Orange County First District Supervisor Andrew Do has run afoul of longtime O.C. campaign finance activist Shirley Grindle, who sent the letter included below to Lisa Bartlett, the Chairwoman of the OC Board of Supervisors, today.
In the letter Grindle questions the use of County money to pay for what amounts to campaign promotion for Do, who is in a heated battle for the First District with Santa Ana City Councilwoman Michele Martinez.
Here is Grindle’s letter:
October 19, 2016
Via U. S. Mail and Email
Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, Chair Person
Board of Supervisors
Hall of Administration
333 W. Santa Ana Blvd.
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Re: County Contracts with John Hrabe (CT-011-16010467 and MA-011-16011529)
Dear Supervisor Bartlett:
This letter is to both alert you and express concern related to the issuance of contracts by the County of Orange to John Hrabe. The issuance of these contracts appears to violate established contracting procedures and also violates the County’s Code of Ethics. At its essence, these contracts provide County funds to be used to promote the election of Supervisor Andrew Do. These contracts are bad policy and set a bad precedent; the Board of Supervisors must investigate fully the issuance of these contracts to determine their propriety and adopt measures to prevent any further issuance of such contracts by the County.
By way of background, the County, at the request of Supervisor Andrew Do, issued a contract to Mr. Hrabe early in 2015 (CT-011-16010467). In December 2015, Supervisor Do requested an amendment to this contract to increase the amount from the initial $25,000 to $48,975 – an almost a 100% increase. We have not identified the approval of this contract amendment in any of the 2015 Board meeting agendas and without such approval believe that it violated the county’s contract procedures because an increase in excess of 10% of the original contract amount must be authorized or approved by the Board of Supervisors (Sect. 3.3-111 in County Contracts Manual).The services provided by Mr. Hrabe in the 2015 contract and as detailed in the Scope of Work were for communication consulting.
In January 2016, again at Supervisor Do’s request, the County issued a Request for Proposal(“RFP”) that contained the exact Scope of Work provided in the 2015 Hrabe contract. County staff has informed us that this RFP was sent to the “BidSync” list of vendors that lists well over 1500 vendors. According to County staff, only one vendor responded to this RFP and that was Mr. Hrabe. Furthermore, none of the reasons for soliciting a contract using the RFP method (Sect. 4.2-101 of the County Contract Manual) are applicable in this case. It is our contention the 2016 contract was actually a sole-source contract that improperly used the RFP process in order to avoid Board approval.
On February 1, 2016, Mr. Hrabe executed the 2016 contract (MA-011-16011529) with the County for Communications Consultant exclusively for “the office of Orange County Supervisor, First District.” The amount of time from issuance of the RFP to execution of this contract is thirteen business days. The haste in the process and the word-for-word identical “Scope of Work” in both the 2015 and 2016 Hrabe contracts confirms the conclusion that the 2016 contract was actually a sole-source contract and the entire contracting process was an attempt by Supervisor Do to avoid scrutiny.
If the speed of issuing the contract is not suspect enough, the terms of it will be. The new Communications Consultant contract is for five years and for an amount not to exceed $97,500 per year. It appears that the contract was drafted for the purpose of avoiding the review and approval of the Board of Supervisors, which it did. The initial contract with Mr. Hrabe became effective in May 2015. Because the Scope of Work and contracting party are the same for both contracts, the terms of the two contracts should have been combined and therefore subject for Board approval. The final oddity and offense of the Communications Consultant contract is that it commits the County to pay Mr. Hrabe for five years. Supervisor Do is up for election. If Mr. Do is not elected, the County may still be obligated to the Hrabe contract.
While the haste and nature of the contracting process fails any conceivable smell taste andthe contracts violate County contracting policy, the most important issue is the substance of the services and that County funds paid for the services. The Scope of Work identifies the services to be provided at County expense:
– Research assistance and strategic outreach advice to “First District Supervisor;”
– Identify opportunities for and assist in production of editorials, news releases, proclamations, resolutions and other written communications;
– Create and revise pages for First District website;
– Manage social media for First District; and
– Speech writing and talking points.
The Scope of Work has truly one purpose: promote Supervisor Do and there is no other purpose or intent. Supervisor Do is running for re-election and promotion of an elected official during an election year is campaigning. All of the efforts of the County contracting officer otherwise to make it appear that there is some legitimate government purpose are for naught. It is apparent that the County bent the rules of contracting to personally benefit Andrew Do. These actions are disgraceful and if they are not illegal, they should be.
Any doubt as to the purpose of the contract should be resolved by a review of the bio for Mr. Hrabe. It states that he has “experience managing media outreach for local, state and federal campaigns, public relations clients and new media start-ups.”
Section 6 of the County Code of Ethics and Commitment to County Public Service prohibits the use of County property, which would include County funds, for personal benefit unless specifically authorized by the Board of Supervisors as an element of compensation. The Communications Consultant contract is primarily, if not exclusively, for the personal benefit of Supervisor Do.
To allow any Supervisor to use county funds to promote himselfespecially during an election year is not a proper use of taxpayer funds and should be stopped. If there is no law presently prohibiting such self-promotion at county expense, there should be.
Be advised that this letter is being released to the media as this matter deserves and merits public exposure and the associated recrimination.
William. R. Mitchell, (949) 769-3606, firstname.lastname@example.org
Shirley L. Grindle, (714) 633-0851, email@example.com
cc: Supervisors S. Nelson, T. Spitzer, M. Steel, and A. Do