Supervisor Donald Wagner

I had the pleasure to serve as a member of the Orange County Grand Jury this past fiscal year (2022 – 2023). Therefore, I was simply stunned to read a quote from Chairman Don Wagner of the Orange County Board of Supervisors:

“A bunch of retired people with less experience than our own staff….” 

 I served with some outstanding people this past year from all walks of life and global experiences. Multiple members had PHDs, law degrees or were engineers or medical professionals. Numerous held prestigious corporate roles. All voluntarily served for a year for the betterment of our community. There were no personal agendas at work except to assure our County is being governed effectively and efficiently.

I would encourage every Orange County resident to read the reports and draw your own conclusions.

As a former elected Trustee and President of the Irvine Unified School District during the OC Bankruptcy in 1995 (Mr. Wagner’s hometown), suggests that this retiree knows a little bit about governance! In 1995 it was the Board of Supervisors lack of engagement that created one of the largest public bankruptcies in our Country’s history.

As a former executive with Allergan, and Chief Human Resource Officer for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, I understand it sometimes is tough for a board member to hold management accountable, but that’s why Mr. Wagner was elected!

His comments – forgetting about being discriminatory – are simply a way to deflect from the critical issues reflected in all our reports. His comments are not only hurtful but shameful and indicative of the same behavior that existed in 1995 by a Board of Supervisors more interested in their political future than oversight.

Case in point – the looming water crisis in South County is real with 90% dependence on the Colorado River. You can choose to ignore it as the Board did with their poor fiscal oversight in 1995 or recognize the looming challenges ahead.  But why should he care what the Grand Jury report said: “ the Grand Jury are just a bunch of retirees!”

Grand Juries are chartered by the State legislature for a reason – to provide oversight and to enhance good governance.  Perhaps Mr. Wagner should revisit the government code!

Mr. Wagner your comments are not only degrading, they are downright insulting and for those of us who put our life on hold for a year to be of service to our community we expected better. An apology would be a start!

Maybe even some positive actions to solve the several issues highlighted by the 2022-23 Grand Jury and our predecessors.

Tom Burnham, Member Orange County Grand Jury 2022 -2023, Newport Beach, California (full bio here).

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