Should round-the-clock armed police be stationed at Orange County Fire Authority’s headquarters?

Fire Authority officials proposed paying the county $1 million a year to have sheriff’s special officers provide security there.

But when it came up for approval on Tuesday, county supervisors rejected it overwhelmingly.

Supervisors Don Wagner and Lisa Bartlett – both of whom are on the Fire Authority’s board – led the way in rejecting the deal.

They cited a lack of any known safety threats – and being given the runaround about their concerns.

“There have been no threats identified,” Wagner said, citing briefings by Orange County’s law enforcement intelligence center.

“Let’s be honest, the threat isn’t really there,” he added.

The two supervisors were given the runaround at the Fire Authority when they had concerns, Wagner said.

There have been concerns at OCFA about board member attendance this year. 

[ Read more here: Is Orange County’s Fire Authority on Fire? ]

“When Supervisor Bartlett and I raised issues at the [Fire] Authority, we [were] told, ‘Well you should have sat on the ad hoc committee that vetted this stuff,’ ” he said.

There was just one problem, he added.

“Neither of us were invited to the ad hoc committee.”

County supervisors ultimately voted 4-to-1 to reject the security contract.

Katrina Foley was the supervisor who voted against rejecting the contract, and noted that sheriff special officers – who would have been added as a result of the contract – could later promote into deputy sheriff roles.

Foley, a Democrat, is being supported by at least $337,000 in campaign money from the county sheirffs’ deputies union in her closely-watched re-election as supervisor. Most of that money is being spent on promoting her, and the rest on attacking her opponent, Republican state Sen. Pat Bates.

Fire Authority officials did not speak at the supervisors’ Tuesday meeting where their contract was up for approval.

The Fire Authority was formed in 1995 in the aftermath of the county government’s infamous bankruptcy, with the former county fire department – and its financial liabilities – spun off into the authority.

It is OC’s largest fire agency – contracted to be the fire department of 23 of the county’s 34 cities as well as unincorporated areas like the inland canyons.

Nearly 2 million residents are in the Fire Authority’s jurisdiction.

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

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