A complete MAUK-ery: The Misrule of Orange County’s CEO.


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Tom Mauk. Now that the Great Pink Whale John Williams has been vanquished, it's time to take a closer look at the Top Dog. Photo by Michael Goulding, OC Register

Damn, this county has been run badly these last few years.  I mean, hell’s bells.  Who’s been in charge?  Are they asleep at the switch?  That would be our County CEO Thomas G MaukSince his appointment  September 28, 2004, Mauk has presided over a lavish and consequence-free culture of self-dealing that’s cost OC taxpayers millions and millions.  Tens of millions.

CEO Mauk’s performance review with the Board of Supervisors is coming up Tuesday night. They may offer him a raise, to offset his recent pickup of his own pension costs – got that? – in the same stroke erasing any savings we might have enjoyed from his taking over his pension costs.  In a poll below we will ask you if you think he deserves a raise, or to be kept on at the same salary, or to be replaced.  But first, dear reader, consider the following items:

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Consider:  As a scathing audit revealed last year, the County’s Human Relations  under Mauk regularly approved unjustified raises and promotions, breaking county and state rules to benefit its own employees and those of Mauk’s office, squandering over a hundred million of your money and mine.  It was a free-for-all, everyone giving each other the highest performance reviews, people approving their own raises, the Supervisors being kept in the dark over promotions and raises they were supposed to have been in charge of.  More gruesome details are here – pay raises of 33% within 6 months, a Dana Point Harbors Director with four raises in 9 months, and more.

HR employees admitted that after a while they had stopped making much effort to review the required explanations for raises and promotion requests submitted by Mauk’s office and other superiors. “They are our bosses and it would not be advantageous for us to deny their requests,” an employee told auditors, in a textbook portrait of intimidation.

Mauk responded to the audit by kicking the messenger, with what’s said to be a blistering attack on the auditor, in a memo which the press and public have not been allowed to see.  The Supervisors reacted to the whole mess last December with the most minor of  cosmetic fixes, ordering pay cuts and demotions for just a few of the more egregious offenders.

Labor chief Nick Berardino‘s comment on this story keeps things in perspective for all you public-employee bashers:

“For several years we have been screaming at the top of our lungs, while rank and file workers were being furloughed and laid off, that managers and executives were lining their pockets and giving themselves raises,” Berardino said. “It’s irresponsible and an affront to working families here in the county.”

Hapless Hubbard.

As a frequent commenter on this blog has reminded us, former Newport-Mesa superintendent Jeffrey Hubbard got 60 days in jail for similar unauthorized pay to ONE employee (that he had a crush on) – and that was only $23,000, compared to millions and millions that Mauk and his cronies flung at each other for years, with complete impunity.

I guess if you’re going to swindle the public, swindle them BIG is the lesson!?!?

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Consider the case of Deanna Fogarty-Hardwick, whose suit against the County over two social workers who lied to take away her daughter resulted in a judgment in her favor which the County appealed for four years, ALL THE WAY TO THE SUPREME COURT, until it ended up costing us $10.6 MILLION.  ($9.6 to the Seal Beach mother and her counsel, which you can see below, and another million in the County’s own legal costs.)

She didn’t want that.  She didn’t think that would happen.  As her attorney Shawn McMillan marveled, “It was pretty amazing — they succeed in taking a $5 million award and doubling it for us.  In my view, the taxpayers in Orange County should be pissed. This never should have gone this far.”

Deanna, victorious.

She didn’t want that?  No, and actually McMillan vastly understates the facts:  As we learned two months ago, the mother had originally offered to settle with the county for HALF A MILLION. $500,000.  The cruel stubbornness of our County, after depriving a mother of her daughter’s childhood, to refuse to part with half a million, ended up costing us TWENTY-ONE-FOLD.  The Moorlach sounds dazed when trying to explain this.  (He blames the bureaucracy’s blind trust in its employees.  I blame the bureaucracy’s symbiotic relationship with lawyers, along with its attitude that the public it’s supposed to serve is the ENEMY.)

The award was already up to 5 million before the Supes even caught wind of it, so naturally they said, “Sure, appeal it.”  If they had known about it when it was a half-million offer they probably wouldn’t have.  Obviously they’ll have to keep a closer eye on things and micro-manage, as long as the people who are paid in the quarter-million range to run the County let this kind of shit happen.  Another giant Mauk Debacle.

Oh – typically sweet postscript – the two lying social workers, retaining the trust of their superiors, have been moved laterally but are still doing “social work,” and still, more than likely, lying.

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Consider the entire clusterfuck surrounding The Worst Public Administrator / Public Guardian Ever, the departed John S Williams.  We’ve written here endlessly about the disaster that was his tenure in that office, and we like to think we had something to do with facilitating his departure, as costly as it was.  We should have maybe been more clear that the misrule of Mr Williams was only a subsection of the misrule of Mr Mauk.  The above-quoted article on the county audit includes the bullet point:

Human resources officials repeatedly violated county policy by permanently promoting employees into temporarily classified positions. The most egregious violator was the Public Administrator/Public Guardian, which permanently promoted employees into temporary roles 13 times in three years.

Williams and Buff at play.

