Newly-elected Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer has requested that the county's Office of Independent Review (OIR) monitor a probe into whether a superior court judge committed any crimes involving a possible quid pro quo sexual affair.
"I want to make sure that the investigation is thorough," Spitzer told OC Weekly. "So, I've talked to the sheriff and to (OIR Executive Director) Stephen Connolly about it. We need to know what happened."
He says his request wasn't to imply he questions the competence of Sheriff Sandra Hutchens' department as it investigates the activities of Judge Scott Steiner.
"I don't," said Spitzer.
Rather, he says, he wants to ensure that "the board of supervisors is not caught off guard and then we have another Carlos Bustamante or [John Derek] Chamberlain situation."
Bustamante, a onetime rising star in Orange County Republican politics and a county manager, is facing a future criminal trial involving his alleged sexual relations with a series of lower-ranking female employees. County officials knew of Bustamante's issues but delayed taking any corrective action.
In the case of Chamberlain, the pre-trial detainee was savagely beaten to death for more than 30 minutes in view of jail deputies who claim they saw nothing and did not green light the killing. A probe into that murder found gross county mismanagement and incompetence.
In the wake of the probe, Steiner was quietly transferred from Orange County's central courthouse to less weighty tasks at Fullerton Court.
He hired a feisty, high-priced, veteran criminal defense lawyer and has declined all interviews.
The Orange County District Attorney's office learned of questions about Steiner's activities from Chapman University officials on Feb. 26 and immediately recused itself. With the help of District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, Steiner won election to the bench in 2010 after a long, successful career as a local prosecutor. Rackauckas referred the case to the California Attorney General's office, which--if there's ever an arrest--will handle trial duties. Multiple sources say they've already been contacted by AG investigators or sheriff's detectives.
Spitzer--who has served as a prosecutor with Steiner, worked as a Republican state assemblyman, had a previous stint as a member of the board of supervisors and has made no secret of his desire to someday become DA--says transparency is critical.
He said, "The public needs to know that the Office of Independent Review and the board of supervisors is watching the investigation."