Oh Shirley, Could You Look Into This One More Thing for Us….

When indicted ex-Sheriff Mike Carona retired last Monday, the message points about the time needed to prepare and participate in his defense quickly gave way to the real reason; accepting pro bono legal counsel from a top white collar crime law firm. Advocate Shirley Grindle received broad acclaim for speaking up and denying Carona the chance to have his cake (keep his job) and eat it too (get free legal counsel).

But media relations services, offered on a pro bono basis from Mike Schroeder and Flash Report publisher Jon Fleischman, are professional services billed very much like legal services. So unless the hourly rate for both men is less than what an undocumented worker collects for picking strawberries, the indicted ex-Sheriff has already received several thousand dollars of free/gifted services in the form of hours of media relations services starting back during his post-indictment interviews (“why don’t you ask him if he intends to resign?”- John Fleischman to reporters, 10/30/2007). Fleischman, in comments on Flash, admits he worked pro bono to help the sheriff on indictment day interviews.

So how much time did Jon spend on the Sheriff’s media relations? How much time did Schroeder spend? Isn’t this a violation on the order of the free legal services question?

And a parting shot here, today’s Flash Report has Jon’s featured commentary on the state budget crisis recommending a unified Republican front of the GOP legislature and the Governor to present cuts to the Democrats in the legislature whom Fleischman couldn’t resist the chance to call them “pro-criminal.”

So, come this July, IF Mike Carona is found guilty by a jury of his peers or SOONER, should the Sheriff cop a PLEA and ADMIT guilt, does this mean that Jon and his cronies are PRO-CRIMINAL? To quote Andrew Davey, ‘WHAT DO YOU THINK?”

  47 comments for “Oh Shirley, Could You Look Into This One More Thing for Us….

  1. Anonymous
    January 17, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    What about Adam Probolsky’s “services” for Carona’s appointee?

    If Carona appointing Anderson wasn’t enough to make you want to puke, having Probolsky do media relations should make you want to puke all day!

  2. The Captain
    January 17, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    It doesn’t seem likely that the legal services were actually “illegal”. The law firm just didn’t want to do with the headache and the trial would be over before the court can rule on the legality of donated professional services. Furthermore, it is still possible that Carona isn’t giving the /real/ reason he has resigned.

    Press the issue with Schroeder and Flash and it won’t be long before there is a court decision saying people can volunteer as much time as they want for any type of service even if the usual rate for that person is $1000/hour.

  3. Dan Chmielewski
    January 17, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    It is still in in-kind donation; and I am always perplexed by people who do media relations who hate the media

  4. The Captain
    January 17, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    It’s not an in-kind donation. It is a protected right.

    If you follow this through to the end, campaign volunteers would be virtually prohibited in jurisdictions where contribution limits are in the low hundreds of dollars.

    I think the limit in Huntington Beach is $300. At minimum wage, this is about 35 hours. A dedicated volunteer will easily spend more than that on the campaign and few people in Huntington Beach make only minimum wage.

    An in-kind donation cannot be time. In general, it can only be some type of tangible product. An example of service that could be an inkind contribution would be robocalls. But even then, the cost of the in-kind donation should not be the market value of the calls but how much it cost the provider to make the calls. I’m sure there are other exceptions to the an in-kind donation needing to be something phsyical, but a person’s time cannot be considered a donation and I would expect a court to rule that way. It is a very sad state of affairs if there are restrictions like this on how a person could spend his time.

  5. Dan Chmielewski
    January 17, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    I think I spelled out earlier that media relations services are professional services much like legal services. And if Shirley was able to call into question the millions of dollars of pro bono legal services indicted ex-sheriff Mike Carona would get by not being an elected official, then the media relations work certainly falls under the same umbrella.

    Volunteers on a campaign are one thing, but the candidate typically pays a consultant for marketing, communications, and strategic counsel. And Mike isn’t running for anything, so providing free professional services to an elected official barred from benefitting from anything of value, which media relations services certainly are, is a protected right exactly how?

  6. Anonymous
    January 17, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    Captain/Adam, thanks for crawling over to Liberal OC to comment.

