Judge: Expert Will Stay on Probe of O.C. Planning Dept.

Times Staff Writer

A judge has denied a request from Orange County to remove a court-appointed expert who is evaluating how the county depleted an $18.5-million reserve from excess building fees.

Attorney Jeffrey Dunn asked Superior Court Judge C. Robert Jameson to remove special master Robert P. Mosier for bias. Jameson denied the motion and told Mosier to bill the county for the costs he incurred to defend himself.

Mosier was appointed a year ago by Jameson to review finances in the county planning department. A lawsuit filed against the county by Dick McCarthy, a retired Palm Springs developer, and national homebuilder Barratt American Inc. contends the county collected millions in fees from developers in violation of the law.

Mosier was critical of the county in a preliminary report sent to Jameson last month.

The outcome of the case could have major implications for the Orange County Planning and Development Services Department. It has been spending more than it has been taking in, and depleted its reserve accounts as well as a bailout from the Board of Supervisors.

To balance its budget, the department laid off workers and proposed increases in planning fees.

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