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Accountability for County Executives who SECRETLY Lined Their Pockets?

Back a couple years ago the Nick Berardino of the Orange County Employees Association led county workers to the fifth floor of the Hall of Administration. The workers were there to protest the remodeling of the Supervisors main reception lobby while hundreds of county workers were being laid off due to funding shortfalls. Their rallying cry, was Chop at the Top.

It turns out that the folks on the second floor in Human Resources, and those on the third floor in the CEO’s office, couldn’t hear their calls. They were apparently too busy squirreling away secret promotions and salary increases of more than 33% for some of the highest paid executive managers in the county.

There is no disputing the reality that there are shortfalls in funding available to support vital government programs. Such shortfalls undoubtedly lead to the need for cuts, including laying off staff. What is less understandable is the disparity between what executive management says is going on and what the truth is.

Tom Mauk

Take for example a comment made by CEO Tom Mauk in and email to county workers back in December 2008. “Let’s work together without rancor, posturing, and nonproductive rhetoric. The Board and this CEO staff are deeply concerned about ‘YOU’ and what’s going on. Let’s work together to meet the challenges presented by our economic situation.” At the same time he sent out this memo, He knew, or should have known, that he was permitting the secret and apparently undocumented adjustment of salaries and positions for dozens of county executive and senior managers.

In an interview with the Orange County Register Mauk said, “We’re confident in what we’ve done, but we want to be sure in the future. The only thing we’re interested in is going forward and making sure the proper system is in place.”

Mauk cannot effectively address the challenges of the future without acknowledging the failures of his leadership in preventing such management abuses. It is not enough to focus on where we go from here in the future. The absence of true accountability, and honest acceptance of responsibility, for this magnitude of failure will only encourage similar lapses in the future.

The Voice of OC’s Norberto Santana, Jr. has a follow-up story today County Auditor Squares Off with CEO Over Executive Raises covering the back and forth between the CEO Tom Mauk and Performance Auditor Steve Danley.

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to take up the discussion of the Performance Audit of the CEO Human Resources Department at their meeting this Tuesday. It will be interesting to see what they have to say about the revelations, and what they plan to do about it.