Board Meets on Mittermeier, Doesn’t Act
Orange County supervisors met privately Tuesday to discuss the performance of County Executive Officer Jan Mittermeier in the aftermath of her attempt to oust a well-regarded department head, but they left late in the night without taking any action.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Charles V. Smith, a staunch supporter of Mittermeier’s, had agreed to hold the closed-door meeting, outside her presence.
Most supervisors were upset when they learned recently that Mittermeier tried to fire John Sibley--without notifying them or giving them a reason for her action once they found out. Sibley heads the huge Public Facilities and Resources Department.
Mittermeier has not responded publicly to the controversy, but she said Tuesday through spokeswoman Diane Thomas that she was prepared to respond immediately to any action that the supervisors might take.
But after Tuesday night’s meeting, Smith said simply that there was no “reportable action” that would require supervisors to take up the issue in public.
Last Friday, aides to several supervisors, after news broke about the attempted dismissal, said that several residents had called their offices either to support Sibley, a 23-year county employee, or to criticize the amount of power the board had ceded to Mittermeier.
After meeting with two supervisors, Mittermeier announced that Sibley would swap jobs with Vicki Wilson, director of the smaller Integrated Waste Management Department.
At their regular board meeting Tuesday, supervisors adopted a $3.8-billion budget for the next fiscal year, a 2% increase over the current budget that would put total staff positions at a new high of 16,013.
For the first time, the county’s work force would exceed the staffing level that preceded the county’s historic 1994 bankruptcy.
“I think we have the bankruptcy pretty much behind us,” said Gary Burton, the county’s chief financial officer.
Burton said the county is growing not only in terms of jobs but also in terms of government services offered to residents. He cited the planned Theo Lacy Branch Jail expansion as one of the increased services.
“We prepared a five-year plan, and we’re on track with that plan,” Burton said.
The budget adds a total of $74 million over the current year’s spending for the 12-month period that begins Thursday.
It provides $5 million to help pay off the county’s bankruptcy debt and allocates about $18 million to the conversion of El Toro Marine base to a commercial airport, with about half funding airport planning and the other half paying for interim use costs.
The new budget also increases the contingency fund to $20 million and sets aside a reserve of $35 million for planned strategic projects in the future.
Money also is set aside to improve Laguna Canyon Road and repair county buildings long neglected at the Santa Ana civic center because of the bankruptcy.
The budget also adds $9 million in new funds for health care programs, with $6 million coming from state and federal sources and $3 million from the county’s general fund.
The new jobs include 114 new positions in the Orange County district attorney’s office to beef up family support collections and enforcement. The bulk of the money for those positions will be paid with state and federal funds.