1 – 2 – 3 – Moorlach Strikes Out!

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Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach is a personable fellow. His 6’5” presence, sense of humor and automatic ability to schmooze with most anyone makes him easy to like. Sometimes liking someone makes it harder to criticize. But, Moorlach has been an elected public official for over a decade now, and that places his actions in the public sector on the table for all to see. And it is time to evaluate his performance on behalf of the taxpayers.

This morning’s Register reports that the State Supreme Court has declined to hear the county’s appeal on its lawsuit seeking to invalidate the retirement plan the County Supervisors (before Moorlach was on the Board) made with the Sheriff Deputies Union. The legal logic of this lawsuit has been reported and debated in this blog several times, so no need to repeat that. The pertinent issue is that it was Supervisor John Moorlach who spearheaded this lawsuit against the advice of several law firms who predicted failure. It was Moorlach who convinced 3 of his Board colleagues to sue, and then to appeal when an adverse decision was rendered against the county. In pursuing the appeal, Moorlach got the county to double-down, in Las Vegas terms, and risk not only losing the lawsuit but risk having to pay the Deputy Sheriff Union’s legal fees.

The Register story quotes a Sheriff Deputies Union spokesman as saying they plan to pursue recovery from the County of their legal fees and that could bring the total taxpayer cost of this Moorlach project to over $ 5 million. The article does not mention the legal costs incurred by the Orange County Retirement System (OCERS), also named as a defendant by the County in the suit, but logic would say they too could be eligible for reimbursement.

The Deputies lawsuit is strike 3.

This year there has been a scandal regarding the performance, or lack thereof, of Public Administrator-Public Guardian John Williams. While Williams captured the elected spot of Public Administrator at the polls, the media has reported that Supervisor John Moorlach was the primary advocate for naming Williams as the Public Guardian as well, in spite of recommendations from the County CEO and others to not do so. The Board majority did appoint Williams to that job at least partly in response to Moorlach’s advocacy, and it has now blown up. Currently Williams is drawing the salary for the job, while another person has been assigned by the County CEO to actually do the job.   Williams was a personnel pick by Moorlach that we now know was a big mistake.

The Williams fiasco was Moorlach’s strike 2.

Moorlach brought us Assistant Tax Collector-Treasurer, and eventually Treasurer, Chriss Street. His character has been pretty well exposed in a lawsuit brought against him for his duties as a court-appointed bankruptcy trustee prior to his work for the county. This caused Moorlach to convince his Board colleagues to strip former friend Street of the responsibility to invest county funds, and that led to Street leaving office. Clearly, Moorlach’s management ability to pick good people to fill key positions in the county organization was inadequate in this one too.

The saga of Christ Street was strike 1.

So there are now three major costly public policy mistakes by Moorlach (though the Register story this morning quotes him as arguing the Deputies lawsuit and appeal was not a mistake, it was the right thing to do). The taxpayer cost of these mistakes is well into the 7 figure range, and possibly 8 figures. This is real public money gone because of bad management decision making.

Nice guy or not, the other members of the Board of Supervisors would be well advised to try and contain Moorlach’s influence during the remainder of Moorlach’s term. Once his term is over the taxpayers would be best served if John returned to the private sector where his management decisions can do less damage.

About Over But Not Out

A retired Orange County employee, and moderate Republican. The editor seriously does not know OBNO's identity as did not the former editor, but his point of view is obviously interesting and valued.