Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairman Todd Spitzer added another chapter to their ongoing feud Monday with Rackauckas criticizing the Spitzer for raising questions about the outsourcing of background-check jobs.
At last week’s board meeting, Spitzer raised issues about the District Attorney’s Office proposed annual $85,000 contract with Anaheim-based RCS Investigations to provide background checks on prospective employees.
Rackauckas pushed back with a letter to Spitzer today, expressing disappointment, “in your uninformed and unproductive public comments.”
That spurred Spitzer’s office to release a statement characterizing Rackauckas as a “bully.”
The contract was supposed to be up for a vote Tuesday, but it has been postponed so Rackauckas can meet with the supervisors and discuss it, according to Paul Walters, chief of staff for Supervisor Lisa Bartlett.
Spitzer had directed staff to research various ways of opening up the process of informing the board about such contracts as he complained it was difficult to get details on it.
Spitzer noted that Craig Hunter, former Anaheim deputy police chief who is now a chief investigator for the District Attorney is the “point person” on the contract, raising issues of a conflict at a time when the county’s Chief Operating Officer Mark Denny faces an inquiry into contracts approved while he headed OC Parks.
“The awkward part for the supervisors is the DA is an elected office, so other than the DA’s budget the Board of Supervisors can’t tell them how to run his office,” Walters said.
“And it’s kind of delicate, especially considering the history between the two of them. So we’re waiting to see what the DA says when he comes around.”
The outsourcing of background checks would be a first for the District Attorney’s Office. Spitzer also questioned the necessity of contracting out the work when the Orange County Sheriff’s and Probation departments do their own investigations on job prospects.
Rackauckas complained in his letter to Spitzer that he has encouraged Spitzer to contact him privately if he has any issues before going public with them.
Spitzer raised the issues at the end of the meeting when board members can discuss items not on the agenda, but the other supervisors aren’t able to respond, according to the board’s protocol.
Rackauckas’ chief of staff, Susan Kang Schroeder, said Spitzer could have asked representatives of the prosecutor’s office earlier in the meeting to address his concerns, which would have allowed for some give-and-take among the officials and other supervisors.
“This is your typical grandstanding by Todd, and it really has to stop,” Schroeder said.
Rackauckas called Spitzer’s comments an “ambush” in his letter.
“You launched an ambush alleging impropriety on the merits of hiring an outside firm to conduct background checks on new employees and the impartiality of the bidding practice,” Rackauckas said.
“You made allegations in your statement that the (contract) was somehow improper because Chief Craig Hunter knew and worked with an owner of the winning bid, former Anaheim Police Department Capt. Steve Rodig, a principal of RCS Investigations and Consulting LLC.
“A simple call from either you, or a staff member, would have revealed the following information that shows that the practice of outsourcing background checks promotes good government and the process of hiring this firm was fair and transparent.”
RCS has contracts with about 70 law enforcement agencies, including many in Orange County, Rackauckas wrote.
The top prosecutor said he needs to outsource the jobs because his own staff cannot handle the work load, and cannot do the checks as quickly as the private firm. He argued that hiring a private firm like RCS would save taxpayers money.
Spitzer’s staff released a statement saying, “Tony Rackauckas has been in office so long that he has become a bully threatening anyone who raises questions about his policies, even when they are reckless, poorly thought out and costing taxpayers millions of dollars in lawsuits.
“Spitzer is not Tony’s first target. This happened recently with the campaign he launched against Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait during his re-election.”
At last week’s meeting, Spitzer said Hunter “has an excellent reputation in the community,” and added, “I am in no way whatosever alleging any misconduct, impropriety in any way whatsoever.”
Spitzer went on to say, however, that when county officials do not alert supervisors about potential conflicts of interest or the appearance of them, “This is how the county gets into trouble.”
Denny was supposed to take over for OC Chief Executive Officer Mike Giancola as he recuperated from back surgery, but because of the inquiry into the contracts, the county’s Chief Financial Officer Frank Kim is in charge instead.