Category Archives: County Government

Saying Goodbye

You may have heard by now that former Orange County Sheriff, Sandra Hutchens, passed away a few days ago. Hutchens, the third female sheriff in California and the first in Orange County, was 66 at her passing. Current Sheriff Don Barnes wrote an eloquent press release of admiration and respect, calling her a mentor and friend. “She led the department with courage, grace and dignity.”

Sheriff Hutchens took office in a time of strife and crisis in the OCSD. The former sheriff had been tried and convicted of federal charges of witness tampering, stemming from a year long investigation of corruption in the department. The department, to say the least, was left tattered and worn.

Hutchens was appointed for the remainder of the term and went to work immediately to repair the damage done by her predecessor(s). She made substantial changes to the department that left many conservatives wondering about her ability to lead. She was, after all, a product of a liberal Los Angeles County law enforcement agency. But, she was determined to restore the honor and dignity of the deputies who worked for her.

When the federal courts found in favor of the gun-toting crowd in 2014 (Peruta vs. San Diego), Hutchens complied by relaxing the standards for which a concealed weapons permit would be issued. She gained further favor and respect with the conservative crowds when, after the courts overturned the initial order, she left the looser standards in place.

Hutchens’ instincts helped her give the department direction and purpose again. She made changes to the jails to keep prisoners and deputies safer and more accountable. She brought the department into the 21st century regarding the use of electronic databases for record keeping – records that could not be altered. She withstood attacks from the DA’s office and criticism from the Board of Supervisors. Where there was praise, it went to staff; when there was criticism, she readily took the blame. She had high ethical standards and expected the same for those who worked for her.

I met Sheriff Hutchens when she first took office in 2008. I was a board director of the union that represented the sheriffs special deputies and most civilian employees of the department. I found her to be affable, intelligent and respectful of others. She was genuinely interested in the welfare of her employees and it showed. Her demeanor commanded respect, not fear. I liked her.

Sheriff Hutchens retired in 2019 I think due mostly to her long standing battle with breast cancer. She was diagnosed in 2012 and she successfully fought it into remission. She successfully ran for two terms as Sheriff, choosing not to run for a third. Unfortunately, cancer became the ultimate winner and, after a brief relapse, she succumbed to the disease over the weekend.

OC Sheriff Don Barnes said, “She restored our pride, gave us back our dignity and rebuilt trust with the people we serve. She kept her oath, kept her promises, and ended her time in office leaving this agency better than when she started.”

I agree. RIP, Sheriff.

More of the Same?

A few short weeks ago, I was pondering the election numbers of local races. It was interesting to see the “Blue Wave” of the midterms had more or less petered out and conservatives had moved back into some of their old haunts. All in all, not much had changed on the political landscape.

Of course, one conservative that did not fare well was State Senator John Moorlach. Moorlach was ousted by Democrat Dave Min who garnered a 12,000 vote lead in what had previously been considered a Republican stronghold.

Moorlach won a special election in 2015 to elevate from 2nd District OC Supervisor to 37th California Senate District. He won the regular election the following year and, since then, has served without distinction. Of the several bills he has authored or sponsored, most were inconsequential. Of the few that did pass most, if not all, were cosponsored by Democrats.

So, what’s an out of work, former state senator to do?

In Moorlach’s case it’s come home to roost. It just so happens 2nd District OC Supervisor, Michelle Steele, is actually going places (far, far away we hope) as she handily won the election against incumbent Harley Rouda. Steele’s departure has initiated a special election to fill her place. Hmm….

This may not be a walk in the park for Moorlach. For one thing, he has some opposition and, like him, it is mostly Republican. Newport Beach City Councilman, Kevin Muldoon and Huntington Beach Councilman, Mike Posey have both officially announced their candidacy. And, while I thought no Democrat would bother with this clearly Republican District (they hold a 5 point lead and NPPs are almost a third of the vote), one actually has.

Katrina Foley, who is the first directly elected Mayor of Costa Mesa, has wasted no time in throwing her hat in the ring. The ink was hardly dry on her certification papers when she apparently saw greener pastures in the Board of Supervisors. That alone, of course, should cause suspicion that Foley is just another wannabe career politician looking for a foothold to higher office.