  7. January 17, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    Why isn’t anyone asking what on earth would motivate the law firm (Jones Day) to provide free legal services to the indicted ex-Sheriff?
    Is it out of the kindness of their hearts? Or did they have something to gain?
    And are they still interested in defending Carona for free now that he’s not the Sheriff?

  8. January 17, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    Dan:

    You are on a very slippery slope, and you are letting your dislike of Jon carry you down. Think this through. The Captain is exactly right. By your reasoning, I would not be able to volunteer for a campaign in any capacity that involves any of my expertise because it would be an “in-kind” contribution.

    BTW, no one knows if Shirley’s complaint would have resulted in a ruling against Carona. The reason it worked is Jones Day didn’t want to provide free legal services and then possibly received an AG or FPPC ruling a few weeks before the trial started that their assistance constituted a gift. So they’d have to hire their own lawyers to advise them on this so they could continue providing pro bono services. Jones Day acted out of caution, but it forced Carona to make the fateful choice.

  9. Dan Chmielewski
    January 17, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    So the LA Times reports Adam walked in and helped the OCSD with media relations services despite having fulltime media relations support. Gosh, could I do that too? How does Adam, a non-county employee, get clearance or approval to do what he did.

    Matt — Jon’s the one on a slippery slope. Carona quit, after pledging not to, so he could get the free legal counsel. Just how often do you volunteer your services on a political campaign unless it has to do with your church? Shirley is on to something here.

    If you have such a crystal ball into Jones Day Matt; what do they gain by offering free service to Carona? What is in it for them? How do they benefit? Or are they pro-indicted (I can’t say pro-criminal until there is a conviction). Opine away.

  10. Dan Chmielewski
    January 17, 2008 at 10:37 pm

    And Matt. It’s not that I dislike Jon (I’ve never met him); but everytime he uses derogatory terms to describe my party and political persuasion (“pro-criminal” was today’s term), I’m going to let him have it. We’ve been taking it on the left for far too long and I’ll play the game by the same rules your side does. I’m told this is a contact sport so I’m wearing a cup.

  11. just...asking?
    January 17, 2008 at 11:01 pm

    Captain,

    Legal services are typically tallied by hour or task with a built in number of hours, which again equates to an hourly bill rate. Free services have a value which must be reported by all elected or appointed officials. These are rule that don’t apply in the business world but are in fact what brings down many electeds.

    Otherwise so many should not have been all over Janet. Greer couldn’t/wouldn’t shield work he performed, thats why Janet needed the additional funds.

  12. just...asking?
    January 17, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    And Flash has published rates for his services and the rate paid while he was our public servant spinning for the little sheriff.

  13. Dan Chmielewski
    January 18, 2008 at 11:33 am

    I’ve spent a little time researching in-kind political donations and most of the information online pertains to political campaigns for elective office. This site is very good (click the hotlinks): http://www.pdc.wa.gov/ORCA_Help/Menu_Items/Transactions/Contributions/In_Kind_Contribution/In_Kind_Contributions_overview.htm

    However, in the Carona case, there is no election at stake so the references made by The Captain and Matt, so this does constitute a political gift to an elected official that has to be tallied with a “fair market value” price tag.

  14. just...asking?
    January 18, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    If the Sheriff had/has an open campaign committee, which most have, then it must be reported as donation to the account. If no committee exists, it must still reported on his annual 700 filing of reportable gifts.

  15. Anonymous
    January 18, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    If you offer assistance in a field in which you are a professional, such as one who is paid to practice law as a lawyer taking time to voluntarily provide legal advice and action for a candidate or office holder, then that time spent providing that professional service should be counted as a gift and/or contribution.

  16. January 18, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    However, under current FEC/FPPC regulations, the donation of TIME is not an in-kind contribution when it comes directly from an individual.

  17. Dan Chmielewski
    January 18, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    TLC — I’m sorry but what office is Mike Carona running for? If this were a political campaign during an election cycle, you may have a point, but its not. At the time of service, was was not a candidate for anything. Hence, the service being provided constituting a gift.

