County Ethics Commission Holds First Meeting

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.

More than a year after Orange County voters passed a ballot measure to create a county ethics commission, the board met for the first time Monday, with just three of its five members appointed.

The Campaign Finance and Ethics Commission, the result of a June 2016 ballot measure that received 69 percent of votes, is tasked with providing independent enforcement of the county’s campaign finance limits, lobbying law, gift ban and code of ethics.

Citizen watchdog Shirley Grindle — who helped write the ballot measure and for years has tracked campaign contributions with a system of index cards out of her home in Orange – urged commissioners to keep the commission “nonpartisan and nonpolitical.”

“I will really be watching you guys to make sure you keep it that way,” Grindle said. “Don’t let it become a political football.”

If a momentous occasion for Grindle, the brief meeting lasted just 13 minutes, and none of the three commissioners asked questions or made comments.

Among the items on the agenda were two brief quarterly reports by the commission’s executive director, Denah Hoard, which detail Hoard’s activities and will be sent to the Board of Supervisors.

According to the report, Hoard has reviewed recent campaign filings and has identified at least $9,750 in “excess” contributions which were voluntarily refunded, according to the report. The report doesn’t say who received them or define what Hoard means by “excess,” or whether they violated the local campaign contribution law.

County spokeswoman Carrie Braun didn’t immediately respond to questions about those campaign funds and whether the names of those candidates and campaign committees that accepted the contributions will be disclosed.

Per the ballot measure, the commission’s executive director also is required to maintain an “independent tracking system of campaign contributions.” The commission is creating its own electronic database for tracking campaign contributions, which will go to the Board of Supervisors in November for approval.

Grindle said she is most excited about the electronic tracking system.

“That’s the whole reason I want this commission – to take over what I do,” Grindle said.

First District Supervisor Andrew Do, representing Santa Ana, Garden Grove, Westminster and Fountain Valley, and Fifth District Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, who represents South Orange County, have yet to make their appointments to the commission.

Contact Thy Vo at tvo@voiceofoc.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.