Deputies take O.C. supervisor to task

Times Staff Writer

Angry at remarks new Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach has directed at sheriff's deputies, their union has begun circulating a letter asking that he not be allowed to represent the county at functions honoring law enforcement, including funerals for slain deputies.

The deputies, in the midst of contentious contract negotiations with the county, are unhappy that Moorlach called union leaders "thugs" and said law enforcement officers should not be treated differently from other county employees.

The form letter, dated Dec. 13, is addressed to Bill Campbell, chairman of the Board of Supervisors. Space is provided for union members to fill in their name and rank.

The letter begins, "I believe you should know that I am very disturbed at the remarks recently made by Supervisor Moorlach regarding members of the Assn. of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs."

It takes Moorlach to task for a "lack of respect and regard" toward deputies and asks that he not be allowed to attend swearing-in ceremonies, academy graduations, memorial services, news conferences or other events.

"In addition," it says, "should my life be taken in the line of duty, I am specifically requesting that Supervisor Moorlach not be permitted to attend any memorial or funeral service for me."

Bob McLeod, general manager of the union, said that Moorlach's comments alienated deputies. "He has demonstrated a bias against law enforcement, and that's intolerable," McLeod said.

Moorlach said he respects the deputies and that he only wants "to make sure the taxpayers are protected." Of the letter, he said: "I guess that's their right."

Union members voted this week to authorize job actions, including the withholding of services, should negotiations continue to deteriorate.

Moorlach has been critical of public employee unions. At his swearing-in, he talked about instituting merit pay instead of across-the-board union raises. The bad blood between Moorlach and the deputies union dates to 2001, when, as county treasurer, he criticized a deal between the union and the board to sweeten deputies' retirement.

Earlier this year, deputies and other public-sector unions spent heavily to try to defeat him at the ballot box. He won in June with nearly 70% of the vote.

The deputies' contract has been up for negotiation since October, but talks have dragged on. Since joining the board last week, Moorlach has voiced support for a full audit of a union-controlled fund that covers deputies' healthcare as part of contract negotiations. The union opposes the proposal.

Campbell said he had not received any form letters from the deputies. He dismissed talk of barring Moorlach from events, saying he didn't have the authority to do so anyway.

"To exclude Supervisor Moorlach from things dealing with the sheriff is excluding the 600,000 people he represents," he said.

Supervisor Chris Norby, who is in line to become the board's new chairman next month, said: "The campaign is over. The negative mail against John should be over as well."


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