Moorlach has come out strong with endorsements from the anti-taxers and the ultra conservatives. Will it be enough to win the election? “That’s my former seat. You don’t have to send a novice in,” said Moorlach recently. I’m sure there was that self-assured smirk on his face as he said it, too. But, if that self-assurance is enough, why did he feel it necessary to bully other potential candidates into dropping out?

I would like to say it would be because he is aware of his not-so-stellar record with the BoS. His constant haranguing of union officials, even calling them thugs on occasion, his refusal to shake hands with those same union officials and his near fanatical hatred of the public employee pension system did not make him a friend around the 5th floor of 333 West Santa Ana Blvd. or the public employee union headquarters just down the street.

Yes, he hated pensions….all while drawing one himself along with all the other perks of being a county supervisor. So, it turns out Moorlach only hates pensions for other public employees but thinks he deserves his own.

So, Moorlach clearly has a problem and it’s not Katrina Foley, per se. Well, in a way it is. Prior to her announcement as a candidate, Moorlach only had to fend off Muldoon and Posey. Democrats still vote. And, if they can’t vote for one of their own, they may vote for someone they think at least leans their way so they can at least feel they did their part. This being a supposedly non-partisan race, voters not seeing a candidate of their persuasion will vote for whoever has the shiniest yard sign. Moorlach might have had some of those votes. Now he won’t and he will be splitting the rest of the vote with Muldoon and Posey.

The OCGOP clearly loves Moorlach and has urged Posey and Muldoon to drop out of the race and throw their support behind Moorlach. Both have stated that they have strong support from constituents. “Right now I’m in it all the way,” Posey said in an interview with the Voice of OC. Both said they had been campaigning for months and were not going to drop out.

The good ol’ boys at the OCGOP understand the real issue. If, by some chance, Muldoon and Posey have a big enough support base, they could actually split enough votes away from Moorlach to allow Katrina Foley to win. And that would mean that, for the first time anyone can remember, there would be a second liberal vote on the Board of Supervisors.

Moorlach would like to believe he is the best candidate for the position (don’t all candidates think that?). But, is he? Yes, he is a CPA. Yes, he foretold the 1994 bankruptcy. No, he did not save the county afterwards. In fact, he was just another political lackey when the bankruptcy hit. But, it was enough to propel him to his original seat on the OC Board of Supervisors and later on to the California State Senate.

But, the county is a different animal these days, facing a different set of problems that don’t really require the expertise of a John Moorlach. Like the rest of the state and country, Orange County is trying to wade through the mess caused by the governor’s poor handling of the Covid crisis. Hard decision will have to be made and the citizens of the 2nd District may not feel he is the best candidate for the job, especially if they have several qualified candidates to choose from. There is also the fact that Moorlach lost his current Senate seat by a wide margin to a Democrat. Much of the 2nd District lies within the same territory has his senate district.

This is a special election and there are two years left on Steele’s term that Moorlach and the rest will be vying for. Whoever wins will have to run for re-election in 2022 and, because of the timing, they will also be allowed to run for another term in 2026. That’s a long time to be saddled with the smug Mr. Moorlach who also likes to surround himself with other eccentrics to help him run his office. Think long and hard before you pull the switch for him. The times they are a changing…. and, so is the county.

Masks, Curfews & Smirks

Courtesy of the BabylonBee.com

It seems like only yesterday we were sitting at the restaurant table, enjoying a glass of wine, laughing with friends and celebrating birthdays. Oh, wait that wasn’t us. That was Governor Gavin Newsom who, as has been typical, ignored the rules he has been touting for 8 months and had a grand old time with friends at the The French Laundry Restaurant in Yountville (that’s Napa for you peasants).

Never mind that he got caught red-handed with photos of him going bare-faced and everything. He actually had the nerve to go on television and , with his most insincere smirk, said that he “owned” the mistake and that was that, you should just forget about it because we all make mistakes, right? Right…..

