Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

Orange County supervisors Tuesday took another step toward emerging from the 1994 bankruptcy by voting to shift 16 employees in the Internal Audit Department to positions in the Auditor Controller’s office.

The move essentially shuts down a department that was created in the bankruptcy-era when then Orange County Auditor-Controller Steve Lewis refused to resign. Board members at that time did not trust Lewis because they faulted him for not warning them about the risky investments made by then-Treasurer Robert L. Citron that led to the bankruptcy.

The current board voted 4-0, with Supervisor Lisa Bartlett absent, to reassign the employees to the office of current Auditor-Controller Eric Woolery. A related hotline for employees to file fraud complaints was put in the hands of the general counsel’s office.

The Internal Audit Department was created in 1995.

Assemblyman Tom Daly, D-Anaheim, took aim at the department last year with legislation that would eliminate it. He was angered, one source told City News Service, by the way the department’s head, Peter Hughes, investigated Daly’s office when he was the county’s Clerk-Recorder.

Efforts to reach Daly were not immediately successful.

Hughes, who is the head of the Internal Audit Department, is the interim performance audit director. The supervisors met behind closed doors to discuss making Hughes the permanent director of performance audit but did not take any action on that proposal today.

Woolery told City News Service that residents can expect to see more “independent” and “transparent” audits of the county’s various agencies, especially the offices of elected leaders. Because of “separation of powers” laws, county officials don’t have as much control over the spending of elected leaders.

“They’re going to see more transparency, definitely a more robust audit process,” Woolery said. “It will be truly independent.”

As for elected leaders such as the sheriff and district attorney, Woolery said, “You’ll see someone taking a more critical eye toward these departments.”

The employees in the Internal Audit Department will join Woolery’s office by Aug. 21. The department’s budget is $2.8 million annually.

Woolery’s office provides accounting, audit, payroll and property tax administration services to the county, cities, public schools and special government districts.

City News Service

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