  18. January 18, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    Dan-
    You know as well as I do that it’s ALWAYS an election cycle.
    Had Carona closed all of his campaign accounts? I believe he has an open campaign account from his prior election. And nothing I’ve read prohibited Carona from running for yet another term. Or for another office.

  19. January 18, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    TLC, I believe the reason the donation of legal services was questioned was because the services were being provided to defend against an action taken by Carona as Sheriff, not as a candidate.

    I’m not a lawyer and have never even played one, but I think if Carona was being prosecuted for taking illegal campaign contributions, or tearing down campaign signs, or some other campaign related action, he probably could have accepted legal services as an in-kind gift.

    It seems to me I recall something about this when the Clintons were defending themselves in the Whitewater investigations. They took donations to a legal defense fund to pay for their defense because they couldn’t accept pro bono. N’est-ce pas?

  20. Libal
    January 18, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    So the LA Times reports Adam walked in and helped the OCSD with media relations services despite having full-time media relations support. Gosh, could I do that too?

    Do you want to, Dan?

    How does Adam, a non-county employee, get clearance or approval to do what he did.

    “Clearance”? Is this the CIA? I think the permission of the Acting Sheriff is sufficient.

    Just how often do you volunteer your services on a political campaign unless it has to do with your church?

    Dan, you’re a great guy, but you difficulty sticking to any point or logical course. What difference does it make how often I volunteer my services on a political campaign. If your heroine had her way, I — or you, for that matter — wouldn’t be able to without violating the law. Just how is that consonant with free elections?

    If you have such a crystal ball into Jones Day Matt; what do they gain by offering free service to Carona?

    I don’t have a crystal ball, Dan. But unlike you, I have the advantage of knowing what I’m talking about on this matter. All you have is speculation.

  21. Libal
    January 18, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    I’ve spent a little time researching in-kind political donations and most of the information online pertains to political campaigns for elective office.

    That’s refreshing, Dan. But that’s a Washington State government site. Plus, it pertains to political campaigns, and Anderson’s press interviews weren’t a campaign event.

  22. Jubal
    January 18, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    “Libal” is me. Typo.

  23. Dan Chmielewski
    January 18, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    Typos happen; or maybe its a Freudian slip. Perhaps you missed the point of the research; there’s precious little information out there abut in-kind donations and, as you yourself noted, the Washington state link is in regards to political campaigns. I’d ask again — what office is Carona running for so that services donated to him don’t constitute a gift of value.

    And if all it takes for Adam to volunteer is permission from the acting sheriff, when the county pays for media relations personnel, well, as a taxpayer, I have to question why Adam was allowed into such a role in the first place. Could it be exactly has Dana Parsons noted in his column — partisan politics?

    Matt, I’ll be the judge of knowing what I’m talking about. Because I’ve asked you to opine and what the law firm gets from defending Carona you either can’t or won’t answer. so that hardly belies the “I know what I’m talking about” comment.

    TLC, you’re right, it’s always an election cycle and Lord knows Mike Carona would likely have run for a 4th term after promising the voters he’d only serve 2 terms. Or that he wouldn’t resign and then did. And I’m not even going to get into detail about how someone with a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” juggles two Debbies. Would this be considered lying or flip-flopping?

    Carona was not, at the time of his indictment, a declared candidate for anything. Your explanation holds no water.

  24. Jubal
    January 18, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    Could it be exactly has Dana Parsons noted in his column — partisan politics?

    Could it be Dana Parsons is engaging in paranoid, uninformed speculation? That’s more likely. No disrespect to Parsons, but he’s pretty far removed from having his hand on the political pulse on anything in OC.

    Because I’ve asked you to opine and what the law firm gets from defending Carona you either can’t or won’t answer. so that hardly belies the “I know what I’m talking about” comment.

    Dan, you’ve provided a great deal of dark speculation and precious little in the way of facts or evidence to support the speculation.

