of an Orange County chapter of the League of Women Voters, told the Supervisors Tuesday, reading from a letter on behalf of Susan Guilford, president of both the Orange County-wide and Central Orange County chapters of the League of Women Voters.

At their July 10 meeting, three of the five supervisors expressed support for changing the terms of the ethics commissioners, aligning them with the term of the supervisor who appointed them and allowing the supervisors to choose how long the appointee would serve on the commission. Four supervisors would have to support the plan for it to go into effect.

The ethics commission was approved last June by over 400,000 Orange County voters with approximately 70 percent of the vote. The commission’s bylaws state the members shall serve staggered three-year terms. The term lengths for the first set of five commissioners will be randomly selected and commissioners may not serve more than two full terms.

Supervisor Andrew Do, who favors the term changes, suggested during the July 10 meeting commissioners should “serve at the pleasure of the supervisor” who appoints them.

Musacchio, an Irvine resident, read the chapter president’s letter opposing the proposed changes during public comments.

“We believe this jeopardizes the independence of the commissioners,” the letter said. “Specifically, we reject the proposal that commission appointees have terms concurrent with the appointing supervisor.”

She said while the ethics commission’s bylaws allow for technical, non-substantive changes to “further the purposes of the ethics commission,” the supervisors’ proposal is “anything but non-substantive.”

Musacchio also read a statement on behalf of all the League of Women Voters’ Orange County membership calling for supervisors to reconsider the proposal and take steps to assure that ethics commissioners can work independently and “free of political influence.”

In an interview with Voice of OC on Friday, Guilford said the League of Women Voters studied the issue of ethics in Orange County government for years before voting and adopting the statement in 2015, which Musacchio read on behalf of the organization’s local membership at the Tuesday, July 25 meeting.

“Staggered terms for commissioners that do not match the term of their appointed supervisor will clear away any suggestion of undue influence upon the supervisors and thereby safeguard the original purpose of the measure,” Musacchio said.

The supervisors have the power to appoint all five of the ethics commissioners and can remove any with four votes from the board. At their July 10 meeting they unanimously appointed Supervisor Shawn Nelson’s nominee, Peter Agarwal, a Fullerton bank branch manager, Anaheim Chamber of Commerce board member and previous Nelson appointee to other county boards and commissions.

At their July 10 meeting, the supervisors also directed County Counsel Leon Page to look into action they can take to change the rules for commissioner’s terms, but did not discuss the topic at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Jose Ochoa is a Voice of OC intern. He can be reached at joseochoa.voc@gmail.com.

  • Ed Romero

    Why bother to have a Ethics Commission? To this day I still can not believe that the Board of Supervisor’s selected that Asst. Chief Probation Officer, to represent the County of Orange at that Seminar on Ethics in County Government, who was caught shoplifting 8 times, who had her very own Gang of Drug Dealers (most of them Deputy Probation Officers) who made Drug Deliveries right into her Office while on duty in Brown Paper Lunch Bags, she would come to the rescue of any of her Lesbian Employees NO MATTER WHAT THEY DID, like the one that use to follow the young Female Employees into the restroom and get down on her knees and take PEEK, then there was the Lesbian that was caught Snorting Cocaine at our Los Pinos Detention Center, FIRED by the Director and REHIRED by that corrupt Asst. Chief Probation Officer because that according to that former Detention Officer, she could get that Asst. Chief Probation Officer all the Best Stuff and all the Young Girls she could handle. One of her Deputy Probation Officer Drug Dealer was arrested 5 times for Marijuana for Sale, another one arrested 5 times for Drug Driving and yet another arrested 8 times for Drunk Driving, his claim to fame was that he was DISPATCHED by the Chief Probation Officer anytime one of her wealthy GOP Friends was arrested and he took care of everything BEFORE the matter was referred to District Attorney, his Wife informed of that. So you see there’s not need for an Ethics Commission when the County of Orange was ran by a bunch of Corrupt Rats back then and things don’t look any better today.

