When Scumbags Collide: Let Spitzer do his damage to Williams and T-Rack.


There is a phenomenon observed and studied by astronomers, known as Schroeder’s Parabola:  It consists of an adjoined pair of “dark stars” – similar to black holes, sucking in light from the entire area, while feeding off each other’s dark energy and exchanging dark heavy matter.  Then what’s been observed, and not yet explained, is a solid body will come hurtling toward this pair of dark stars, seemingly on a collision course, then suddenly stop and orbit closely around them in ostensible stability, for months or even years, until some mysterious circumstance (possibly a nearby explosion of foul gas) causes the body to abruptly leave its orbit and go crashing into one of the dark stars which in turn crashes into the other, and the entire area of space that had been pitch black for so many eons is instantly illuminated with brilliant light, as debris from the two stars flies in every direction.

Or maybe I just dreamed all that.  Still, it’s illustrative of the current imbroglio we’re witnessing in Orange County’s bureaucracies.

The mercurial and opportunistic Spitzer.

The OC Weekly’s Scott Moxley seems to have a grudging fondness for the “as-good-as-no-DA” DA Tony Rackauckas and the malevolent power couple Mike and Susan Kang Schroeder – perhaps a liability of covering the same folks for so many years .  Thus his first instinct was to question the character of the apparently mercurial and opportunistic Todd Spitzer.  As he details in his recent piece “Will the Real Todd Spitzer Please Stand Up,” Spitzer’s gone from being:

  1. A Jewish firebrand decrying the corruption of T-Rack and the Schroeders and threatening the former with electoral challenge;  to:
  2. Spending 18 months as a loyal assistant prosecutor to the same crowd, “converting to Christianity” and fully expecting to be T-Rack’s anointed successor;  to:
  3. Now, after his sudden firing for asking the wrong questions of T-Rack ally John Williams’ office, becoming an aggrieved critic once again of the crowd’s corruption.  (And perhaps even once again Jewish?  Moxley doesn’t ask.)

But the question of Spitzer’s character, credibility and motives isn’t really that germane until if and when he runs for election. (That’s probably 2014. Mark those burning questions of character on your calendars there!) The important thing is to take this rare opportunity of illumination to sort through all the debris, and perhaps obliterate at least one of these dark stars.

Moxley’s turf seems to be T-Rack and the Schroeders, while I seem to have attracted the growing legion of John Williams discontents.  Moxley thus metaphorically gets the roast beef while I get the baloney.   Mmm.  Baloney.

Refreshing our memories on the Worst Public Administrator / Guardian EVER.™

As you may recall from our May essay (which failed to prevent this baboon’s re-election in June) the Original Sin in the John Williams saga was the combining of the elected, low-paying job of Public Administrator with the appointed, high-paying (up to 200K counting benefits & perks) post of Public Guardian.  At the same time this newly combined office was made independent and removed from the supervision of HCA, the Health Care Agency.  These two moves had the effect of making Williams’ position permanently unassailable and unaccountable, at least as long as low-information voters go to poll clutching the latest slate mailer and/or skip over the offices they don’t know anything about.  Hence, given Williams’ character and that of his associates, the PA/PG office evolved into a lucrative patronage scam for GOP insiders.  (As one lady disturbingly said to a friend of mine, “Ah, but John Williams has done so many good things for the Republicans!”)

Peggi Buff, the future Mrs. Rackauckas, at play (Republican National Convention, 2008)

Money being no object, Williams began hiring new at-will managers at six figures a year – nearly a dozen, filling posts never before deemed necessary.  These were good loyal Republicans who were owed favors, many close to DA Tony Rackauckas – most notably Williams’ top aide Peggi Buff who we’ve just learned is the DA’s  bride-to-be.  THAT’S quite a convenient set-up for someone who wants to avoid accountability, and a fact that ended up biting Spitzer in the ass.  Preferring to spend his time traveling to Florida on the taxpayer dime as (supposedly) part of his other gig as a South OC Community College District trustee, the ex-bailiff Williams came to rely on all these T-Rack imports to manage the PA/PG job, while doubling the “annual base salary” at the agency by about $1 million a year.