  25. Dan Chmielewski
    January 18, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    I hope Dana remembers this next time you’re pitching a story. “Paranoid, uninformed speculation..but no offense, like you mean that in a good way. Dom Irrera has a whole routine built on that. Has it ever occurred to you, Jon or Adam that maybe, just maybe you’re backing the wrong horse in this race? That maybe the feds have Carona nailed? Sorry, but the only people who need to presume Carona innocent are the ones in the jury box.

  26. January 18, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    I hope Dana remembers this next time you’re pitching a story.

    I haven’t pitched a story to Dana in 16 years in OC politics, and I doubt I ever will.

    Has it ever occurred to you, Jon or Adam that maybe, just maybe you’re backing the wrong horse in this race?

    Who is the horse you assume I am backing?

    That maybe the feds have Carona nailed?

    Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. All we have so far is an indictment that reads, for the most part, like an FPPC complaint. The feds haven’t presented their case, and the defense hasn’t presented theirs. Silly me wanting to see some actual details before pronouncing the man guilty an d sent off to prison.

  27. RHackett
    January 19, 2008 at 6:49 am

    What’s interesting to me is how Carona proclaimed his innocence unconditionally. That he was the victim of overzealous prosecutors and that he couldn’t wait to go to trial and get his side of the story. Now he has to resign because the only way he can get a proper defense is to have it given to him.

    If the charges were as scurrilous as he claims, he should have been able to get a proper defense from the public defender’s office if we as financially incapable as he claims.

    Like Dan said. His actions continually don’t mesh with his statements.

    And I’ve asked several times of conservatives and received only silence. Conservatives were all over demanding Clinton resign when it was known of his infidelity. Yet not a peep that Carona should do the same. I actually like how that has happened. It now takes that argument away the next time a Dem is accused of similar activity.

  28. Flowerszzz
    January 19, 2008 at 10:56 am

    Yeah Hackett….I’d put my life in the hands of a public defender!

    BTW all, a professional has every right to give their services for free to whomever they choose. It is up to the business, and is legal and does not have to be reported by a politician as a gift or campaign contribution. It is a persons legal right to VOLUNTEER their professional services to whomever they choose, whenever they choose.

  29. January 19, 2008 at 11:19 am

    Ok, Flowers: let’s say I have a big landscaping business. I’d like to get a huge landscaping contract that the county is about to award. I go to each of the Supes and say I’ll landscape their homes at no cost to them.

    Legal, or not?

    Nice to have you back among us, BTW.

  30. d'Anconia
    January 19, 2008 at 11:41 am

    Gila,

    First, offering anything to ANY elected official in return of a contract is a bribe, and a whole different issue.

    Second, big difference between volunteering time and offering a new backyard to someone; see tangible assets.

  31. January 19, 2008 at 11:46 am

    Gila-
    Here’s how it was explained to me long ago by one of California’s top campaign finance professionals:
    If she wished to donate her own time and expertise to a worthy political committee free of charge, that was volunteering and non-reportable.
    But if she was directed by an employer to provide such services, or if she directed those who she supervised to provide pro bono services, that was a reportable in-kind contribution. Their salaries and supplies constituted an in-kind.
    So in your example, if said landscape contractor was spending his/her own weekend mowing lawn for county supes, that’s volunteer time (which doesn’t provide much real value to a campaign – but that’s another whole issue). But if he/she directs employees to do the work, using company property, etc. then it’s an in-kind contribution from the business or business owner who directs them and pays for it.
    Pretty basic. I don’t understand all the confusion.

  32. January 19, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    D’a: the problem is that it is sometimes unclear whether something is a bribe or not. I might do something nice for you today with no particular expectation of a favor in return, but some day in the future perhaps I’ll remind you of that good deed. That’s why there are restrictions on gifts public officials can accept.

    TLC: I understand this concept and probably had it explained to me by the same person who told you. But you’re talking about campaign contributions. I’m making the argument that the Jones Day arrangement wasn’t a campaign contribution, it was a gift to a public official.

    But even if it was a campaign contribution, are we to understand that the Jones Day principals would have done the entire defense themselves with no assistance from employees and not on their company’s property?

