LOS ANGELES – Orange County, Calif. supervisors released a formal response last week to a scathing 35-page report from a the county’s civil grand jury that alleges a pattern of corruption in the county, and recommended county supervisors establish a blue ribbon ethics commission.
The supervisors characterized the grand jury report “as a set of idiosyncratic, historical events over a 40-year period in an effort to paint Orange County government as an institution plagued by corruption.”
The report, supervisors said, provides no benchmarking against other jurisdictions, provides precious few examples of unethical behavior in recent history, and makes a highly tenuous case for their ultimate recommendation: to study the need for a county ethics commission.
County supervisors contended in their response that there are a whole host of coordinated oversight and accountability mechanisms that exist within the county for addressing improper behavior on the part of all county employees, including elected officials.
California civil grand juries are unique; a group of volunteer citizens sits for a year, charged with investigating local governments to recommend improvements.
The grand jury report compares Orange County to New York’s famously corrupt Tammany Hall era, citing a 40-year history of political corruption in the county.
Those scandals have led to the prosecutions of members of the Board of Supervisors, the sheriff, a member of Congress, some of the state’s biggest political donors and dozens of others, according to the report.
The county’s 1994 bankruptcy also was noted.
“Sadly, it is the Grand Jury’s hypothesis that untoward behavior continues and is actively festering in today’s political environment,” jurors said in the report.