Wieder Decries Report Critical of Board

Times County Bureau Chief

Supervisor Harriett M. Wieder on Friday denounced a report critical of Orange County government as "shortsighted" and unsupported by facts.

"References to the inability of the board to take decisive action and undistinguished performances of board members are unsubstantiated and unprofessional," Wieder said in a letter to Darlene A. Derus, chairman of the Grand Jury's long-range planning committee.

The committee commissioned the controversial report--written by professors of government, psychology and management at Claremont Graduate School and Pomona College--as part of its study of county government.

Parts of Report Good

Wieder said parts of the report were good and conceded that "in many cases long-range planning has taken a back seat to meeting the day-to-day demands of government operations."

"Unfortunately, much of the report is shortsighted and lacks even the most rudimentary analysis in determining the effectiveness of the board in meeting the long-range needs of the county," Wieder wrote.

She said the study's contention that supervisors concentrated on their own districts and failed to act on "big picture" issues was untrue. She said that if the supervisors fail to translate plans into action, as the report said, it is for lack of money.

"The only concrete examples the report cites to support the lack of planning are the 'big ticket' items--courts, jails and the airport," Wieder said. "Nothing that a billion dollars would not solve."

She said the problems mentioned in the report are similar to those of other counties throughout the state.

"This suggests that either every county supervisor in California is incompetent or perhaps the conclusions reached in your report are erroneous and unsubstantiated," she said.

Wieder's comments were the first written reply to be made public.

Supervisor Thomas F. Riley said that in a meeting with grand jurors this week he criticized the study as "not in accordance with the concept of the democratic process."

He said the consultants want government run like a corporation, which is operated "to make money."

"In our business, we want to and should permit the public to participate in this; that's the reason we have environmental impact reports; we have all these things as a safeguard," Riley said.

He said one area in which county government planned well and followed through was in buying undeveloped land to preserve open space.

The professors' report, made after interviews with scores of county officials and studies of past reports on county government, charged that "Orange County has not generally received distinguished performance from members of the Board of Supervisors in recent years."

Supervisor Don R. Roth, who joined the board in January, said the study "wasn't really that offensive to me. I thought they made some recommendations that were worthwhile to pursue."

But he said he agreed with Wieder that a major problem for all counties is the requirement by the state that counties carry out certain programs, despite the state's failure to fully fund them.

"In courts, welfare, lots of these areas we're only getting 70% of the funds for mandated programs," Roth said. "We're at a disadvantage because of the erratic funding by the state. . . ."

Jury Letter Cited

Wieder's written reply referred to a Grand Jury letter previously delivered to the supervisors, warning that the county had to find 300 additional maximum security jail beds immediately.

That letter was based on "hearsay" and failed to examine the supervisors' actions to solve jail overcrowding problems, Wieder said.

"If the Grand Jury really wants to take on the enormous task of evaluating the structure and effectiveness of county government, they should allocate the necessary resources to do a thorough and comprehensive job," Wieder concluded.

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