Well okay, to a degree money’s no object – when you’re pleasing your friends.  But it’s gotta be made up somewhere, so staff was cut – the lower-paid “deputies” who do the actual work of going out in the field to meet and work with all these vulnerable people, the aged, mentally ill, sickly, friendless, who still have property of some sort to administer.  Overworked underpaid deputies grow demoralized with doubled and tripled caseloads;  cases that should take months drag on for years, while the whole time fees are charged to these people’s estates that go to the PA/PG’s office.  Oftentimes these fees eat up the whole estate!

Just last year two DAMNING  Grand Jury reports were produced detailing all these fuckups and more, and recommending as a very START that the PA and PG jobs should be separated again, and those jobs brought back under the supervision of the HCA.  Orange County CEO Tom Mauk agreed and brought the matter to the Board of Supervisors;  Supes Moorlach and Campbell also concurred.  John Williams, his position and reputation on the line, didn’t even bother to show up but instead sent his trusty attorney, the ethically challenged Phil Greer who seems to represent every powerful lowlife in the OC.  The remaining Supes – Norby, Bates and Nguyen – seeing their own trusty attorney on the stand, stood by John Williams.

…who felt fully exonerated and has continued his reign of incompetence, cronyism and waste, a Teflon wig-topped tortoise of public squander.

And as these sort of things tend to do, it only gets uglier.

As his agency’s deficits kept building and he had no desire to terminate any of his highly-paid at-will employees, and as the state and the nation began suffering the longest stretch of bad economy in memory, PA/PG John Williams and his circle began to look for ways to raise more revenue. And the easiest, most logical way was to pounce more aggressively on the estates of the people he was entrusted to protect and serve, to leech them for fees.  And this is what the recent Spitzer kerfuffle helped bring to light.

Vampire Squid on the Face of Humanity

The celebrated description Matt Taibbi coined for Goldman Sachs, “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jabbing its blood funnel into anything that smells like money,” comes to mind here.  Even the Red County has  called out Williams as a “Big Government Bully” for his stubborn insistence on draining fees from the helpless folks he should be protecting, rather than cut his agency’s own prodigious expenditures.

We already knew about the case of the late Charles Lewis’ estate, thanks to Dissent the Blog. You may remember Lewis, better known as “The Mask,” the hugely successful “mixed martial artist” who founded the “TapouT” line of clothes, meeting an untimely demise wrapped around a Newport lightpost last year.  The unmarried guy’s estate was worth over $10 million, and John Williams fought the single Illinois mother of Lewis’ two children for that estate like a wolverine.  During the early successful phase of Williams’ struggle, he boasted around the office, “The fees from this one will balance our whole 2009-10 budget!”  Sadly, (*snark*) the mother ended up with the money, and will be able to pass it on to Lewis’ chldren, while Williams vainly protested that such a large amount would be MUCH too difficult for a single Illinois mother to manage.

This most recent business with Todd Spitzer – Todd’s inquiring with Williams’ aide Peggi Buff over a similarly avaricious move, and then getting unceremoniously fired by Peggi’s DA fiancé as punishment – has suggested these cases are just the tip of the iceberg, a suspicion confirmed by my confidantes in the department.

And word on the street is that Todd is on the warpath.  When are you going to return my calls and e-mails, Todd?  When can I stop calling you “mercurial and opportunistic” and not write titles suggesting obliquely that you may be one of the “colliding scumbags?”

And also…

Where have you gone, Shawn Nelson?
A county turns its lonely eyes to you…

The world of people who are deeply distraught by John Williams’ abuses – okay, that’s a small world, but it should be bigger – felt optimistic seeing Chris Norby replaced on the Board of Supervisors by Shawn Nelson, who at least affects a concern over waste and corruption, and is not represented by the ubiquitous Phil Greer.  With Shawn on the Board joining Moorlach and Campbell, we SHOULD have a majority that would do what CEO Mauk and the Grand Jury want – separate the PA and PG jobs leaving Williams with a humble government post, under the supervision of the Health Care Agency, a position from which he’d no doubt weasel out somehow, and good riddance.  We’ve been waiting a few months now.

But don’t you worry your heads about Johnny Boy, even after that happens he’ll live a lavish retirement, at taxpayer expense as always.  I’ve got an accountant friend doing the math, but John Williams will be pulling a  Sheriff’s Sergeants Full-Disability Pension, the PA/PG retirement and County-paid savings plan, in addition to all the retirement he’ll get with 20+ years as a college trustee.  So even when we finally beat him, John Williams wins.


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official political troubadour of Anaheim and most other OC towns. Regularly makes solo performances, sometimes with his savage-jazz band The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.