Moorlach Wanted a Moat and Drawbridge

drawbridgeYesterday afternoon, The Orange County Register’s Tony Saavedra followed up on the story we broke on Tuesday about the alleged reason for the lobby remodel on the fifth floor of the Board of Supervisors offices.

It appeared to be a good excuse — or at least a plausible one: the Orange County Board of Supervisors needed a $326,000 remodeling project to cure fire code violations in their lobby.

The expensive project came under fire last week because the board was poised to lay off 210 Social Services workers, at a savings of $30 million. More layoffs are expected in the Probation Department. Still, who could argue with a remodeling project to fix a fire hazard?

Well, the county employees’ union (with a little help from TheLiberalOC) unearthed a letter from the Santa Ana Fire Department to the board suggesting that the fire hazard argument was a ruse. The letter says the county could cure the problem by simply leaving two doors unlocked.

Nick Berardino, general manager of the Orange County Employees’ Association, called the remodeling “absolute folly.”

John Moorlach, chairman of the board of supervisors, conceded the fire safety explanation doesn’t tell the whole story. Leaving the doors unlocked would fix the fire hazard, but destroy any degree of security provided by the lobby walls.

What I don’t get is what logic made Moorlach, and clearly the rest of the board, think nobody would figure out they weren’t telling the truth?

Read the rest of Saavedra’s post on the Register’s OCWatchdog Blog here.

  13 comments for “Moorlach Wanted a Moat and Drawbridge

  1. Misha Houser
    January 1, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    So I guess someone is reading this blog, eh? Good job Chris.

  2. Jennifer
    January 2, 2009 at 11:51 am

    WOW that is a total mouthful isn’t it?

    January 2, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    The million-dollar question is–HOW MANY COUNTY ADMINISTRATIVE MANAGERS & EXECUTIVE MANAGERS receive the following perks?
    -Two completely county paid retirement plans (6% a year to 401k & a pension plan)
    -$765 a month to spend as they wish on car expenses
    -$4000 a year in cash for optional benefit plan
    -6% raise from January to June 2009
    I am a regular worker with the county who PAYS 16% of my paycheck ($800 a month!) for my one pension plan! I have none of these perks. I believe there are AT LEAST 1000 managers who are given these perks. Why are they so selfish that they can’t cut these instead of laying off workers and endangering OC children, the elderly, and the poor?

  4. Mr. Smith
    January 3, 2009 at 7:55 am

    Great plan…Not! Are we running an employment agency or should we scale back where we cannot afford positions to provide services? I understand the problems in Social Services are over $20 million. Cutting benefits to staff is only symbolic and punitive at best. As harsh as it may seem, my taxes go to support services not to keep people employed. It is time to face the reality already faced by the private sector. Mr. Prevatt, your continual harping on the remodel project is more of a red herring. It is serving as a diversion to the real task at hand…government needs to live within their budget.

  5. steve kim
    January 3, 2009 at 10:24 am

    Why is cutting wasteful, lavish benefits for any government employee “only symbolic and punitive at best”?

    Cutting these perks should be the Step 1 in eliminating government waste. This issue also lets the Supervisors know that they are not above scrutiny.

    If this were the model for the County from Top to Bottom, then “some” jobs could be saved.

    I have been reading blogs from “fiscal conservatives”, who despise government waste, that blast OCEA for bringing up this issue. Shouldn’t they be on the side with eliminating governmental waste or is it a childish game of rivalry against labor associations that will not allow them to agree with OCEA?

    Even before the current financial crisis were cutting programs like, the Shelter for Battered Women and Children, to prove to their political base how tough they are on cutting wasteful government spending while at the same lining their pockets with raises, financial perks, and office/break room remodels.

    It is all shows a mind set of the Supervisors that governmental waste at their level is OK.

    Speaking of symbolic…why did the Supervisor hire a legal consultant to research the viability of a case against the OC Sheriff Dept? Then, when that consultant reported that the case is weak at best, the Supes decide to use massive amounts of tax payer money to launch a legal attack against OCSD.

  6. January 3, 2009 at 11:52 am

    Mr. Smith,

    I have never agrured that there is no need for cuts. I agree that government should live within it’s budget. The remodel, while budgeted under of the capital projects budget for the County, was no longer funded due to the shortfall in county revenue.

    The remodel of the fifth floor lobby, is a wasteful project in good times. In bad, it is an example of a board leadership that refuses to live within its means. The Board burried this project in their consent calendar and even deceptively labeled it as a project needed to correct a fire code violation.

    The only red herring here is Moorlach claiming the remodel was necessary to correct a violation to deflect attention from a needlessly extravagent waste of taxpayer funds.

