The Fleecing of OC Taxpayers, Part 692

So far, best local story of the month goes to The Orange County Register's Norberto Santana Jr. and Natalya Shulyakovskaya, who wrote a June 13 article that further underscores the gross incompetence of ex-Sheriff Mike Carona. Based on interviews and public-records act requests, the duo found: -$-Most deputies pocket more than $100,000 annually. -$-More than 100 deputies pocket at least $150,000 annually. -$-In 2007 alone, the department boosted already-supple deputy salaries with $41.7 million in overtime pay. -$-Taxpayers shelled out $597,119 in pay last year to just three deputies—Richard D. Ostrow, William S. Motodera and Jesse M. Oller—or an average of nearly $200,000 to perform jail guard duties. -$-Deputies demanded a three-day workweek because they claimed their jobs are so stressful that they need substantial time off—seven consecutive days off every two weeks, but then they systematically converted those days into overtime work and pay. -$-Deputies charged taxpayers massive amounts of overtime each year to work the county fair, which prompted one honest deputy to tell the Reg reporters, "Every July, it's Christmas for everybody." -$-Deputy Jason C. Brant, who is currently facing prosecution for not bothering to complete dozens of criminal investigations last year but claimed he had, grabbed $19,300 in overtime.

Carona became sheriff in 1999 by promising to institute budget and management reforms, but instead oversaw a doubling of salary payments, the introduction of incredibly generous work schedules, practically zero discipline for misconduct and a Soviet politburo-style retirement plan that allows deputies to retire at the age of 50 and continue to earn up to 90 percent of their income.

But the Reg report is most alarming given the context provided by this year's bombshell grand-jury investigation that outlined the sheriff's culture in OC. From my April 10 article, here's a reminder of those findings:

During their work in 2006—for which they took a whopping $15.8 million in overtime compensation—Orange County jail deputies routinely slept on the job, played electronic games, watched television and movies, operated personal businesses, unnecessarily fired weapons at inmates sitting on toilets, chatted on the telephone, left to work out at gyms, surfed the Internet, read books, sent text messages to girlfriends, allowed—no, encouraged—inmate-on-inmate violence, ignored medical emergencies, refused to perform basic inspections for entire shifts, and routinely doctored official logs to mask incompetence.

Deputies weren’t lazy all the time. They occasionally awoke to pulverize handcuffed citizens entering jail on misdemeanor charges—insisting the bloody, bone-cracking events were always self-defense. They had to do something, I guess, to feel like they’d earned their publicly financed paychecks on the way to generous retirement packages that begin at the spry age of 50.

Best line in the Reg story to make you choke and spit out your coffee:

Meanwhile, the [deputies'] union is arguing that officials are actually underpaying overtime amounts . . .

Will new Sheriff Sandra Hutchens clean up this mess?

-- R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly


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