  • occynic

    Did the OCGOP know that Andrew Do was such a supporter of Big Government when they worked so hard to get him elected? First CalOptima, now this. Add in a probably criminal investigation that Tony R covered up and Do is looking pretty bad. Anyone good out there to run against him in 2020?

    • LFOldTimer

      As long as Do continues to collect $86,000 in donations from the sheriff’s police union he’ll be hard to beat.

      I can remember the day when real Republicans would be embarrassed to accept money from a public union. Today they have no shame. And trust me….nobody gives a politician $86,000 without expecting something in return for it.

      The OCGOP knows what Do’s up to. Do they approve? ha. Do’s following their lead for God sakes. ha.

      In 2017 the differences between a Democrat and a Republican are greatly exaggerated. Oh, they fool a lot of people with their bickering while the cameras are rolling. But you don’t see what goes on behind the scenes. And what you don’t see constitutes a one-party system.

      Anybody with an average IQ who bothers to think these things through should figure it on their own.

      DC is a glowing example of the one-party system.

  • Shirley L. Grindle

    The Board of Supervisors should get about the business of appointing their Commissioners instead of trying to change the rules to give them more political influence over the Commission. Changing the voter-approved ordinance before the Commission is even up and running is not smart and reeks of what we all hope will not be the case — undue influence by individual Supervisors.

    • LFOldTimer

      Shirley, didn’t you realize that it was written into the ordinance that the supes could make these substantial changes w/ a 4/5th vote before it went to the vote of the people? Did you address it at that time?

      You know the dirty history of the BoS and their underhanded tactics. Did you expect any less of them? After the barn doors were left wide upon and the horses were allowed to escape it’s rather silly to cry foul now. This should have been addressed when the provisions of the ordinance were being formulated. It’s a little late for that now.

      • Shirley L. Grindle

        Certainly I addresed it. Where were you?

        • LFOldTimer

          You addressed the ability of the BoS to hijack the ordinance before it went to a vote of the people? Where and when? I must have missed it.

          If you knew about it why did you give the ordinance that had a potential to hijack the will of the people your stamp of approval on the day it went to ballot?

          Legitimate questions.

          • verifiedsane

            Shirley and the public got played! we know it, and she knows it….Shirley needs to show a little dignity at this juncture and openly admit that her good intentions turned into a big fat zero….

            This whole ethics commission fiasco is & was nothing more than a complete farce, corruption window dressing, & more political theater from the very moment the BoS stepped into gut the measure for their own nefarious purposes; and all this before the measure ever even left the station to be pony show paraded before the gullible voters.

          • LFOldTimer

            It’s not really a zero…..

            If it were only a zero….I wouldn’t care.

            The EC has now been turned into a tool for the BoS to throw their political weight around and to control the mechanism that will selectively enforce ethics violations. The EC is now being turned into a group of hired guns for the BoS. This is exactly what I warned against before it went to the vote of the people. With the exception of a few enlightened souls, most ignored the red flags.

            And, to add insult to injury, it’s at a great expense to the taxpayers – since it will cost millions of tax dollars each year to operate the EC.

            What bothers me most is that people will simply dig their heels in and refuse to accept the facts out of ego preservation.

            That’s the reason I have very little hope for any sort of corruption reform. Lack of transparency and accountability all around the horn.

          • LFOldTimer

            This is the reason I’ve lost faith in the system.

            Ask legitimate questions of those who have exerted influence over our lives and what do you get in return? Silence.

          • David Zenger

            Shirley was so happy and validated having the taxpayers pick up her index cards that no sort of nonsense or chicanery was too big to overlook.

  • LFOldTimer

    It was a scam from the very start. Another power play on part of the BoS to not only feign ethics enforcement but to use the Commission as their own hired guns to go after their political enemies.

    I sniffed it out before it even went to the vote of the people.

    They fooled 70% of the electorate.

    Never underestimate the stupidity of the average California voter. They’ll believe whatever they’re told.

  • verifiedsane

    The ruling BoS oligarchy once again subverts the will and interest of the people….nothing new here! As there is nothing ethical about this bad & laughable con being played upon the citizens of OC, the BoS are attempting to call an “ethics commission”.