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Grand Jury Blasts Corruption in OC

Recounting the county's history of corruption scandals and even comparing the county with New York's Tammany Hall, the grand jury calls for reform in Orange County government.

Orange County grand jury members released a report today recounting past corruption in the county and calling on supervisors to form a blue-ribbon commission to have ethical oversight.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer took the grand jury report as an opportunity to say he would call for the formation of a citizens' commission that would oversee enforcement of campaign contribution violations in county government. Spitzer said he would partner with government watchdog Shirley Grindle, who wrote the Time Is Now, Clean Up Politics -- or TINCUP -- ordinance approved by voters in 1991.

Spitzer's announcement, however, also offered a reprise of his public spat with Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, the one-time mentor who was grooming him to eventually step into the role of top prosecutor until the two had a messy public divorce and Spitzer was fired.

The grand jury's report also drew the ire of Supervisor John Moorlach, who complained it painted the county with too "broad a brush," and wasn't helpful in how county leaders could battle corruption.

The report offers a lengthy recounting of the county's corruption scandals and even compared the county with New York's Tammany Hall and Mayor Richard J. Daley's political machine from the 1950s through the 1970s.

"From 1974-77, an eye-popping 43 Orange County political figures were indicted, among them, two congressmen, three supervisors and the county assessor," the report reads. "Sadly, the conduct continues today at all levels of Orange County government."

The grand jury recommends that the supervisors create a blue ribbon commission to study ethics programs and then give advice to public officials and employees. The commission should also have oversight authority and be able to "enforce compliance through the use of warning letters, administrative settlements and the issuance of annual public reports," according to the grand jury.

Moorlach prefers putting a measure on the ballot that would change the county's charter to "incorporate some better practices" regarding ethical issues.

Moorlach criticized the grand jury report for being too vague on solutions.

"I'm just not so sure I can get my arms around what they want us to do," Moorlach said. "And I don't appreciate the broad brush."

Moorlach said the grand jury has been losing credibility with many of the county's political leaders.

"I think some of us have gotten to the point where we just don't see the grand jury as being feared or as being helpful or adding benefit or value, and some of us have been willing to even state that publicly," Moorlach said.

Spitzer was also critical of the report.

"They don't ask the fundamental question of why," Spitzer said.

"The Mike Carona's of the world thought they could get away with it because of their relationship with the District Attorney's Office," Spitzer said, referring to the disgraced former Orange County sheriff, who is doing time in a federal prison for witness tampering.

"The District Attorney and (Carona) had the same political advisor," Spitzer said, referring to Michael Schroeder, husband of Rackauckas' chief of staff, Susan Kang Schroeder.

"The problem is there has been this tone of tolerance," Spitzer said. "The report speaks for itself. This is the grand jury saying there's a tone of tolerance in the county... Everyone knows of the relationship between the District Attorney and Mike Carona and everyone knows it shouldn't have taken the federal government to prosecute Mike Carona."

Susan Kang Schroeder fired back that Spitzer is a hypocrite because he was endorsed by Carona in past political campaigns. Rackauckas' chief of staff also noted that Spitzer was fired from his job as prosecutor, in part, because of what were considered ethical lapses.

At one community meeting in which Spitzer was using the District Attorney's office materials he announced that he was running for District Attorney in 2014, Schroeder said.

The District Attorney's Office has been "vigorously" prosecuting political corruption cases, Schroeder said, adding that her boss recently won funding from the supervisors to expand a "public integrity unit" devoted to prosecuting official corruption.

"The special prosecutions unit is the largest it's ever been," Schroeder said.

"It's wrong for (Spitzer) to attack the professionalism of the men and women of the District Attorney's office," Schroeder said. "When they get a complaint, they vigorously pursue it and prosecute it... They look at the facts and it doesn't matter who it is."

When Rackauckas was made aware that then-county executive Carlos Bustamante was accused of sexually assaulting several women he managed the top prosecutor put together a case against him, Schroeder noted. The ex-Santa Ana City Councilman is awaiting trial.

"When we get a case the simple analysis is, 'Did that person commit a crime or not,' " Schroeder said. "We do a lot of political corruption cases."

- City News Service

Joker Joe April 18, 2013 at 04:21 PM
Mike Same goes for the murder of Marine Sgt. Manny Loggins by the sheriff's dept. Talk about corruption.
Joker Joe April 18, 2013 at 04:28 PM
Todd Appreciate the input. I can see where the last statement is totally true. "The DA protects his friends and love ones but goes after his enemies with a vengeance".
Todd Spitzer April 19, 2013 at 10:24 AM
Ron: appreciate your sentiment. But when the DA's Office fabricates information we should all worry. Kang states that I misused office resources and announced that I was running for DA. I was speaking at a Lion's Club lunch event on my own time (lunch) utilizing assistance of a DA projector and powerpoint set up by a DA staff member. I have attached the letter from the Lion's Club's First VP showing that she introduced me as a potential candidate; I did not offer that information nor request to be introduced that way. Don't expect Kang to recite accurate facts when it doesn't help her case. Here is the link to the Lion's Club letter which Kang has had a copy since it was written. Kang never contacted the author of the letter to verify its veracity since it would hurt her ability to argue inaccurate information. The reason it was reported to her this way is because any DA personnel who deliver intel to Kang that she can use against people she wants to harm are rewarded. https://dl-web.dropbox.com/get/Public/Lions%20Club%20October%202010/LionsClub10-13-10.pdf?w=AABleLdlnZgjJ-B-GF0IfqmJV3tu39MjKFEWnhyZdVDPAA Todd Spitzer, Orange County Supervisor
Jim Gardner April 19, 2013 at 02:26 PM
Todd Spitzer, "Corruption" doesn't necessarily confine itself to "campaign contribution violations". The way the campaign laws are written, supervisors and city council members are able to accept large sums of money from businesses/people seeking contracts or concessions from the county/city, and then these public officials can vote to give these businesses/people thousands/millions of dollars worth of public funds. I have documented these cases many times on The Patch. Here is a link to my last article on this subject http://lakeforest-ca.patch.com/blog_posts/is-lake-forest-for-sale-part-6-the-council-acts Here is a link to the series I wrote last year. http://lakeforest-ca.patch.com/blog_posts/follow-the-money-part-5-the-incentive-program Any citizens commission should look beyond the campaign contribution laws if we want to uncover corruption. I would be happy to assist in any way I can.
Chris Jones April 22, 2013 at 05:11 AM
I've seen the corruption first hand myself: I was arrested on bogus sex charges in Jan 2006 and then beaten unconscious in OC jail. When that other gentleman was murdered in the OC jail in Oct of 2006, they couldn't allow me to be found 'not guilty' and therein demonstrate this to be a pattern under Sheriff Corona. The problem was that I truly was innocent. They threatened the so-called "victims" when they tried to recant, they black-mailed other "victims" into falsely testifying, they suppressed evidence, they barred a former FBI chief from testifying of falsified police reports and perjury by detectives, the judge said he'd hold me in contempt if I smiled in front of the jury, i was remanded into custody without reason and forbidden from showering, shaving, or making phone-calls for 8 days, i was disallowed a pen and paper in trial to take notes, a direct family member of someone testifying against me was at the judge's house the night before trial, etc. I mean, Jesus, I would of taken the plea bargain had I known it was going to be a complete sham! Botton line: it was cheaper and less embarrassing to lock me away than it was to pay me off and face the publicity. And everybody was in on it -- the costa mesa police, the sheriff dept, the D.A., and the judge!! Chris Jones

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