Orange County District Attorney Absorbs Once-Shamed Public Administrator's Office

Remember all that holler from a few years back about John Williams screwing things up so badly as Orange County's public administrator/public guardian that the Board of Supervisors drove him out of office?

This week, the board finalized a plan to shift the public administrator half of the job to the Orange County District Attorney's office, which is ironic because Williams' former No. 2 was the then-fiancé of DA Tony Rackauckas.


John Williams, Ex-Public Administrator, Finally Agrees to Leave Office

Before the Williams heave-ho, the public administrator was elected by voters and the Board of Supervisors would then appoint the winner public guardian, making a full-time government gig out of two part-time positions. The public administrator takes control over and manages the estates of people who die without leaving behind any heirs. The public guardian looks after adults who cannot care for themselves and have no family to help.

Williams' ineptitude as a manager–brilliantly reported at the time by the Orange County Register's Kimberly Edds (before she left to become communications director for the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs)–came to a head in a 2009 grand jury report that criticized questionable promotions, redundant jobs and swelling management salaries.

Included was the Williams' blunder after the death by drunken driver of TapouT co-founder Charles “Mask” Lewis, who left behind two children. Lewis lacked a will, so Williams took over his multi-million-dollar estate. The mother of Lewis' children had to sue the county to rightly get them the estate.

Forcing Williams out first required the Board of Supervisors un-appointing him public guardian, splitting the office away from him in March 2011. But voters would have to remove an elected official. That same year, a board-supported measure to make the public administrator an appointed post failed. Then, after months of negotiations capped by Williams refusing to physically leave his county office, he finally resigned early in 2012.

The board voted 3-2 Tuesday to not only move the public administrator's office to the DA's office but to shift the public guardian's office to the OC Health Care Agency. Supervisors Pat Bates and John Moorlach made the dissenting votes, with the latter explaining the moves were being made too fast and without investigating what other counties do with those positions.

Rackauckas has indicated the public administrator duties “fit fine with the district attorney's office,” according to a City News Service report that adds the DA says he will not even have to expand his operations.

He'll only have to look across his bedtime pillow for advice. His now-wife Peggy Buff worked immediately under Williams, although she was demoted and moved to another county agency after the scathing grand jury report.

That report also provided fodder for then-supervisor candidate Todd Spitzer, who had years earlier been fired from the DA's office after having had the gall to call Williams on behalf of a crime victim. Rackauckas deemed that contact inappropriate in canning Spitzer.

The eventual winner of the supervisor's race said as he was campaigning that then-defiant Williams “should have been walked out of the County once it completed its outside audit of his mismanagement practices, pension spiking and inflated salaries. The County had to replace the locks to keep John Williams out. Unbelievable. We have had Mike Carona, Chriss Street and now John Williams when the County is supposed to be more accountable.”

After being fired, Spitzer used to say the DA's office is also corrupt. So, naturally, he voted for the DA's office absorbing the PA's office. Perhaps that's because he wants to follow T-Rack as DA. Plop-plop, fizz-fizz, oh what an incestuous place this is!

Email: mc****@oc******.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!

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