But that’s all old news to any studious Orange Juice reader.  Let’s check in on the AFTERMATH of the Williams Cataclysm, surely a time that would try any County CEO’s soul and give him a chance to show what he’s made of.  As you may recall from the seminal article “When Scumbags Collide,” golden boy Todd Spitzer‘s impertinent questioning of Williams’ assistant Peggi Buff, who also just happened to be the girlfriend of DA Tony Rackauckas, not only led to Spitzer’s firing as assistant DA but also brought uncomfortable attention to the nepotistic hiring of minimally qualified Buff in the first place.  (She was after all one of those 13 egregious examples mentioned in the above passage.)

So how does Mauk deal with the improper hiring of the DA’s unqualified girlfriend?  Why, he fobs her off to another department with a new high-paying gig (nearly 100 grand) processing employee tuition reimbursement.  Problem solved!

As Williams refused to leave his elected position, but was clearly unqualified to continue doing the actual job, Mauk had to find an interim Public Guardian, and reached out to his old La Habra crony Bill Mahoney (La Habra where Mauk used to be City Manager and Mahoney Councilman – although not at the same time.)  Turns out Mahoney wasn’t really qualified for that job either, after all;  Mauk claimed Mahoney had recent probate experience but according to the California State Bar he hadn’t practiced law for well over a decade!

From what I hear from my pajaritos, the new Public Guardian wanted to fire the Chief Deputy and the Personnel Director, but Mauk refused.  The Personnel Director was transferred to County HR, while the Chief Deputy remains.  Meanwhile, the people of Orange County fervently hope that Todd Spitzer doesn’t file a wrongful termination suit, which he’d probably win, costing us more millions.  Come on, Todd, not filing that suit will go some distance toward making up for your embarrassing long-ago 3%-at-50 vote!

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Consider the case of that perpetually priapic buffoon, Carlos Bustamante.   This Santa Ana Councilman and former OC Public Works official was once considered a rising star in the Republican Party, despite his meager talents and oafish manner – Latino Republicans are so hard to come by, and some women of ruder tastes might even find him handsome.  Even when he notoriously remarked to his pal Paul Walters, in front of journalists, that Paul would have had Sandra Hutchens’ Sheriff job if only he had worn a “water bra,” his star only dimmed imperceptibly.

Then there was the matter of the anonymous letters last year, accusing the family man of regularly shtupping women in his County office – four of ‘em at least! – and then PROMOTING them as reward!  Nothing has been revealed publicly of the ensuing investigation, and Carlos denies the allegations as sullenly as he denies making the “water bra” comment that everybody heard, but Norberto hears that “numerous women have already talked to the investigator and confirmed an array of complaints against” him, and sure enough he left his County post with his head down, but still leers at us from the Santa Ana dais.

What of the women?  That’s the interesting part.  Carlos was a favorite of Mauk’s county bureaucracy – in fact he was one of the recipients of the multiple unjustified raises mentioned above – so these women are now whistleblowers, i.e. hated.  They’ve all been moved into cushy County management positions where they will now be at-will employees.

Girls, girls.  I hope you are reading this.  Figure out your deadline for filing civil action suits against the County, and have your résumés ready by then.  My whistleblower friends know whereof they speak.  Retaliation – it’s the OC way!

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Finally, consider the most apocalyptic of CEO Mauk’s fuck-ups:  the loss, through ostrichlike head-in-the-sand inaction, of $48 million of state funds to which the County had become accustomed since our 1994 bankruptcy.  I’m tired now, and you’re tired.  If you want to understand how we came to this pass, Norberto explains it well, as does Mr. Peabody here (while tying it directly to CEO Mauk.)

Long story short, five years ago procedures were not bothered with that should have been, and we’ve been continuing to receive that money anyway through sheer inertia, but last year vigilant budget eyes in Sacramento noticed that we weren’t supposed to be, so now we’re not.  And it would have been easy to do something about this five years ago – Norberto warned about it in the pinche Register way back then! Now all the politicians and bureaucrats are rushing about pointing fingers at each other in a truly rich comical tableaux … but WE folksy ones know that the fish rots from the head down and it’s yet another Mauk Debacle.

Okay.  The best way for lay people like you and I to understand this situation is to think of that movie Office Space.  Remember the character Milton, obsessed with his Swingline stapler, who mumbles to himself at his desk all day busying himself with shuffling papers?  And when the downsizing experts show up, they ask, who is this Milton guy, why is he here, your records show that he was fired five years ago but he keeps getting a paycheck, because of some “glitch in payroll.”  And then they “fix the glitch.”  No need to tell Milton anything about it, he’ll just eventually notice he’s not getting his paycheck and “things will work themselves out.”

And you and I are Milton, left wondering where our paycheck went, that we’ve been getting for years and years, and mumbling, “But, my stapler … my stapler …”  Tom Mauk?  Well, he is also Milton, and he’s mumbling “my stapler” with us.   Except that, Tom Mauk is still making a quarter million dollars a year, and might even get a raise Tuesday night.  Which reminds me…

What do you think?

When the Supervisors meet Tuesday night, CEO Tom Mauk should...

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Update

[UPDATE: I've been hearing from various knowledgable people that I trust, that a lot of what I blame Mauk for in this article - maybe even most of it - is really orders from the elected Supervisors that Mauk follows and takes the fall for.  Hm.  Well, I'm not going to re-write this thing, it's still a great overview of the corruption of our County in the last 5-6 years.  But I don't want to be unfair.  I will now add a second poll... - V]

The bulk of the culture of corruption and self-dealing outlined above can be laid at the feet of:

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About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist in Orange County. Performs regularly with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem, and at regular concerts at the Huntington Beach Central Library.