So, I did something I rarely do, I actually watched the conference where he apologized, gave alarming statistics and said something to the effect that he was “studying” the use of curfews by Germany and Saudi Arabia. That was actually double speak for “we’re going to implement curfews in California,” because -two days later- he did.

In implementing his order for the curfew, Newsom said,  “It is crucial that we act to decrease transmission and slow hospitalizations before the death count surges. We’ve done it before and we must do it again.” Now mind you, I’m not sure this applies to Newsom or the elite in Orange County. Although Tustin issued a press release, it basically referred to the governor’s press release. Perhaps the Chamber of Commerce can shed some light on this.

Of course, there are a couple of questions. For one, it has been my observation that most businesses are already closed by 8pm. I work on the other side of the county several nights a week and often find myself looking for someplace besides the usual fast food joints to get a meal on the way home. It is a rare night when anyone is open. So, I kind of wonder just how much this curfew will accomplish. Does Covid-19 actually become more virulent between the hours of 10pm and 5am? Will I need to double mask?

Then, of course, there is enforcement. Countywide, Sheriff Don Barnes has reiterated his long standing view on the issue. “At this time, due to the need to have deputies available for emergency calls for service, deputies will not be responding to requests for face-coverings or social gatherings-only enforcement,” read a statement from the Sheriff’s office. Barnes had previously said his deputies would take an inform and educate approach to mask enforcement.

Here in Tustin, things are a bit vague. Back in March, when we shutdown the county, the city issued a press release stating that non-essential businesses must be shut. Other than that, there was no discussion of enforcement or any other action to be taken by the police or code enforcement. if TPD arrested anyone for violating the shutdown, I’m not aware of it. The governor’s strike teams didn’t even show up, darn it.+

I suspect, as of Saturday night, it will pretty much be business as usual from 10pm to 5am. Most businesses in the city already close much earlier than that. I doubt the SWAT team will descend on the outdoor patio of Roma d’ Italia if there are a few lingering customers finishing off their wine. And don’t expect your mother-in-law who likes to take late night walks through old town with her corgie to suddenly disappear when armed men dressed in black suddenly fly out of an SUV and whisk her away. Not gonna happen.

Chief of Police, Stu Greenberg, has not issued a press release regarding the curfew. I doubt that his office will, as much as I doubt he will direct his officers to take any enforcement action at all. That’s not to say if you are out and about past 10pm and are acting like an idiot you won’t be stopped. I’m sure at that point the fine officers of our city will pay some attention to you. But, walking your dog after 10pm. Well, that’s essential, isn’t it?

Webster Who?

Credit: Voice of OC

Credit: Voice of OC

Unless you are an avid local political junkie like me or one of the hundred or so readers that still subscribe to the Orange County Register, you may not know who Webster is. That’s Webster Guillory, former Orange County Assessor. For 16 years, until his defeat last year by Claude Parrish, Guillory collected and parsed out the various taxes from residents of Orange County.

Until last year, I can’t think of an election where he was seriously opposed. I mean, tax collector, while a well paying job, is not one most politicians vie for. It’s mostly a mundane managerial job supervising the folks that actually do the work. It’s also not all that controversial. So, why all the hubub lately?

It seems Webster was planning on retiring last year after 16 years on the job. That would have amounted to a dandy little retirement for the 70 year old who has the distinction of being the first African American to hold a county-wide elected office.

Instead, he decided to round out his retirement and, at the last minute, circulated nomination papers to enter the race one more time. And, that’s where his trouble began.

Allegedly, Guillory took out papers at the County Registrar and had an employee circulate them around the office. Other employees were asked (directed?) to sign off as he needed 20 signatures and time was running out.

All in all, Guillory is facing three felony counts resulting from the signature gathering. Additionally, but probably with no consequence, there is also the question of whether the signature gathering was done on county time as was alleged by employees of the former Assessor in a complaint filed last year with the Orange County DA.

According to the Voice of OC, Guillory’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 24th after being postponed due to scheduling conflicts. At that time, evidence will be presented to determine if a trial should be held. If Guillory is convicted, he faces over 4 years in prison. Well, actually, due to the way non-violent offenders are treated nowadays, he would more likely be the guest of Sheriff Sandra Hutchens. Maybe.