Following significant salary hikes granted by Orange County Supervisors to Sheriff Deputies, fueling a 33 percent increase in costs over the past decade, contract cities are now starting to publicly question whether they need to look into alternatives. OC’s biggest contract city, Mission Viejo, takes leadership on a new audit of Sheriff’s patrol services. Big questions also loom over whether city or county taxpayers own the long-term pension obligations for both Deputy Sheriff’s and Firefighters if cities bolt from current regional policing and fire protection models.
Orange County’s Sheriff Sandra Hutchens’ credibility has been destroyed by Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals. Meanwhile, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas stands accused of political corruption by his own senior investigators. Regional fire service also is in full crisis mode after executives at the Orange County Fire Authority apparently ousted Fire Chief Jeff Bowman against the will of rank and file firefighters.
This month, Orange County’s state fairgrounds in Costa Mesa formally opened a memorial to agricultural workers – a far cry from where the agency stood nearly a decade ago when fair board members led the charge to privatize what they termed “an underutilized asset.”
It’s been more than 14 months since Orange County voters approved an ethics commission. Still, only one county supervisor – Shawn Nelson – has appointed a board member to the important oversight panel, which has yet to publicize any actions or the appointment process.
Publisher Norberto Santana Jr. writes that Orange County supervisors should reimburse local taxpayers for the more than $120,000 in legal fees they just had to pay Voice of OC after losing a public records lawsuit. It likely won’t be the last time the courts are needed to pry public records loose and Santana says Voice of OC will stay on the case.
With many insiders scratching their heads about the recent grand jury report on jailhouse snitches, focus is increasingly on the upcoming race for DA in 2018. Amidst lingering questions about current DA Tony Rackauckas’ leadership and the judgment of his challenger, Supervisor Todd Spitzer, a third option has arisen out of Chapman University’s law school, Professor Mario Mainero.
Despite a critical grand jury report on the horizon and two sets of ongoing lawsuits from Sheriff’s Special Officers and Deputy Sheriff’s rank and file arguing her department is politicized and mismanaged, OC Sheriff Sandra Hutchens keeps playing it cool.
A state bill AB 1479 – up for vote on Friday – would create a fine for agencies that grossly violate California’s Public Records Act. A recent successful Voice of OC lawsuit against the County of Orange, appealing denied public records about an evangelist handcuffed by a county supervisor while armed, is a prime test case for the fine.
As homeless encampments continue to pop up in places like local libraries, civic centers and the riverbed along the 57 Freeway, a growing chorus is asking if a housing bond, similar to the popular, Measure M transportation tax, for affordable and supportive housing could spur a true continuum of homelessness care in Orange County.