Fountain Valley Mayor Arrested in Prostitute Case

Times Staff Writers

Fountain Valley Mayor Frederick Warren Voss has been arrested on suspicion of soliciting sex from an undercover policewoman posing as a prostitute in Santa Ana, police said Wednesday. But Voss’ attorney said his client committed no crime.

Voss, 52, a telephone-systems manager for the county, would not discuss the arrest when contacted by telephone at work Wednesday.

“I’m referring everything to my attorney,” Voss said.

Santa Ana police officers conducting a continuing undercover operation along Harbor Boulevard arrested Voss about 9 p.m. Monday after he allegedly solicited sex from the officer, Santa Ana police spokeswoman Maureen Thomas said Wednesday.


The two-time mayor--a divorced father of two sons--was taken to the Santa Ana police station and issued a citation for solicitation, which is a misdemeanor, Thomas said. She added that Voss was never jailed and that he was released without bail pending a court appearance.

Voss did not reveal his occupation at the time of his arrest, and Thomas said that officers only learned the next day that he was the mayor of the central Orange County city of about 58,000.

Although the officers patrolling Harbor are not in uniform, the undercover operation has been highly publicized in recent weeks as scores of prostitutes and their alleged customers have been arrested by police trying to rid the major thoroughfare of prostitution.

The penalty for a first-time, misdemeanor solicitation conviction is $500 and probation, according to Santa Ana Police Cpl. Steve Gales.

Police would reveal few details of the arrest other than to say that Voss was among 16 men arrested during the prostitution sting, which on Monday night targeted “customers,” Thomas said. Voss allegedly approached the “prostitute” near the intersection of Washington Boulevard, she added.

Thomas Whaling, an El Toro attorney representing Voss, said his client has not yet been charged by the Orange County district attorney’s office. He issued a brief statement late Wednesday:


“Mr. Voss is not guilty of any criminal activity. He does not believe that it is beneficial to try this case in the press, especially in view of Santa Ana’s (prostitution) problems.”

Voss, who has worked in the aerospace industry, has for years been employed by the county’s General Services Agency. He was divorced in 1985 from Sara-Alice Voss, 52, a former legal secretary now working as a fiber artist, court and city clerk records show. The divorce records contained no recriminations against either party.

Sara-Alice Voss could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

Citing irreconcilable differences, Fred Voss filed for the divorce in June, 1983. The couple were married in 1960.

Friends and colleagues say the Vosses have two sons.

City Atty. Allan Burns is researching the question of whether Voss can legally continue serving as a councilman while his case is being decided in court, Fountain Valley city spokesman Don Heinbuch said.

“We are looking into that question as we speak,” he said. “Frankly, we don’t as of yet have the answer. We hope to be able to answer that within the next couple of days.” Burns could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

News of Voss’ arrest was met with shock and a reluctance to speak in the predominantly residential city of Fountain Valley, where City Council members are usually friends and where the biggest controversy in years was over a shopping center development.


Councilman George B. Scott said it was too early to issue any “judgment calls” about his colleague’s actions.

“Fred and I have been close friends for nearly 20 years,” Scott said. “There’s no way I’m going to condemn him. . . . I don’t think that we have all the facts. I do know that he’s done an outstanding job for the city. He is, and will continue to be, a real asset to the city.”

Council members James Neal and Laurann Cook both declined comment Wednesday. Councilman James D. Petrikin could not be reached.

But James Dick, a member of the Fountain Valley Housing and Community Development Board and a 24-year resident, said of Voss’ arrest: “I think that it shows a real lack of judgment on his part to go anywhere near that area.

“My gosh, the Police Department has been rounding them up on that street for the past 3 months!” Dick added.

Voss, considered by some city observers to be a pro-development conservative, has a long-established record of service to the community. Before his election to the council, he served for a term as president of the city’s school board and as coach of youth sports for the city’s recreation program.


His occasionally brusque manner during council meetings has at times distanced Voss from other members. He has also been the lone dissenter on past controversies before the council.

Voss was first elected in 1982, then reelected to the council 2 years later. In the second election, he won the highest number of votes in the city’s history. He first served in the largely ceremonial position of mayor in 1986, assuming it again last December.

“I think that the important thing is not to rush to judgment on this. . . . We don’t know what all the facts are,” said John J. Collins, president of the Fountain Valley Chamber of Commerce.

“I can tell you that he has been a real friend to business in the city and his performance as a community leader has been unequaled in my opinion,” Collins continued. “I don’t think that we should bury the guy. . . .

“Maybe it was a bad decision. . . . But I ask you--does one bad decision kill the golden goose?” he said.

Staff writer George Bundy Smith contributed to this story.