STATEMENT OF SUPERVISOR MICHELLE STEEL ON THE INITIATIVE TO CREATE A COUNTY ETHICS COMMISSION
“As the County recovers from the two decades long bankruptcy, the last thing we need is a million dollar golden hammer in search of a two penny nail.
My primary concern about creating a new government bureaucracy to oversee campaigns and elections here in the County is the cost and that it would only affect a relatively few number of candidates running for the 12 County offices – Supervisor (5 districts), District Attorney, Sheriff-Coroner, Auditor-Controller, Treasurer-Tax Collector, Assessor, Clerk-Recorder and the County Superintendent of Schools. According the Registrar of Voters, on average there are only 25 candidates in a 4-year election cycle that run for County offices.
Today, TINCUP, our County Campaign Reform Ordinance, is already enforced by the State Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) and the County District Attorney. Additionally, the County Registrar of Voters audits campaign finance statements to make sure candidates fill them completely and correctly. These reports for most candidates, those genuinely and actively running a campaign, are already found online for the public to review.
Running an ethics commission will be costly. The City of Los Angeles spends over $1.9 million dollars a year just for staff alone with an annual budget of $2.7 million. San Francisco spends $3.9 million, and with just 5 employees, San Diego City spends over $1.0 million.
The best estimates for the annual cost of operating a full service, fully staffed ethics commission is at minimum $500,000 per year and more likely over $1 million per year. Considering that there are on average 25 candidates for county office in a 4-year County election cycle, we will be spending at minimum $80,000 per candidate, or more likely, $160,000 per candidate.
There are less expensive and better ways to ensure that our constituents know that our public officials are honest and ethical. For those of us living in Orange County, not only do we demand to know that our elected officials are honest in how they conduct themselves; but equally important, we also need to know that elected officials are honest and ethical in how they spend and manage our hard-earned tax dollars.”