    At best I say this was an in-kind contribution, at worst it was a gift to a public official. And since the matter Jones Day was defending Carona against had nothing to do with his political campaigns, I can’t see how it’s a political contribution.

  33. RHackett
    January 19, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Yeah Hackett….I’d put my life in the hands of a public defender!

    Neither would I. But I haven’t been indicted by the Feds and running around telling everyone the charges are without merit and I can’t wait to get my day in court to prove my innocence.

    Indeed, the sheriff’s lawyer says that Carona “is so anxious to fight these charges that we have to hold him back.”

    If this is true and not just shameless spin, Carona should do something in his power: play the contents of the tapes in their entirety for the public now.

    Show us that FBI agents are liars, as he claims. Show us that he didn’t try to get Haidl to perjure himself about bribes Carona took for years. Show the Orange County Republican Party that his character is pure. Show the Orange County Sheriff’s Department that his detractors have been wrong all these years.

    Or, is he afraid–no, terrified–of what those tapes reveal?

    We’re waiting. . . .

    (with apologies to the OC Weekly)

  34. Flowerszzz
    January 19, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Gile – what you speak of is a quid pro quo…which is illegal. I will admit – it is a very gray area…but I have every right to offer my expertise to anyone I like on a volunteer basis…whether they are elected or not.

  35. Flowerszzz
    January 19, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    And Gila – thanks for the welcome back. I have been overwhelmed with work…..so it is actually nice to be able to even look at the blogs on this beautiful Saturday!

  36. January 19, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    If the charges were as scurrilous as he claims, he should have been able to get a proper defense from the public defender’s office if we as financially incapable as he claims.

    RHackett:

    Carona faces a maximum of 105 years in prison. The feds are throwing every conceivable charge against him. They have time,, patience and enormous resources, And you think Carona should add his fate to the caseload of some overworked public defender?

    It’s hard to take you seriously when you don’t advance serious arguments.

  37. RHackett
    January 19, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    Jubal,

    I’m not the one running around telling everyone with a camera that I’m innocent and how the charges will be proven scurrilous. Carona is doing that. He claims he can’t wait to get his day in court. If I’m not mistaken it is his defense team that has asked for a postponement of a trial date. Why would they do that if the charges are false.

    BTW. There are people who have charges thrown at them that are far more serious than Carona’s and are passed off to some overworked public defender everyday. That is the fact of life for those without means.

  38. Dan Chmielewski
    January 19, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    Matt –
    Perhaps Carona should have shopped around for a defense attny he could afford then. I don’t see why he’s entitled to a defense that exceeds his net worth. And the free legal counsel is something you or I could not hope to gain should we be charged with some similar crime. Carona is entitled to the best defense he can put on but only to what he can afford. I’d like to live in Laguna Beach on the water but I can afford Irvine.

    And as far as horses go, you’re an apologist for Carona here. The photos in OC Weekly and Moxley’s stories should have warranted further investigation by the OCDA, but it wasn’t going to happen with the Susan/Mike Schroeder axis at play.

    To go back to the original points of the post.

    Fact: Mike Carona is not and was not an active or declared candidate for office at the time oh his indictment of federal corruption charges.

    Fact: Mike Carona was an elected county official.

    Fact: Legal services are charged by the hour.

    Fact: Carona stated the defense he would need to put on would exceed his net worth.

    Fact: Jones Day offered free legal counsel worth more than Carona’s net worth. That is a gift of value to a public official.

    Fact: External media relations counsel is a service billed to clients hourly, much like legal services.

    Fact: Carona received several hours of free media relations services from both Jon Flieschman and Mike Schroeder.

    My point was and still is that the free media relations services received by the retired and indcited ex-Sheriff constituted a gift to a public official.

    If you want to offer something useful here, post Shirley Grindle’s email address so I can ask her for an opinion.

  39. January 19, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    By the miracle of the internet tubes, we can go back and see Martin Wisckol’s original Total Buzz post on the subject which is here but I’ll copy it for ya’.

    Earlier this week, we ran this item relaying word from Rick Reiff about Sheriff Mike Carona getting free legal help from the big-guns law firm of Jones Day.

