Acknowledging that recent controversy surrounding his aggressive investment tactics has been painful to him and his wife, County Treasurer Robert L. Citron said Thursday that this will be his last campaign for the job he has held since 1970.
“This will be my last term,” the 69-year-old Citron said in an interview.
Citron, whose investment tactics have been put under scrutiny for the first time as he faces his first challenger in 24 years, said the recent turn of events had taken an emotional toll on him and his wife, Terry.
“My wife and I have a very loving relationship and I’m not going to put her through this again,” said Citron, the only Democrat currently holding elective office in county government. “This tears her up. And it tears me up.”
Earlier this week, Terry Citron said she was furious over the recent criticism of her husband of nearly 39 years.
“It makes me so mad,” she said. “I’m more bothered than he is. He’s not making risky deals. He wouldn’t do that. That’d kill him.”
By using aggressive--but potentially lucrative--investments known as “derivatives” and “reverse repurchase agreements,” Citron has consistently earned among the highest returns in the state on money he manages for Orange County and 185 other California cities, school districts and governmental agencies.
As treasurer, Citron is responsible for investing the county’s operating and capital improvement funds, as well as its pension funds. His impressive track record, known up and down the state, has attracted the funds of almost every municipality in the county to the investment pool he heads.
His opponent, Republican John Moorlach, a certified public accountant and financial planner, has charged that Citron’s investment strategies are too risky, contending that the recent rise in interest rates could result in substantial losses of taxpayer money.
Although Citron has been forced to come up with $215 million in “collateral calls” to back up the investments in recent weeks, he said he has taken no undue risks with public funds. Over the past nine months--a shaky economic period at best--the county’s $7.5-billion portfolio has earned a laudable 7.8% return, Citron said.
He said his average rate of return over the past decade is 9.03%, twice that of a comparable state investment fund.
In December, Citron was honored by the County Board of Supervisors for generating enough interest revenue through his investments to bankroll a new gang suppression program run by the district attorney’s office.
First elected as tax collector in 1970, Citron became treasurer when the Board of Supervisors combined the two positions in 1973. Since that first race, he has never again faced an opponent.
The recent dispute has garnered the attention of the Wall Street Journal, which has published a pair of stories on Citron and his investments in recent days.
Moorlach said he was not surprised by Citron’s decision not to seek office again because of the veteran treasurer’s age.
“Unless he’s going to turn into a Tom Riley (who is a county supervisor) and do this for life, I wouldn’t expect him to run after this,” Moorlach said.
Moorlach also stepped up his criticism Thursday of Citron by demanding more public documents from the treasurer’s office. After picking up 700 pages of investment data from Citron’s office Monday in order to analyze the portfolio, the challenger requested more documentation and accused Citron of mounting “a campaign of belligerence and intimidation toward anyone who questions his high-risk investment strategies.”
Moorlach said there were “several indicators in leading national financial publications which simply cast a shadow of doubt on Citron’s investment strategies.”