Mauk Finds His First Scapegoat in Bustamante Mess

Tom Mauk

After his reprieve from discipline on Friday afternoon, it didn’t take Orange County CEO Tom Mauk long to find his first scapegoat. On Monday, Mauk fired OC Public Works Director Jess Carbajal. The departure of Carbajal from county service was announced to OC Public Works staff in a 2 pm email.

Carbajal was the supervisor of Carlos Bustamante, the former Director of Administration at OC Public Works, who was arrested last week for alleged sexual assault of female staff members under his supervision. Carbajal had been places on paid administrative leave in March after the Board of Supervisors turned over the results of the internal investigations of Bustamantes alleged actions.

The Los Angeles Times Nicole Santa Cruz reported:

County spokesman Howard Sutter said in an email that Carbajal, who started working for the county in November 1999, was terminated with cause, which does not entitle him to a severance package.

Sutter declined to comment on why Carbajal was terminated.

The OC Register revealed that Carbajal has retained one of the most prominent attorneys in Orange County, Wylie Aitken. In the report by Andrew Galvin yesterday afternoon Aitken stated that Carbajal was notified of his termination by telephone on Tuesday and that he will be receiving a letter by mail explaining the reasons for his termination.

Wylie Aitken

Aitken was a bit miffed at Carbajals termination. He told the OC Register:

The firing was “puzzling,” because “everything we’ve talked with Jess about, he followed the appropriate protocols and made the appropriate referrals, and he himself had no authority to remove Mr. Bustamante, so we’ll be interested to read the letter.”

Aitken said it was Mauk, not Carbajal, who dictated how the first investigation should be handled after an anonymous letter was sent to Carbajal and Campbell in March 2011.

“Apparently it’s not in dispute that the letter went to Mr. Campbell as well as the client. The letter was referred to Mr. Mauk, who suggested there be some type of informal investigation, and our client did what he was directed to do,” Aitken said.

“I”ll be happy to read the letter and what the justification is for moving so quickly against my client, who had no authority to remove Mr. Bustamante, as opposed to those who did have authority to remove Mr. Bustamante,” Aitken said.

This poses an interesting question. If Carbajal indeed had no authority to take action regarding Bustamante, why is he taking a fall for the actions he took under Mauk’s direction?

It will be interesting to see what comes out if a probable lawsuit over Carbajal’s termination ever gets to trial. Raise your hand if you think Carbajal is being set up as a scapegoat?