  7. Mr. Smith
    January 3, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    While the project may be disputable, the bottom-line is that it is not going to solve the problem. The revenue loss is deep from what I read and will not be solved by savings from this project. It will likely only postpone the inevitable.

    When was the last raise approved by the Board and for whom? What about the last benefit increase? Did OCEA forgo any salary adjustments last year given the coming problems?

    What about Mr. Moorlach’s idea of reducing future pension benefits? Many of us in the private sector have already lost them and most recently many companies are halting matching contributions. Let’s start talking about some real dollar savings that are already accepted in the private sector.

    It is time for everyone to ante up…

  8. January 3, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    Mr. Smith,

    No single project elimination will solve the financial holes in the budget. But just to clarify, the cost of the remodel cost amounts to about four jobs for one year. The last raises approved by the board were either the 12% for Tom Mauk or it was the management increase of 5%.

    As far as the matter of the pension benefits go, all non-management employees pay the full employee share of their pension benefit. As verified by the county’s Internal Audit report all employees pay the full cost of the increased benefit granted in 2004. For that benefit, in addition to paying the full cost, workers also gave up salary increases for two years and increased their share of medical benefit costs.

    Moorlach complains that he has to pay for the increased retirement benefit on the one hand, while failing to mention the fact that he previously never paid anything into his pension and gets an additional 9% contributed by the taxpayers into his 401k plan.

    OCEA has not, and from what I can tell does not, dispute the need for cuts. They are only asking that wasteful spending be curtailed before people loose their jobs, and that management, particularly executive management who are making all the decisions about where to cut, share in that pain.

    We have yet to see Tom Mauk come out and say that because of this budget crisis, he will reduce his compensation. We have not seen any announcement that any of the Executive Managers are getting laid off or reduced in pay or position.

    From what I can tell, there is no willingness to “Chop at the Top” on the part of the board or Executive Management. The lobby remodel, is just one very tangible example of that reality. When they opened the project for bid, under the cover of a consent item on the Board agenda in September, they were already painfully aware of the looming crisis. In November when they approved the project under the cover of a consent item on the Board agenda, the crisis was upon them and they still went forward anyway.

    More than 100 Social Services workers will get notified of layoff on Monday. They are being required to ante up; what about Moorlach, Mauk, and executive management?

  9. Christy
    January 3, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    “It is time for everyone to ante up…”

    Yes, true. All the wasteful spending, whether it’s a few dollars or a few thousand will have to be added together to spend within the budget. We can’t look at the bucket’s drops and say each is too small to make a difference to the whole budget.

    More importantly, no one should be lying about the reasons for spending any of the budget money. Transparency should be the rule, especially in tight times. If John Moorlach is feeling vulnerable because of a death threat, perhaps there’s some valid reasoning there for some upgrading security. He shouldn’t have lied about the remodeling project.

  10. Steve Kim
    January 3, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    “Did OCEA forgo any salary adjustments last year given the coming problems?”

    Yes, they did.

  11. Bladerunner
    January 3, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    Leadership needs to set an example, especially in tough times. If cuts need to be made, so be it. But the OCEA has raised the issue that County leadership is not sharing in the pain and the budget is being balanced on the backs of the worker bees.

    Chopping at the top might only generate a small part of the savings needed to balance the budget. But they will generate an acceptance by most employees of the need to cut back in these tough economic times .And a signal to the voters and taxpayers that all County workers will have to sacrafice. But for now it appears to the voters and taxpayers that the 5th floors response to employees reasonable proposals to cut costs is ” let them eat cake.”

  12. Steve Kim
    January 3, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    “Chop at the Top” is not limited to the Supervisors and all their extravagant perks.
    It also applies to the whole bloated management organizational structure that is filled with their incompetent cronies. Three times in the past 5 years the Org Chart was altered to give select middle managers raises by creating the appearance of a larger staff to manage and thus mandating raises for these managers.

    In reality it was a paper shuffling of employees with no real increase in responsibility. I don’t know if the Supes are complicit, but if it is going on under their noses then they are incompetent and irresponsible.

    A simple org chart comparison would reveal of this.

  13. Mr. Smith
    January 3, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    What org chart was modified in the past three years? Be specific if you intend to fire off accusations. They need to be reviewed.

    Let’s get very real. No workers are ever going to accept layoffs, regardless of any management sacrifices. I agree, management should not get raises.

    Does anyone really have a full list of the positions that will be cut? I would be curious to verify that there are no management positions being cut.

    I would also like to see benchmarks for all positions in the County, both management and line staff. No position should be exempt.

    The Supervisors are elected and are responsible to the public, not the unions. The candidate backed by the unions in the First District did not even place in the top two in the last special election.

    I want the Supervisors, executives, and management to lead. I don’t need to see them sacrifice. I need to see them make the tough decisions and have a vision. This is not an employment agency.

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