Supervisor Shawn Nelson Monday broke with most of the other members of the Orange County Board of Supervisors and endorsed Todd Spitzer for district attorney.
Nelson repeatedly has clashed with Spitzer, a fellow supervisor, in recent years and criticized his actions in office.
In April, Nelson publicly called Spitzer’s behavior “outrageous” and “totally inappropriate” after Spitzer went into other supervisors’ districts to raise fears about proposed homeless shelters.
Spitzer was “stirring up a bunch of lies and nonsense,” Nelson said during the supervisors’ meeting, calling Spitzer’s actions “crap.”
“I was embarrassed when I saw the video [of Spitzer] down in Laguna Niguel,” he said.
On Monday, Spitzer’s campaign announced Nelson endorsed him to be OC’s top prosecutor.
“I have worked alongside my colleague Todd Spitzer for a number of years and found him to be a principled leader who cares deeply about the people and victims of Orange County,” Nelson said in the news release.
“Spitzer has my full support and endorsement,” Nelson added in the release.
Nelson didn’t return phone and text messages asking about his endorsement of Spitzer.
The announcement comes amid a heated battle for control of the county prosecutor’s office, with incumbent District Attorney Tony Rackauckas seeking to fend off a challenge from his former protégé in the Nov. 6 election.
For the last several months, Nelson has been listed on the DA’s campaign website as endorsing Rackauckas.
Rackauckas’ campaign website continued to list Nelson as endorsing Rackauckas as of Monday evening, several hours after Spitzer’s campaign said Nelson had endorsed Spitzer.
“District Attorney Tony Rackauckas is honored to be endorsed by Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, a majority of the Board of Supervisors including the Chairman (Andrew Do), the Association of Orange County Deputy District Attorneys and the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, among others,” said a statement provided by Rackauckas’ campaign manager, Damian Fussel.
Nelson’s name will be removed from the webpage of Rackauckas’ endorsements, Fussel said.
The other three supervisors on the five-member board – Do, Michelle Steel, and Lisa Bartlett – have endorsed Rackauckas, according to his campaign website.
Spitzer’s campaign announcements previously stated, “Todd Spitzer will not accept endorsements from any current elected officials,” with “not” in bold and underlined.
But Monday’s announcement of Nelson’s endorsement contained a revised promise: “Todd Spitzer will not accept endorsements from elected officials who will be in or are eligible to be in office at the time of the next DA officeholder cycle. (Supervisor Shawn Nelson is serving his last term and will not be in office in 2019).”
Nelson and Spitzer’s clashes date back years. In 2016, Spitzer escalated it, proposing to ban a form of double-dipping from taxpayer funds that Nelson and his chief of staff long engaged in.
For years, Nelson collected a $765-per-month car allowance from the county while also getting a publicly-funded car for free as a perk of his appointment to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) board.
Nelson has received at least $50,000 in car allowance payments from the county while being issued an AQMD car. And Denis Bilodeau, Nelson’s top aide at the county, received $83,000 in payments and benefits in 2015 from other public agencies on top of the $177,000 in salary and benefits he earns from his full-time job at the county.
But when his item to end the double-dipping came up for discussion, Spitzer killed his own proposal, saying it was really about teaching Nelson a lesson.
Nelson called Spitzer’s explanation “bizarre.”
Nelson leveled even harsher criticism this year after Spitzer went into other supervisors’ districts and called homeless people “sex offenders and drug addicts” who don’t want help. At city council meetings outside his district, Spitzer warned residents that a proposal by supervisors to put temporary homeless shelters in Laguna Niguel and Costa Mesa would endanger nearby communities.
County probation officials said there was one convicted sex offender among the several hundred homeless people who would have been eligible for the proposed shelters. And the county would not have allowed sex offenders at the proposed shelters, according to Nelson.
“The idea that we’ve got members of our body showing up at city council meetings in other people’s districts, enflaming the crowd – not only is it outrageous, it’s totally inappropriate. All it does is divide this board,” Nelson said during the April 10 supervisors’ meeting.
“There is only reason to go do that. One. [It’s] all campaign-related.”
Contact Nick Gerda at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @nicholasgerda.