ORANGE COUNTY PERSPECTIVE : Another Term for Treasurer Citron

Robert L. Citron's winning record as Orange County's treasurer-tax collector is good enough that he deserves reelection.

As treasurer, Citron is responsible for investing county funds. In the last decade he has earned favorable returns for the county and has been so successful that all but three of its 31 cities, as well as school districts and government agencies outside it, have entrusted their money to him to invest.

How does Citron earn the higher rates? He takes greater risks. But experts say the risks are not foolish; an official of Standard & Poor's, which investigates how likely companies and governments are to repay their debts, said company analysts recently gave Orange County a "very high" credit rating.

Citron entered county government in 1970 as tax collector and added the job of treasurer three years later when the Board of Supervisors combined the two countywide posts. This is the first election in which he has had opposition. Unfortunately, the campaign of Citron's opponent and his supporters has the potential to jeopardize the county's credit rating and the return it gets on the money it invests.

Citron's opponent, certified public accountant John M. W. Moorlach, has expressed worry over the county's investments if interest rates continue to rise. Citron answers that he has taken steps to protect against that possibility. Shrewd investors know that past performance does not ensure future results, but financial advisers urge people to choose, for example, a mutual fund that has been a winner in the past. It is not a guarantee of success, but it does increase the odds.

The concerns over outside nervousness in reaction to attacks made on Citron actually prompted state Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach) to withdraw her endorsement of Moorlach. Bergeson said she did not want to take part in anything that could be "detrimental to the county."

During the campaign, the notoriously skittish stock and bond markets have shown some signs of nervousness about Orange County. A special district said it would have to pay more to investors in its securities and the county finance director said the county would delay refinancing of bonds in the hope that any worry would subside.

The challenger has no experience in investing billions of dollars, while Citron's 24 years in office have included rising and falling stock markets. His successful stewardship of the county's money has given the supervisors funds for programs they otherwise could not have afforded.

The cloud drawn over Citron increasingly looks like a bum rap. He deserves another term.

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