ORANGE COUNTY IN BANKRUPTCY : Hearing Scheduled on Moorlach Bid for County Treasurer's Post


Despite some public opposition, the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to require that accountant John M.W. Moorlach undergo a two-day confirmation hearing regarding his qualifications before he can be appointed the county's next treasurer-tax collector.

The action drew criticism from a handful of speakers who accused the supervisors of ducking personal responsibility for the appointment and hiding behind a confirmation process conducted by appointees rather than the supervisors themselves.

"It looks like you're waffling and trying to pass the buck," said Bill Ward, a member of the Committees of Correspondence, an organization monitoring the bankruptcy. "We want decisiveness."

Ward and other members of his group said they feared the supervisors were attempting to back away from giving the job to Moorlach, who ran unsuccessfully last June against then-Treasurer-Tax Collector Robert L. Citron. Moorlach is credited with being the first to warn of Citron's risky investment strategies.

Supervisors dismissed the criticism, saying they still support Moorlach. They added that they had arranged the hearings to lend credibility to Moorlach's qualifications. Despite the confirmation process, they said the ultimate responsibility for the appointment decision will be theirs.

The supervisors have also come under criticism from the business leaders who crafted the county's settlement offer to the almost 200 other governmental agencies that had deposited money in the county's collapsed investment pool. The executives, echoing the stance taken by county Chief Executive Officer William J. Popejoy, said a permanent replacement for Citron should be appointed only after a nationwide search.

The confirmation hearings, which were presented as a compromise between the immediate appointment sought by Moorlach's supporters and a lengthy nationwide search advocated by Popejoy and the business executives, are to be held today and Thursday at the Hall of Administration from 5:30 to 8 p.m. The hearing panel is composed of five members, one appointed by each supervisor.

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