Today’s agenda for the Board of Supervisor’s meeting includes a request for funding for a Public Integrity Unit. The request is the result of a large numbers of complaints against public officials for improper conduct. Most notably, there is the arrest on 12 felony sexual abuse charges leveled against City Council member Carlos Bustamante in early July. Bustamante’s arrest was related to alleged sexual harassment by Bustamante against several femal employees of the Public Works agency where he was a senior executive. Bustamante’s arrest has resulted in the departure of several senior county executives accused of mismanaging the investigation of allegations made against Bustamante which officially date back more than a year. Those departures include the firing for cause of OC Public Works Director Jess Carbajal, and the forced resignation of County CEO Tom Mauk.
According to the staff report for the agenda item; “The District Attorney requests approval to add seven (7) new positions to its Special Prosecutions/Special Assignments Units to form a Public Integrity Team dedicated exclusively to address the growing number of complaints and investigations of crimes involving people holding public office. Additionally, we have received increased complaints that allege the County and/or County employees may be victim(s) of crime. Over the last several years, complaints and investigations of crimes involving people holding public office have steadily increased. Additionally, the Office received increased complaints that allege the County and/or County employees may be victim(s) of crimes. Some specific type of crimes, include, but are not limited to: illegal or inappropriate use of public funds; bribery; election and campaign violations; conflicts of interest; malfeasance in office; Grand Jury matters; and Brown Act.”
This is a significant departure for District Attorney Rackauckas who has been criticized for his tepid response to violations of public trust in the county, with his response to the Bustamante case being an exception to that perception. The estimated cost for the additional positions is $1,117,425.