    But now it looks like Carona might be banned from getting free legal help in his federal indictment. County watchdog Shirley Grindle has been researching the issue and will be filing a complaint with Attorney General Jerry Brown with the hope of blocking the free legal help.

    Grindle said the pro bono help should not be allowed as campaign volunteer activity — like Mike Schroeder’s work for Trung Nguyen — because the corruption charges against Carona go far beyond campaign violations. She said the state’s gift limit is $390, and free legal help from Jones Day would exceed that amount in an hour or two. The state statute defining what is a gift to public official is 82028(a) and can be found here. Gifts to public officials exceeding $390 are prohibited, and Grindle says the free legal service being offered Carona qualifies as such a gift.

  40. Flowerszzz
    January 19, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    good gawd you guys act like Shirley is a god or something. Dan if you e-mail me I will give you her e-mail and phone number. flowerszzz@aol.com Gila he resigned so that point is mute now anyway.

  41. Dan Chmielewski
    January 20, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    And he resigned so he could get free legal help. Otherwise, its a million dollar plus free gift to an elected official.

    I’d like to know why someone like Mike Carona who was pulling down $200K a year as sheriff needs free services for anything. Surely the OCSD media relations people could have handled Caron’a media relations rather than rely on “volunteered” time.

    Does it mean the OCSD media relations folk are so incompetent that Carona needed outsiders. Even with the “hired guns” of Fleischman and Probolsky, it has to be tough to offer cherry-picked interviews. Why didn’t Peggy Lowe or Scott Moxley get a turn to chat up the ex-sheriff?

  42. Flowerszzz
    January 20, 2008 at 11:34 pm

    Dan – the guy is facing over 100 years in prison, disgrace, I am sure the break up of his family, the loss of his job, etc….what more do you want? His blood?

  43. RHackett
    January 21, 2008 at 7:15 am

    Flowerzzz. Are you saying that people who face the demolition of their personal lives due to criminal actions should be afforded special privileges?

    What ever happened to the personal responsibility mantra conservatives chant?

  44. Flowerszzz
    January 21, 2008 at 8:47 am

    I am saying that if he has some personal friends that want to help him and he is allowed that right…..much like if it were me, and I had an attorney friend(s) that wanted to help. Much like if I were an attorney and wanted to help. I dont believe in kicking someone when they are down – regardless of their political party.

  45. Dan Chmielewski
    January 21, 2008 at 8:52 am

    I believe Mr. Carona is responsible for his own actions; isn’t personal responsibility a major talking point oif the conservative set. Kick him when he’s down? No, I want justice. And as a taxpayer, I’m upset that my tax dollars used to pay this man for managing a major law enforcement organization alledgedly used his position to enrich himself. If he has personal friends who want to help him, there are legal restictions on the kind of help they can offer when he was still an elected official. They can help him all they want now because he is out of office.

  46. RHackett
    January 21, 2008 at 10:19 am

    Flowerszzz,

    I subscribe to this philosophy from a compassionate conservative:

    “This whole thing about not kicking someone when they are down is BS – not only do you kick him – you kick him until he passes out – then beat him over the head with a baseball bat – then roll him up in an old rug – and throw him off a cliff into the pounding surf below!!!!” – DeLay right-hand Michael Scanlon (yes, that Michael Scanlon, the Jack Abramoff buddy who used to work for The Hammer) in an email during the Clinton impeachment trial.

  47. just...asking?
    January 21, 2008 at 11:32 am

    Wonder what really motivates all these great and wealthy friends of the disgraced sheriff? Maybe it’s that he is just a great guy and picks great friends. Jarmarillo, Hadal (sic), Calavo, well maybe he’s not the greatest judge of character.

    Are his wealthy friends protecting the disgraced sheriff or are they protecting someone else? Could it be they are protecting themselves by what the sheriff and a drawnout trial might reveal? Under oath and on the stand leaders involved with the sheriff would be compelled to reveal the truth.

    Maybe thats worth a few million in legal fees to avoid that future?

    Just…Asking???

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