Moorlach Should be Embarrassed, Censured




Imagine that you are sitting on the Board of Directors of a large corporation, making policy decisions for the CEO and staff to carry out. Your organization has a positive cash flow most of the year, but due to seasonal differences there is a short period of time each year that borrowing money is necessary in order to meet payroll and other obligations. For this reason, the credit standing of your organization is important.

To make sure that lenders hold your organization in reasonably high regard and will provide this bridge funding at a good interest rate, you go back to Wall Street periodically to share financial information and convince the lenders that your organization is a low risk borrower. Everything is fine, until one morning you pick up the newspaper and see a column written by one of your fellow Directors. And, in that column he writes that your organization is faced with a burgeoning debt and likely to file for bankruptcy some time down the road. You know instantly that the Board of Directors did not endorse this writing, and that in fact the majority of the Board and your CEO disagree strongly with the views set forth in this newspaper column.

You can imagine the damage done to the ability of the organization to borrow short term money going forward. You call for an immediate meeting of the Board of Directors, seeking to have the Board member who wrote this article censured, and possibly removed from the Board. Clearly this person is not a team player, and since this is not the first time he has struck out on his own like this he is a recognized loose cannon.

This is exactly what has happened recently in County of Orange Government. The loose cannon is Supervisor John Moorlach, and his op-ed piece appeared in the Orange County Register on August 26. If you read it, and only it, you would think the end of the world for our county government is virtually upon us. However, if you read follow-up stories and some posts that faulted Moorlach’s reasoning, you would begin to suspect that not only does he not speak for county government, he is dead wrong.

In his writing he launches into an all familiar right-leaning stance that the county’s retirement obligations are debt, and that debt exceeds the ability of the county to pay it. Never mind that the courts have ruled that those so-called obligations are not debt at all, but simply an estimate of costs over 30 years based upon many assumptions, including how long retirees will live, what annual raises county employees will receive, what age will county employees retire, and many other things that are estimated. No, Moolach erroneously paints this as debt.

Another elected official, County Auditor-Controller David Sundstrom, has stepped forward to criticize Moorlach’s so called logic, publicly stating that the county is in good financial shape. Since then Moorlach has been backtracking on his writing that bankruptcy is in the offing. The first wise move he has made in some time.

Next time you hear that government should be run like the private sector, keep in mind that an elected loose cannon who independently sullies the financial reputation of his or her government entity cannot be removed from the Board of Supervisors by his/her colleagues like might happen on a private sector Board of Directors. The colleagues of the elected person can however privately chastise him and fail to support him on other matters . Maybe it is time for the Supervisors to reconsider the potential expenditure of $50,000 for a grand opening celebration of the new terminal and parking structure at John Wayne Airport, something Moorlach has strongly sought. If the Board does not provide retribution for Moorlach’s damaging loose cannon publicity seeking behavior in this manner, I suspect they will find another way. They need to.

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.