When Terry C. Andrus decided not to seek renewal of his contract as the county's top attorney next month, it effectively ended the local government career of yet another official who had worked virtually his entire adult life for Orange County.
County Counsel Andrus, 50, like recently fired County Administrative Officer Ernie Schneider and former Treasurer-Tax Collector Robert L. Citron, has spent two decades in the county's employ, hiring on as a law clerk in 1973.
And, like Schneider and Citron, he worked his way up through the ranks to the top spot and a salary of $114,732 a year, the fourth highest in the county.
Four years ago, county supervisors handpicked Andrus, then a deputy county counsel, to take over for the retiring Adrian Kuyper, who had headed the office for 27 years. The supervisors appointed Andrus despite Kuyper's public support for William McCourt, the chief assistant county counsel. At the time, Supervisor Gaddi H. Vasquez said Andrus had "earned the confidence and trust of his colleagues and this board."
But by this week, that trust had eroded. And after talking with interim Chief Executive Officer William J. Popejoy, Andrus said he would not seek another term.
Several of the supervisors expressed anger that Andrus failed to alert them that U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigators were asking Citron questions about his investments last April.
Andrus also came under attack for not revealing in early November the full details of the county's teetering finances to the supervisors, his primary clients, and for composing Citron's resignation letter--and helping to secure his resignation--without consulting them.
Monday, even Andrus' staunchest friends and supporters in the county said the genial, soft-spoken attorney needed to step aside to help restore county government's credibility.
"These have been difficult days," said County Clerk-Recorder Gary L. Granville, who has known Andrus for 15 years. "People you have known and liked and worked with for years . . . but I have a lot of respect for Popejoy. He's making some tough decisions, but he's making them in good conscience."
But Granville, echoed by other colleagues, said Andrus' cautious, thoughtful counsel will be missed.
"You know, he's just a quality person and a quality professional," Granville said. "I always left his office feeling very well served."
As a deputy county counsel, Andrus oversaw issues such as conflict of interest questions and land-use matters. He left the county in 1983, but returned a year later, and in 1991 became the county's chief lawyer supervising about 45 staff attorneys. As the county counsel, Andrus wrote a new ethics policy for county officials in the wake of a scandal involving former Supervisor Don Roth.
Andrus, who lives in Balboa, is a graduate of the University of Michigan and received his law degree from the Loyola University School of Law. He also holds a master's degree in library science from USC.